Christ is risen! Allelulia! I hope that each of you can bring into this new season some hope, some prayer, and some creativity—our world needs all three. Our individual lives need all three. Lent provided forty days to reassess our needs and desires, to quiet our souls and clear some space for hope, prayer, creativity, and for ever-new experiences of God’s love.
Our Easter exercise was focused on 1 Corinthians 13, commonly known as the love chapter of the Bible. We are reminded that love “is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
Whenever I read that description of love, I am reminded of how often I do not love well. Of course I run out of patience, and sometimes I do brood over what someone has said about me or done to me. Of course love in my life will always be forming and growing. I have to acknowledge, also, that the years of friendship with God have developed my love—that is, I love better now than I used to. All the time I’m learning better what it means to be kind, to see jealousy for what it is and to reject it. I don’t enjoy some movies the way I would have years ago, because they follow the blockbuster formulas for revenge on one’s enemies, and revenge—even against horrible characters—just isn’t so attractive anymore. As a Christian I know I am called to a different way of thinking and proceeding.
As I have read each and every one of your posts during this online retreat, I have watched the steady unfolding of hope, prayer, creativity, and love. You have been courageously honest in your responses and questions. You have been tenacious in your belief that God’s love and grace will somehow pull together your various fragments and accomplish wholeness in your life. You have encouraged and comforted one another—and you have encouraged and comforted me. You have loved truly. Yes, you have. Not only is love patient, but love knows how to empathize with another’s pain—and you have done that. Not only does love bear all things, but love keeps talking to God while bearing what seems impossible. Love keeps the conversation going, even when there is disappointment, discouragement, and sometimes anger. You have kept the conversation going—within our online group and also in your individual situations.
Thank you for your sacred stories about children, husbands, friends, sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers. Thank you for taking on such huge words as “passion” and claiming them as your own. Thank you for daring to interpret your ordinary and often difficult lives through the phrases and images of faith.
Thank you for naming your fears and pains, for taking the time to journal, for entering the “room” with God and allowing God’s eyes to meet yours. Thank you for speaking your dreams out loud and for saying “yes” to Divine love and purpose.
You need to know this: You are a different person now from who you were weeks ago. Your soul has opened a bit more; you have gained some important spiritual vocabulary; you have had serious conversations with yourself and with God. You have prayed from the bottom of yourself, and you have made choices in response to faith, hope, and love.
It’s humbling to have been allowed into this Lenten conversation with you; I am aware now more than ever that the Holy Spirit is at work and that I have witnessed some of that from reading your posts. And I have experienced an important truth in the spiritual life: Living in friendship with God means that I live in friendship with God’s many friends. Thank you for your friendship—for offering me God’s friendship through your life!
Our conversation is not over. Many of you responded to a survey we sent out last week, and based upon those survey results, we will continue providing material on this website. We will e-mail you when something new is posted—but by all means check www.loyolapress.com periodically to see not only the online opportunities but the many other resources as well—various articles and products to nourish your friendship with God. You will hear more from me, too, before very long.
May the peace of Christ surround you now and always,