Daily Reflection
May 19th, 2007

Eileen Burke-Sullivan

Theology Department
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During these last days of the Easter Season before the Feast of Pentecost, we liturgically function in a vigil mode which means that the Church invites us to remember what God has already done in sending the Spirit (Acts of the Apostles) and to hope for God’s future act of fully implementing his reign on earth as it is in heaven. To participate in a vigil is to “wait in joyful hope” – it is the labor of being present and attentive as God creates something new. With Mary and the Apostles we wait and pray in the upper room from the Ascension to Pentecost itself.

To remember in biblical terms, is more than simply recalling the data of certain moments of our personal or collective story. To remember is an act of human self donation. We give the powers of our inner lives (memory, imagination, reasoning) and our time and attention over to the availability of God’s Spirit to stir into flame a quality of experiential knowing of God or of God’s work in human history. Although our bodies are bound by time and place, these powers of our intellect are not so tightly bound. The whole theology of meditative or contemplative prayer depends upon this truth that when we actively work to remember what God has done for us – God can and does make us present to its happening. This is why the collective memory of the Christian community is so important. The community of believers carries the content of historical memory as a “door” into presence with God who is always faithful. As God has done so will God do again.

As we attend to what God has accomplished within the created order, then our hope is made secure. God accomplishes in the present what we are remembering and longing to have happen. If God’s people have been liberated from the forces of death and destruction in history, then I am liberated when I work to remember that activity of God. If the Spirit has been poured out into Jesus’ disciples, that same Spirit will be unleashed in my mind, heart and will, as I remember what God has done, and hope for God to do it now in me.

We do not always experience the apparently dramatic affective sense of God’s presence that the Apostles record in the Biblical witness for various reasons some of which have to do with God’s way of doing things, and some of which may have to do with our ability to receive what God is doing. Central to the mystery of faith is the confidence that God’s victorious reign has begun on earth. We would be foolish not to take heart and live in confidence.

Easier said than done, we perhaps protest. How do I know that my hope is more secure? How can I be confident that the victory is won? How do I know that I am not a fool especially if I feel no different? The surprising answer to this painful question is simply to observe the fruits of God’s presence in our own lives now: We participate in the Eucharist on Sunday even when I don’t especially want to go . . . I am gracious and patient to a colleague who drives me around the bend with her nit-picking . . . I arise in the night to care for my sick child, my dying father, my wasted co-worker or student who calls . . . I share my material goods when I’m not sure I have enough . . . my heart aches with the evidence of suffering in my world . . . neighbors turn to me in their distress and I answer their need even when it doesn’t feel good enough . . . I remain faithful to marriage, or celibacy, or the demands of priesthood . . . I stand in wonder that any of these small deeds matter and that they are signs of God’s very presence.

“God reigns over the nations, Alleluia” Psalm 47.7

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