May 27, 2023
by Suzanne Braddock
Creighton University - Retired   
click here for photo and information about the writer

Saturday of the Seventh Week of Easter - Mass in the Morning Lectionary: 302  

Acts 28:16-20, 30-31
Psalm 11:4, 5 and 7
John 21:20-25

Celebrating Easter

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

A Matter of the Heart: Prayer as Relationship

A Renewed Personal Encounter with Jesus

I have never been incarcerated, much less in chains. Oh, there were the times my older sister got her friends to hold me down and tickle me until I felt imprisoned or suffocated. There were the rare “time outs” spent not unhappily alone in my room.  However, the past three years of pandemic isolation have at times felt like jail – so pondering Paul restricted to his lodgings for a full two years with a Roman soldier to guard him struck a chord with me. Solitary confinement it was not – Paul welcomed all who came to him and “without hindrance he proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” I wonder if I use the isolation of pandemic avoidance to proclaim the wonders of God. Writing letters, phone calls, the necessary doctor visits are all opportunities to bring the joy of the Lord to others. There is even a generous friend who sends cards and a little note and I am grateful and amazed because the expense of card and stamp these days does not prevent her from her acts of charity.

The Gospel , short and pithy, shined a laser-like beam of light on the words of Jesus: ‘”YOU FOLLOW ME.” This follows the earlier scripture where Jesus commissions Peter to “feed my sheep” and then predicts Peter’s suffering and death and ends with “Follow me.” I noted the difference between the simple words “follow me” and the words “YOU follow me” directed at Peter. It seemed to me that Jesus wanted to emphasize the path he wanted Peter – and us - to take. Peter’s curiosity about John expressed earlier seemed, well, unseemly so Jesus’ gentle redirection of his attention to the one thing necessary – follow Jesus – “YOU follow me” – rings true for me as the one directive aimed at us all .

A few years ago I took a road trip with my dog to visit the Abbey of Gethsemani and the site of Fr. Louis’ (Thomas Merton) grave. It was Merton’s autobiography that led me and many others to follow Jesus . For me this meant becoming Catholic as did Merton. Chiseled into the stone arch leading into the Abbey were the words “God Alone”. Once again God conveys in brief, simple words the one thing necessary. Maybe it is not meant to be complicated. Maybe our chains – our distractions that take us away from God – are really not all that important if we just turn our attention to those simple guides: follow me. God alone.

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