Becca Hennen, our graduating senior at St. Francis House wrote this Response to the Gospel for our worship tonight, the last Eucharist of the academic year. Unfortunately, Becca got sick last night and this morning, and was unable to speak at the service; her words were shared in her absence. JRM+
So, let me start by saying that when Fr. Melton asked me to guest preach, I was as skeptical as many of you probably are. I’m no priest or deacon – what do I know about the readings and gospel if a priest or deacon isn’t teaching me about them? So I took some time with the readings and will try to give you a fresh idea of what we can learn from them, which I hope will be as close in layman’s terms as we can get, since I am after all just one of you. (1)
In the first lesson taken from Acts, Paul and Silas come across a slave girl whose trade is fortune telling. What first struck me about this reading was the fact that Paul was very annoyed with her for acting as somewhat of an advertisement for the very thing they were there to do. Maybe he didn’t want the attention, or maybe she was just really bugging the crap out of him – I don’t know, but he casts the spirit out of her. Now, it would seem to me that this would be something to praise – the woman is no longer possessed and is free to live as she pleases. But her owners were basically like what the heck did you do that for? You took away our prime money maker. This seems to oppose what should morally be so. The freedom the Gospel meant for this girl was at odds with her owners’ personal agenda. They imprison Paul and Silas, but then the earthquake sets them free. They proclaim “believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved,” and the jailer believes. It is a wonder that it takes something literally earth-shattering to get the people to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. But the point is – the jailer does end up believing.
Based on what I took from the jailer’s belief, I then thought about this reading in relation to John’s gospel. It’s Maundy Thursday and Jesus is praying for his disciples. “The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” This gospel makes me think about the relationship between a parent or someone we look up to as a child. Jesus is telling us what we should believe, but we answer Him with doubt. I remember when I was younger having older cousins tell me to “enjoy being young, quit wishing your life away, quit wishing you were older, yadda yadda yadda.” Of course, it is that odd sensation of hearing what they are saying, but not believing it and not wanting to believe it. But then, lo and behold, you grow up and wish you would have done exactly what they had said. I remember being in high school, and my little sister who is 7 years younger than me would always try to be older. We were ‘cool’ and she wanted to be just like us. I found myself being that older person who wished she would just stop and enjoy her youth. It’s the cycle that continues with each generation, and inevitably the younger ones will never believe us until they have experienced it on their own. In this way, I think Jesus is praying for us to believe before we experience. That is what faith is after all, isn’t it? If I could, I would go back to my young self and have that blind faith and belief in what my older cousins and parents were telling me. But I didn’t. I learned as I went. Which is okay – you know, that whole free will thing. But Jesus is praying for us to believe before we experience. That we have faith.
I then turn to the reading from Revelation. “See I am coming soon.” “And let everyone who hears say ‘come’, and let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.” Are we not the ones who are thirsty? Do we hear the call of Jesus? The night before he was handed over, he prayed for us to believe in him. And here in Revelation he is telling us he is coming. Have we found our faith? Do we follow when he comes? These readings and the gospel especially give me a sense of ‘moving on.’ Jesus is moving on to heaven and hopes his teachings were successful. As the semester is ending, we find ourselves in a state of moving on. Summer jobs. Continuing work in grad school. Vacations, trips. It’s considered a ‘break,’ but we really are just moving forward. I’m graduating and am scared to death of what the real world holds. I’ve never been anything but a student. And now it’s my turn to listen to the others who have gone before me who say I’ll survive. It’s time to have faith in the future and the fact that the Lord is with me, as he is with all of you as you continue on this journey. The Lord’s prayer for our belief in Him is one of most importance. It gives me comfort, and I hope it gives you comfort, because he knows us. He knows we need that prayer, and that like the jailer, it may take something earth shattering to shake/find/form our faith, but we will believe. Amen, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.
Becca Hennen is a graduating nursing student who has spent the last 4 years as part of the St. Francis House Community. She served on the SFH Board of Directors these past 2 years. Becca begins her new position (and post-school life...though she has plans to eventually return for graduate work) at St. Mary's Hospital this summer.
(1) Becca is excessively modest here. In addition to no small amount of prayer and thought, Becca met with her Chaplain twice for extended times in preparation for and review of her homily.