Daily Reflection
May 25th, 2004
John O'Keefe
Theology Department
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A few years ago I drove with one of my colleagues and a student from Ephesus to Miletus.  This was but one day in a four week trip to Asia Minor where we had gone to photograph ancient archeological sites for an internet project called The Virtual World (if you want to see it, visit http://moses.creighton.edu/vr).  Our day at Miletus was oppressively hot, and Miletus itself is a dismal ruin. The water table has shifted since Paul’s day, and the ruins are swampy and dank.  Many are covered  with calcified deposits from centuries of flooding.  Little of the ancient glories of that city remain.  To me, Miletus seemed inhabited by ghosts, and I was glad to return to our lovely hotel near Ephesus with expansive views of Mediterranean.

The memory of Miletus undoubtedly has influenced my interpretation of today’s readings, but my over all impression is that Paul is quite sad and tired. Indeed, there is a kind of melancholy that permeates the passage from Acts.  How odd for an Easter reading. But the theme is definitely there.  Paul expects never to see again many of the people he loves, he predicts his own imprisonment and future suffering, and he expresses his longing to finish the course.  It seems to me that for Paul on this particular day the course seemed very long indeed.

At the hospital where I distribute communion I see the face of Paul in the longing of  the sick.  As they gaze at the host and I say “the body of Christ,” I see the long course they have run and how they long to complete it, yet perhaps not today.  The longing is mixed with hope for another tomorrow, for a return to health and for the gift of running a bit longer.  For many health will return, but in my Miletus-inspired pensiveness I think the return is but a delay, and one day the course will be complete.  I am profoundly aware of my own frailty.

Even Jesus had to return to the Father, I remind myself.  Easter does not mean the evasion of suffering or an escape from the travail of transition to a new form of life.  There is a kind of sadness in Jesus departure from the world as he ascends (in a few days) to glory.  We should not forget that the prayer of Jesus that we read today was uttered before his passion, in the hope of transformation.  May it be a consolation to all who suffer in the season of Easter.

“Blessed day by day be the Lord, who bears our burdens: God who is our salvation. God is a saving God for us; the Lord, my Lord, controls the passageways of death.”
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