Saturday, June 3, 2017
During the month of May our students work full-time in courses of project-based learning (I’ve already written about our Freshman Backpacking course, for example). One groups of a dozen students worked with our drama director and three counselors from our Counselling Center to write and produce a psychodrama called “Stage Rage.” On Friday they performed their extraordinary play for all 600 of us. It consisted of a series of vignettes presenting various real-life struggles and sufferings of each of the actors. A kid with fine grades and a happy demeanor, with good athletic skills, acted out for us his horrid home situation -- I had no idea of what he goes through every single day. Another youngster found the courage to get up on the stage and walk us through the reasons why he almost never says a word all day long(!) This surprising feat of courage and honesty went on for over half an hour in front of a group of teenagers who were mute the whole time. They knew they were watching something rare and important. I’m sure I was not the only one asking myself, “How do they keep going day after day carrying those burdens?”
Friday night I attended the eighth-grade graduation ceremony for St. Mary’s elementary school, held in the abbey church. I’d also been at the St. Benedict’s Prep graduation rehearsal earlier in the day -- our seniors graduatE tomorrow -- Pentecost Sunday. This ceremony was permeated with a sense of future, a feeling of new beginnings, of “commencement,” of aspirations and dreams -- and of a little uneasiness about what the future will be like for these youngsters. The service included, appropriately enough, short scripture readings chosen by the graduates, a litany of intercessions, and opening and closing prayers. The point was clear: These kids and their dreams are in the Lord’s hands, and life ultimately not about making money or being popular, but about staying close to the Lord and imitating his self-giving love for ones brothers and sisters.
An expression that occurs in the gospel reading both yesterday and today is “Follow me.” The origin of the Greek word for “follow,” akoloutheo, is worth looking at. The prefix a- expresses “union, likeness,” and the word keleuthos means “a way;” so the verb has the idea of “going in the same way.”
In the New Testament, akoloutheo, “to follow,” is used of the disciples who decide to follow Jesus, to walk along the way with hIM. Jesus invites us, “Walk with me!” Guess how many times the word is used in the Gospels in the sense of “following Christ?” The answer is seventy-seven! The gospels are all about walking with Jesus, answering his call to follow him.
“ALL WERE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT”
Tomorrow is the feast of Pentecost, when the church celebrates the giving of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the disciples, transforming them from fearful, timid people into fearless preachers of the good news.
Pray that the Spirit will come down and transform the lives of those kids in “stage rage” into lives filled with peace, joy, and the ability to love unconditionally.
Pray that the Spirit will help each of us to follow Jesus more faithfully, so that we may “walk along with him” with the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.
A BLESSED PENTECOST!