First Reading: Acts 1:15-17, 20-26
In those days Peter stood up among the brethren (the company of persons was in all about a hundred and twenty), and said, "Brethren, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David, concerning Judas who was guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us, and was allotted his share in this ministry. For it is written in the book of Psalms, `Let his habitation become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it'; and `His office let another take.' So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us -- one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection." And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsab'bas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthi'as. And they prayed and said, "Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place." And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthi'as; and he was enrolled with the eleven apostles.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 113:1-8
Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD! Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and for evermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the LORD is to be praised! The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down upon the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people.
Gospel: John 15:9-17
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.
I was kneeling in a pew last November during a prayer service for our dearly departed, reflecting on some of the losses I had recently endured: My grandfather’s passing. The tragic death of a former student. The unexpected loss of a college friend. Despite the passage of time and my faith in the promise of heaven, I found that my heart still ached for each of them.
I lit candles for Kenny, Kiley, and Grandpa John and placed them in the sand-filled bowls near the front of the Church, breathing a silent prayer for them and asking for their prayers for me.
Then together we sang a hymn so beautiful that it echoed the cry of my heart:
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.
My mind has continued to ponder death since that November night, because my own father is sick with Alzheimer’s disease. He lives in hospice and, though we visit often, knows very little of my present life. He isn’t aware of my work as a doula or my life in Minneapolis. He doesn't remember that I've picked up the mandolin, or that I recently learned how to replace a broken tail light (which he would be particularly proud of). I have missed telling him ever so many things.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
And every day, I grieve. Grief is a funny thing. At times I am filled with an ache that is utterly indescribable, and at other times overcome with a profoundly deep (even joyful) gratitude. God chose my father to be born, to live, and now, to die and be born to eternal life. How can I be anything but grateful?
I am learning, I suppose, that this is what Jesus means when He tells us to “abide in God's love.” At the times when my grief does seem overwhelming I simply whisper, "Abide, dear heart. Stay with Him." And I ask for the ability to accept the reality that while my earthly father is leaving for his true home, my Heavenly Father will never, ever leave me.
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
We all suffer griefs in life. Some are little, and some that are unimaginably big. When they come, let us say together, "Abide, dear heart. Stay with Him."
Karen Schultz is a Birth Doula who hails from the Land of 10,000 Lakes, where she is often found in or near one of them. You can find out more about her here.