My husband and I participated in the annual study days for the permanent deaconate of the Des Moines diocese earlier this month. The topic for these days was Grief, Grace and Gospel. Our presenter was a hospital chaplain and educator of chaplains. He helped us examine grief from the psychological and theological standpoints. He also encouraged us to name the individual "deaths" in our lives. The deaths of loved ones are more obvious, but there is also the death that results from the recognition of the loss of a long held dream that cannot become reality or the loss of a job, etc. They are all times of transition that result in grief over what has been so that the new can be more genuinely embraced. It is only by grieving the losses, allowing the pain to be present and acknowledged, that we can be ready for that new life. It is also the only way that we can effectively minister to others who are grieving.
Jesus provides us the ultimate model for grieving in the Paschal Mystery. He knows what grief is all about. He grieved all of the sins of the world. He grieved the spiritual and emotional abandonment by his apostles in Gethsemane. He grieved the excruciating suffering that could not be escaped. He had to die to it all in order to rise in all His glory and bring salvation to all mankind.
In today's gospel, Nathaniel (AKA, Bartholomew) is called first by Philip and then by Jesus to come follow him. Nathaniel is reluctant to believe that Jesus is for real until he hears from Jesus that he already knew him before Philip called him. Nathaniel chose to die to his former way of life to become one of the twelve apostles.
Like Nathaniel, we are called to die to various ways of life in order to follow Jesus. The pain of some losses is much greater than others, but having experienced his own losses and death, Jesus is always there to understand, support, and love us. It is in experiencing the pain of our losses that we become stronger followers of Jesus, increasing in our knowledge, understanding and love for Him.
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