See, Arkansas is a real place…
While listening to the first reading at Mass this Tuesday, I was struck by St. Paul’s witness in Acts 20. To give some context, Paul has been preaching and evangelizing in Miletus. However, after his stay there, he is leaving to go to Jerusalem for Pentecost and on his way out he says,
“I served the Lord with all humility
and with the tears and trials that came to me
because of the plots of the Jews,
and I did not at all shrink from telling you
what was for your benefit,
or from teaching you in public or in your homes.
I earnestly bore witness for both Jews and Greeks
to repentance before God and to faith in our Lord Jesus.
But now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem.
What will happen to me there I do not know,
except that in one city after another
the Holy Spirit has been warning me
that imprisonment and hardships await me.
Yet I consider life of no importance to me,
if only I may finish my course
and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus,
to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace.”
This is Paul’s goodbye! As I try to put some of my words together for my final goodbye to this amazing community here at St. Alphonsus, I cannot help look to Paul for guidance [Paul the apostle.. 🙂 ].
Now before I get started, I, admittedly, have not been warned by the Holy Spirit of impending imprisonment, martyrdom, torture, etc… In fact, I am headed to get married and experience the joy of my vocation! Tomato, tomato! But this is exactly what I want to reflect on.
It would have been easier, perhaps, for Paul to remain in Miletus or another location and preach to those whom he was comfortable around. Instead, he chooses to leave in order to spread the Gospel. He knows hardships, change, and pain may all be in his future and rather than shirk his duty, he proclaims, “if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from Lord Jesus, to bear the witness to the Gospel of God’s grace.” I would love my final message to you to be the same as Paul’s – that I am ready to take on any hardships, that my mission to serve Christ is unwavering, that no matter what the pain it may bring, I am ready.
Yet, in my life, I am so quick to avoid pain and jump from discomfort. I am going to Arkansas to be with a loved one, Paul was traveling to bear the burden of the Gospel!
…or was his situation not so different from mine? Was he not going to Jerusalem for someone he loved just as I am going to Arkansas for someone I love? Did he not bear the burden because of his love. He did not move for the sake of suffering; rather, he moved because of a passion for Christ! His joy in Christ outweighed any burden. His love prepared him!
As I move away from this community it will be hard. Moving to Arkansas will come with its fair share of changes and difficulties. Yet, I trust Christ fully. My mission to spread the Gospel and my call to marriage fill me with joy. That joy prepares me for any burden.
In Pope Francis first Apostolic Exhortation called “The Joy of the Gospel,” he expresses the joy of spreading the Gospel, but he does not shy away with its difficulties. Christ’s call to consume our lives is undoubtedly difficult but worth it.
Love shadows burden. The joy of Christ wins!
I will always pray for your families – that your eyes may be set on the joy of Christ, that burdens may be fleeting, that you may trust in God’s plan and find joy in all things!
Thank you all for everything!