Daily Reflection
June 6th, 2000
John Fitzgibbons, S.J.
English Department
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Acts 20:17-27
Psalms 68:10-11, 20-21
John 17:1-11

Departures can be difficult.  Recently, during the Creighton baccalaureate Mass for our graduates and their families, I had the time and the quiet to reflect on the departure of so many students, some of whom had become very dear to me.  You see, this is my fourth year at Creighton.  We came here together and now some dear, young friends were moving on.

Clearly, other departures are more poignant, more difficult -- the death of a  spouse or a child, a divorce, a serious rupture in a friendship.  And, just as clearly, there is monumental hope in a graduation -- a future and a promise.  Still, with the quiet, there comes a recognition of loss.

What does this sense of loss have to do with today's readings?  We are, after all, still in the Easter season, a season of profound rejoicing.  Well, the scriptures, like life itself, always rehearse the simple truth that there is no resurrection without the cross.  But, this isn't a reduction of life to a slogan, "no pain, no gain."  Rather, it is an invitation to love as God loves in Jesus.  That is, like Jesus and Paul, we're invited to empty ourselves for the good of others.

Well, both readings detail departures for us.  Paul says good-bye to the elders of the Church of Ephesus and Jesus bids farewell to the closest of his disciples in the upper room the night before he dies.  In today's reading from the Acts of the Apostles (20:17-27), Paul, the greatest preacher of early Christianity, delivers his third great discourse of Acts.  He takes the position of the caring pastor, naturally enough.  As he departs, his heart swells with pain for the loss of beloved friends; he knows he'll never see these good people again.  Yet, strangely, Paul is joyful.  How can this be?

In the gospel reading for today from John (17:1-11), Jesus tells those he loves most in the world that "the hour has come" for his glorification.  Now, "glorification" means his crucifixion and death.  Are we to take this as just one more instance of post-modern irony, just another human being judged and dragged to his death because the "system" is unfair?  Does this departure have no more meaning or significance than that of any secular sage or contemporary pundit?

This struggle for faith is not new.  Since the beginning, we have tried to banish Christ's divinity because it is easier to understand, easier to sympathize with someone who makes no claim to transcendence.  The instinct to deny the truth of our faith is not wholly misguided, actually, because Jesus, like Paul, like each one of us, dies utterly alone.  Even the little "deaths" of saying good-bye to those we love fit this pattern:  No one else can take our place; each one dies alone.  So, it's easy to miss the point, the deep truth of our faith.  And that point is this:  Our sorrows and losses, the little deaths and the big ones, are borne by God in Jesus as he hangs upon the cross.  What is different about Jesus is that in him, the God of the universe undergoes death, but conquers death.  No other tradition claims this; no other believers find this acceptable.

As my friend and mentor Father John Kavanaugh, S.J. says, "For it is sheer folly, the things we have done this Paschal season, if Christ does not reveal our sublime fortune.  It was all a charade if our saving God was not on that cross, if it was not miraculously one of us who ascended on high."

So, like Paul, I place my trust in the saving God found in the person of Jesus.

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