Grace gets ahead of me . . .

I walked the journey of a 30-day Ignatian retreat in my twenties. I remember it as if it were yesterday. Three weeks at “hard labor” in Parma, Ohio (yes, really) to no apparent effect. Bo-ring. Then I found out Who was really at work. Every time I was given a Fourth Week meditation for consideration, I had just been there, done that. God was one step ahead, conducting a hands-on tutorial in the utterly unconditional, providential, faithful love that had embraced me from my mother’s womb. On my return, I commissioned an artisan jeweler to craft a simple ring for me in silver and gold – his design, not mine, in which the cross figures prominently. That ring has never left my hand. It’s a kind of anchor, now much worn around the edges.

This week I am writing two letters, neither for publication. The first will be to my “favorite Jew,” Jesus of Nazareth, Word of God, wounded and resurrected as the universal Christ without limits who invites me to step into mystery with him. In these days where normal rhythms and routines are suspended, time has become space to plumb the possibilities of our relationship with each other and the call he dreams for me.

That’s true for the Church, I hope, as well. Tomas Halik, a theologian from the Czech Republic, writes:

Maybe we should accept the present abstinence from religious services and the operation of the church as kairos, as an opportunity to stop and engage in thorough reflection before God and with God. I am convinced the time has come to reflect on how to continue the path of reform, which Pope Francis says is necessary: not attempts to return to a world that no longer exists, or reliance just on external structural reforms, but instead a shift toward the heart of the Gospel, “a journey into the depths.”

Oh yes, may it be so.

The second will be to my beloved Paul, my “second favorite Jew,” to whom I never had occasion to write a letter in nearly twenty-seven years of marriage. Paul’s Hebrew name was “Pesach,” and he went home to God early in the morning of April 27, 2019, the last day of Passover, Saturday of the first week of Easter. In 1992, when I penned the words for the cover of our wedding invitation, I didn’t grasp how truly they would come to describe the guest room we found in one another.

Art by Donald David Fehrenbach, 1949-1998

In Paul’s company I learned to know the unconditional love embodied in the words “This is my body given for you.” We talked of this over the years. The language of it was my gift to him, the doing of it, our gift to one another. These words have been my mantra in loss and will be in abundance. So it is that the eucharistia we shared gives me the courage to claim without reservation who I am and who I am becoming. There are no words for my gratitude. Paul is, I have no doubt, delighted.

I’ve never thought of myself as a revolutionary. Ever. It comes to me in this upper room, in the privileged company of this extraordinary gathering of seekers, that there is NOTHING more revolutionary than to claim one’s true self and step out into the world. I do so now. Graced be.

Nuptial Mass, Rites Class 1986, Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley

One thought on “Grace gets ahead of me . . .

  1. Dear Suzanne – I love that you came out of the Ignatian retreat with that ring as a touchstone and anchor to the grace you experienced.

    You wrote beautifully of the “guest room” that you and your beloved Paul shared. And you wrote of this “upper room” where you have come to name yourself as a revolutionary for the first time. Your words about these sacred spaces echo Jesus’ promise in John about preparing a dwelling place.

    Perhaps to take to prayer: filled with the grace of the love of your two favorite Jews, what is the room God is inviting you into next in your “journey into the depths” as you continue to “claim your true self”? What are the graces God wants you to give and receive in that new room?

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