Daily Reflection
of Creighton University's Online Ministries
June 11th, 2011
Susan Naatz

University Ministry
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Today is the feast of St. Barnabas.  The first reading about the early church in Antioch is an invitation to embrace the meaning of Christian community.  The community of believers in the town of Antioch was on fire with the message of Jesus and one of the most vibrant communities in the early days after the death of Christ.  When the leaders of the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem heard about the strength of the faith in Antioch, they designated that Barnabas should travel there and be present to the Antioch church.

Barnabas experienced so many faith-filled people in Antioch that he went searching for someone else to partner with him and recruited Saul (later to be named Paul.)  “For a whole year they met with the Church and taught a large number of people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.”  (Acts 11:  26b) Community has been an integral part of Christian life since the public ministry of Jesus began. 

In the book Building Community by Loughlan Sofield, Rosine Hammett and Carroll Juliano, we read:  “The concept of community is deeply embedded in the Christian tradition.  The tradition acclaims God as the perfect community, a community of love.  Life in community is the primary way in which God prepares us to participate in the divine life.  The deeper we enter into community, the more we prepare ourselves for our relationship with God, both now and in the life to come.” 

This past week, one of our beloved Jesuits from Creighton, Jack Zuercher S.J. died.  As I write this reflection, I am looking at his picture on my desk.  I feel his spirit bringing me inspiration and blessings.  He truly understood that community leads us to God.  His funeral was a tapestry of his life woven together by beautiful community threads.   Those of us who were in the congregation were invited to witness and reflect upon his lifetime depth of communal commitment. 

We experienced the moving words of his beloved sister Suzanne as she spoke about their deep, family connection.   We also heard from her religious community representatives who loved him very much for his kindness, sense of humor and pastoral presence to them over the years.  We witnessed his Jesuit brothers as they tenderly shared their love, sense of loss and deep care for him.  There were countless numbers of lay friends who ministered during the liturgy and others who were part of the Christian Life Communities which Fr. Zuercher fostered and led throughout his lifetime of building relationships.  Everything about his life proclaimed “community!”Fr. Jack Zuercher, S.J.

The last time I was with Jack, I had been invited to have dinner with the Jesuit community one evening and I was sitting next to him.   He was very ill and I knew that most medical interventions had ceased.   We had a wonderful discussion about several topics close to both of our hearts.  Finally, I looked down at his barely touched food and asked him how he was feeling.  He gazed at me very kindly and after a long pause he said:  “If you don’t mind my saying this:  I am dying.”  Intuitively I knew this to be true and yet I hadn’t expected his reply nor did I expect the tears that sprang from my eyes.  I looked at him for a few moments and then I said, “I love you, Jack Zuercher.”  He replied back:  “I love you too.”  I saw the face of God at that moment and the memory will remain in my heart and soul forever.  

Theologian Edward Hahnenberg writes:  “Ministry begins when one life touches another.”  Jesus understood that powerful reality as did Barnabas, Paul and the people of Antioch.    My friend Fr. Jack Zuercher knew it implicitly and lived it through his 50 plus years in Jesuit ministry.  He answered the “Antioch call” to be ignited in community like St. Barnabas and the early Christians in Antioch.  Let our prayer and reflection this day lead us out to embrace our own “Antioch” communities.   It is there that we will find the face and life of God.

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