April 22, 2014

MISSION MATTERS: Spring for Pilgrims

Spring is a season of change. I find it a time filled with a wide mix and swings of emotions. At times, I am filled with expectation and anxiety about the future, while at other times I am dealing with sadness and grief of leaving the familiar, or the departure of friends. My longing for the new life of spring is diluted by the thoughts of all that have not been done, or the missed opportunities I failed to grasp. It is a good time for Easter.

For me, Easter has grown to be a celebration of God's love for me, and for all people. It is a time to remember that He wants to be in every part of my gritty, mixed-up life, as it is now. Even if I have not lived up to my Lenten resolutions, or made great strides toward great improvements, He still wants to be a part of my life. He loves me, and all of us, for who we are and not who we "should be." If I allow the reality of God's love in my life, if I allow myself to feel it, I can then face anything life holds.

I find this lesson to be part of the "pilgrim" statue of St. Ignatius. Throughout his life, he was fond of referring to himself as a pilgrim. For Ignatius, the knowledge of God's love for him allowed him to walk through his life with a confidence and a peace centered on the present opportunities, and not get caught up in the allures of what could be, or should be, or the dramas of life. This seems to be the heart of the lesson and legacy Ignatius left us.

From time-to-time, I have, allowed myself to feel this freeing confidence in God, especially in times when I have stepped out of the familiar. Though anxiety and apprehension may remain, these feelings are lessened to a point that allows me to be in places of this world, and life, which I never imaged ever being. The fears and discomfort of a new place are transformed into tools which help me become more aware of myself, other and God. To be honest, I have a long way to go in living this way in all facets of my life, every day, but I am getting better. I imagine that this is the way it is with all pilgrims.

I think we all could use a little more confidence in God, a little more of the Easter message. As we journey through this season of change in our own lives, in the life of our University and in this groaning world, we may be helped by remembering that God is with us all. To learn that the mixed-up feelings we have today, can and will be transformed in ways we become more aware of in the wonders of each day. We can then be free to live in the present, without the clouds of our small expectations or limited understanding of the "truth".

We can become more aware that what may seem to be an impossible journey has already begun in the small steps that others and we are taking. We can then rejoice in the knowledge that though there remains many fears and apprehension; we can live our Mission through each step we take, no matter how small or unsure it may be. What seemed like a goal on the far horizon becomes real where we are today.

We are all pilgrims, where the journey becomes as important as the destination. God be with us in all our pilgrimages.

~Don Highberger, S.J., Minister, Jesuit Hall

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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