The Benefits of Spiritual Friendship: Weekly Message for 11-20-2018

Dear Digital Pilgrims in Christ,

As we focus on the “last things” this month beginning with All Saints Day and ending with the Feast of Christ the King, it is good to reflect on our friendship with the saints and the help and encouragement they give us.  This week’s newsletter is provided by Jennifer Ristine.  She reflects on her time in Magdala and her friendship with Mary Magdalene.  I hope you enjoy reading about our “friends with spiritual benefits”.

In Christ,

Lucy Honner
Director RCSpirituality Center

After four years of living in Ancient Magdala, the hometown of Mary Magdalene, walking the streets where she may have walked, looking upon the same view of the beautiful Sea of Galilee and Mount Arbel that she must have seen, and visiting the many sites around the Holy Land that perhaps she traveled to with Jesus and his disciples, I continue to learn from her.  I have especially learnt what it means to be a missionary disciple: to profoundly encounter the Lord in my poverty; to discover the unconditional love manifested in his paschal mystery as well as in my everyday experiences; to intentionally recommit myself to following the Lord in an ever-renewing self-gift; and to find ways to share the love, beauty and goodness of my Lord with many others.

This learning comes not from Mary Magdalene, the teacher, but from Mary Magdalene, my friend.  She has extended an invitation, certainly at the Lord’s bidding. I have been invited to enter into the mystery of her experience.  I am not alone. For sure others have gone before me. Many may be counting themselves among her friends with spiritual benefits in this present day.  And without doubt, we will not be the last ones to share in her spiritual goods. It is a marvelous experience and promises a plethora of lessons that take place in the ordinary messiness of life.  Ultimately it is the experience of an ongoing, ever-deepening encounter with Jesus as the person flourishes into a missionary disciple.

Her experiences are my experiences as we share in the same spiritual goods available through Christ’s grace in the communion of saints.  Her experience of being liberated of seven demons becomes my experience of profound healing that Jesus offers me in my woundedness and his unconditional love that comes to my rescue in everyday battles.  Her experience of accompanying Jesus and maturing in her love for him resounds in the internal purification that God works in my soul as I continue to walk in faith and trust wherever Divine Providence and I traverse.  Her confusion and sorrow at the foot of the cross are mine when I try to make sense of life’s hardships or rebel against my own felt-crosses. Her fidelity at the feet of Jesus becomes my renewed self-gift to follow wherever he leads me as long it means serving and loving him. Her silent melancholy over the loss of her beloved on that first Holy Saturday becomes mine in the midst of a night of dark faith and the experience of my poverty at the awareness of my nothingness without the Lord.  The pregnant emptiness of that long Sabbath wait, anticipating the moment of carrying out her plans to anoint Jesus’ body early Sunday morning echoes in my deep need for Christ to burst upon the face of the earth and be acknowledged by all as the Way, Truth and Life.  Her heart-wrenching search for Jesus after the site of the empty tomb is now my longing for the consummate moment of his embrace. The startled and awe-filled heart before Jesus’ glorious presence is ours at the site of our beloved Master before our eyes, before her eyes as he appears in his resurrected body, before my eyes as he appears in the Eucharist and in his Spirit.

We are chosen by the Lord himself to be a witness to his triumph.  Her zealous announcement that Jesus is truly risen and alive is now the zeal that beats in my heart, wanting all to come to the full knowledge of their Savior and experience the joy of surrendering their life to him.  Historical traditions allude to her struggles and courageous efforts within the early Church, a pagan culture, and even animosity from her own people as she desired only to spread the Good News and witness to the united efforts of the first believers.  These become my struggles too. Her efforts offer me encouragement to recommit myself time and time again to be Jesus’ hands, feet and voice in a world that often stifles the Gospel message and ridicule heralds of the Good News.

Don’t underestimate the value of a saint or their influence in the present work of evangelizing.  In their intimate union with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, how can they not surrender to the Lord’s desires that all be saved?  How can they not surrender fully in their total self-gift of love by sharing in the mission of the Lord to bring his salvation to all?   In the bosom of the Trinity, they already reap the fruits of Christ’s victory over sin and death. We see them beyond the finish line as beacons shining out, signs of hope to us, their brothers and sisters still on a journey.   Let us fix our eyes on these beacons of light that illumine our journey towards Christ and encourage us to also be a light for others. Let us open our spiritual eyes to see the hands stretched out from the grand communion of saints.  They are inviting us to share in the spiritual goods available to a missionary disciple. And they are more than willing to accompany us on the way to our eternal homeland, teaching us how to be a light for so many others along the way.

May God bless you in your journey.

Jennifer Ristine

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