Daily Reflection
May 1st, 2008

Ray Bucko, S.J.

Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

In archdioceses and dioceses of the US states of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington or in parts of the world where the celebration of Ascension is transferred to the Seventh Sunday of Easter, the readings for Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter are:
Acts 18:1-8
Psalm 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4
John 16:16-20

In archdioceses and dioceses of the United States and in other parts of the world where the Feast of the Ascension is celebrated today, the Daily Reflection and readings may be found here:sed on this Thursday:
The Ascension of the Lord

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Years ago, when I was a freshly minted teacher, a student had earned a rather poor grade in a paper in one of my classes. I remember her coming in and telling me all that went into the paper and all the troubles in her life surrounding the paper. She began crying as she told me these things. Suddenly, in the midst of all this she stopped crying, looked at me and said: “But why are you crying?” In fact I was but had not noticed it until that point. I replied: “Because you are crying”. Then she started to laugh and I laughed too. It was a rather amazing moment.

The readings tell us a lot today, packed with meanings and nuances as are so many of the scriptures selected for the Easter season. I’m most “moved” today by the reality of empathy and dangers inherent in the lack of empathy in the readings today.

Paul finds empathy with those who believe the message of Christ. So too, as a Jew he finds empathy with his own people although when this is not returned and he goes off to a new people, the gentiles, and a new place, Corinth to continue to seek out the spiritually empathetic, those who will hear the Word. Paul even finds empathy in profession – he stays with Aquila and Priscilla because Aquila, like himself, is a tent maker. I once met the chairperson of the Omaha tribe and took an immense liking to her not because she had a much honored position (she indeed did) but because she mentioned in her introduction that she was a hair dresser and both my parents were hair dressers also!

Jesus in the gospel of John is very concerned with the dissonance between the “world” and his disciples. Jesus predicts that while the disciples weep and mourn the world will rejoice. But Jesus will return and the disciples’ grief will turn to joy. This recalls the beatitude: Blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted. Jesus warns them of a double trial ahead, to be sad but to be sad at a time when others are rejoicing, where there seems to be no empathy.

Now is the Easter season when we are supposed to be filled with joy. But how many of us know people who are in deep mourning for a variety of losses; loved ones, capabilities, and a wide variety of other things? Our call to empathy is to feel joy and mourning at different times, maybe even sometimes at the same time. How many of us, at the happiest of times have wept in sorrow too? How many times in deep sorrow have we also found joy?

We don’t all share professions, or talents, or even religious traditions. But we do all seek for the truth and we all have feelings – mourning and rejoicing invite us to be empathetic with all peoples despite and even because of what divides us. Here is a true common ground – we can separate ourselves like those in John who constitute “the world” or we can join ourselves to others as does Jesus through sharing a common feeling. Empathy can find and create common ground, open us to common home and, as Paul sought, to common faith.

As we continue to build the kingdom we may at times sit and mourn with others as much as rejoice. Jesus assures his disciples that both tears and laughter are in the disciples’ future in the reading today. Our faith tells us that ultimately joy will triumph over grief. Jesus has triumphed over death – despite the many kinds of death we now endure our faith assures us that our tears will be wiped dry and our joy will be complete.
Let us assure each other with this message and never fear to weep and rejoice with our most close family and friends and with strangers and even, as the Gospel asks us, with those furthest from us.

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