When I think of the courage necessary to the first Christians as they shared their beliefs in Jesus and found resistance that led to beatings and vilification, I’m honored to have an opportunity to do the same with radically different outcomes. I am certainly not comparing myself to St. Paul and his gift of preaching! The only similarity is that I will leave in a few hours for a destination in Pennsylvania, close to 225 miles away. Unlike in Paul’s day, the trip will take me about four hours and the travel conditions will simply necessitate paying attention while I drive.
I’m going to lead a retreat for members of a parish in Maryland – a “getaway” weekend for them in what I’m told are beautiful surroundings. Of the almost 50 participants, I only know the person organizing the retreat. That’s always daunting as there’s no guarantee that my presentations about “putting on the mind of Christ” with a focus on centering prayer meditation will please them. It was the first line of the first reading that began to put me at ease this morning, however. I read, “One night while Paul was in Corinth, the Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you.'” (ACTS 18:9 – I love those instances when it seems God is speaking directly to me!)
One of the pieces of information I received from the organizer of the event as she was describing the venue for the retreat was the fact that there is very little cell service unless you climb a hill to get it. Knowing just that fact, I’m thinking that it will be better to decide right now that I will not be blogging again until Monday when I will be back home after the conclusion of this experience. Given that we are in the moment and mode of expectation for the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, I ask your prayer for the retreat participants and for me, that we all give and receive what is needed for the word of God to grow in us this weekend. And we can be sure of God’s response as the last line of the gospel this morning has Jesus promising: “Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.” (JN 16:23)