Psalms 47:2-3, 4-5, 6-7
"Congratulations, graduate!" "Happy Mother's Day!" "Happy Retirement!" "Congratulations on you new life together as you celebrate your marriage!"
These are some of the greetings, which I've heard at the many occasions celebrated in these past few weeks. And what a joy filled time these events are! We join with the psalmist in celebrating, "All you peoples, clap your hands! Raise a joyful shout to our God." It is in such times of celebration that we gather with friends and family to acknowledge great accomplishments, well deserved praise and wishes for peace and joy in the life of the individuals we celebrate.
But, even as the celebrations continue, it is the commencement of a new journey...and a time of mixed emotions. For the graduate, the future is full of promise and very possibly some anxiety of what lies ahead. For the mothers, it is celebrating the gift of parenthood, which holds many moments of joy and pride in her children, as well as moments of tears, anxiousness, and worry that each of her children will find his or her true self and become who God calls them to be. For the newly retired, it is a time to step back and take pride in what has been, yet it is also an uncertain time of ‘letting go' of the old life, so that new avenues can be discovered which may offer a sense of self in ways yet to be revealed. For the newly weds, it is a time of celebration of all that has brought them to this time in order to declare their love to each other, as well as a time of anticipation and excitement for what is yet to be discovered in the day-to-day of their lives together.
We have many times of celebration in our lives, times of recognizing where we have been, and times of new beginnings. But throughout all of them, where does our God fit in? How do we face the anxieties and doubts that the future may bring? From where does the strength and courage come in order to begin yet again, even as we are still celebrating what has been?
In today's reading from Acts, God speaks to Paul who has just arrived in Corinth, "Don't be afraid. Go on speaking and don't be silent, for I am with you."
Perhaps, if we quieted ourselves for a while during our celebrations, we too would know that our God is present with and within us, urging us on to take a step into the unknown future, but with the confidence and courage based on what we have come to know and learn, willing to speak the truth that is within us and has been shared with us along the way.
Of course it is natural to feel a bit apprehensive as one begins a new course in life (or continues on a course full of possibilities yet to be discovered and uncovered…such as in parenting!). But in John's gospel today, Jesus assures his friends (who are about to embark on a newly uncharted journey), "…the truth of the matter is, you'll weep and mourn...you'll grieve for a time, but your grief will turn to joy; as when a woman is in labor she cries out, because her time has come. But when she has borne her child, she no longer remembers her pain, because of her joy in the child."
So as we celebrate accomplishments and transitions with friends and family, it IS important to embrace our happiness and joy, just as it is VERY important to acknowledge and allow our apprehensions to be present in us.
But, just as important, we are called to remember God's words to
Paul: "Don't be afraid. Go on speaking and don't be silent,
for I am with you."
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