Breath of the Spirit: Trusting in the Joy of the Journey
The Acts of the Apostles is filled with journeys, both internal and external. These are enormous movements spiritually and geographically (think Paul’s conversion and eventual trip to Rome), both led by the Spirit. Even if we do not make a huge geographic move, we are all on the epic journey of discipleship: called and empowered to walk with our communities into new and more abundant life. At times, this may feel like a peaceful walk in a lovely park. At other times, it may feel as treacherous as riding out a storm on the Mediterranean Sea in a small wooden boat. However we experience our journey, we trust that Love is with us. We are also called to enjoy, encourage, and celebrate those whose journeys intersect our own. Together we move toward a fullness of life in God’s presence: a destination so joyful we can rejoice in our ultimate arrival all along the way.
May 8, 2022: Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year C
Acts 13:14, 43-52
Psalm 100: 1-2, 3, 5
Revelation 7:9, 14b-17
Trusting in the Joy of the Journey
A reflection by Tom DeVoyd
In the first reading, Paul (previously called Saul) and Barnabas are sent on a mission. This made me question, “Would I have had the faith to take such a journey if God had invited me to go?” I would love to say that I would, but I am not sure. This is not today when there are planes, trains, and automobiles to race me to the destination. For Paul and Barnabas there were walking, animals, and boats. These journeys could take months or years to complete. Paul and Barnabas went away from everything they knew – all based on faith. I am starting to apply to college to begin my master’s in divinity. I am nervous, and my journey begins only at my kitchen table with no travel involved. Paul and Barnabas trusted. They knew that they would spread the word of God to others. That, and the knowledge that God had called them, was all they needed.
Paul and Barnabas journeyed to Pisidian Antioch where they began to preach. They talked about the forgiveness that God offers in Jesus and of eternal life. Some scoffed, but Paul and Barnabas kept talking. Some gentiles took the message into their souls and were filled by the Holy Spirit. Those who could not believe saw this and reacted by driving them out of the region. Does this sound familiar? It does to me. We see this “driving them out” mentality all over social media. People get mocked for their beliefs: a tweet that people could go to the new life-sized Noah’s ark, another that people should stay away from a certain large park that is now ‘woke’. I have questioned people who seem to want to drive others out of social media, but I never got a satisfactory answer. Hence, I gave up Twitter. I also gave up anger over those that don’t want to understand. Like Paul and Barnabas, I dust off my sandals and continue my journey.
The next reading comes from Revelation. This is not always the easiest text for me to read. It is foreboding and talks of the end of time. But verse nine talks about the multitude who gather in white robes holding palms. They followed God. There was no fear within this group nor any division based on race or gender. All who believed were welcomed into this place. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Everyone together and no hatred or anger.
Their robes were washed in the blood of the lamb. They were to receive their reward for the dedication they showed to God. That comforts me. My life has not always been as spiritual as it is now. I know that God forgives my sins and allows me to share in this reward.
The gospel is from John and starts by talking about the shepherd and their sheep. I think we all know that we are the sheep and God is the shepherd. In the gospel narrative, Jesus was being accused of crimes against the faith, and the Leaders asked him for an explanation. For Jesus, in that moment, it was simple, “You are not my sheep, and you will not follow me. My sheep will follow me. They will be given eternal life.” That is a paraphrase, but you get the point. We follow because we know it is the path to the fullness of Life and Love. We listen because what is being said rings true. We know that what is being said resonates in our souls. We seek the courage to trust those words and to act accordingly; that is, to have faith.
Overall, these readings speak of a trust that allows us to receive the riches that God offers. We make mistakes and fall off the path, but we return to the journey. On that path, my faith is strengthened daily, and I see the miracles around me. I know God has a plan, and I must be willing to listen. God wants all creation to live eternally in Love: with no hatred or division based on race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality (or anything else!). Instead, our communion will be based on the trust that God is enough Love for all of us, and on our experience that God is with us more fully when we walk along this path together. This is the journey that, even now, offers us a taste of the joy that awaits us – even we only have to go to our kitchen table to begin it.
Tom DeVoyd is a nurse in long term care and works with resident with Dementia. He is an advocate for his residents and has a Masters’ Degree in Nursing in Adult Psych/ Mental Health. He is also an advocate for the LGBTQI+ community. Tom currently lives in a small town in NH with his partner of years Phil. He enjoys reflecting on the scriptures, and focusing on the world of when the scriptures were written.