The Gospel passage for the third Sunday of Easter is the universally-loved account of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. It includes themes of spiritual conversation, opening of the eyes of faith, evangelization, imagery of the journey and the road, and the power of the Eucharist.
A story that is jam packed with rich imagery. "They told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread." The invitation to spiritual conversation is an invitation to reflect on where the Spirit is moving within us.
Last fall, at the start of my time of sabbatical, I asked a few friends to help me ponder how my gifts could be most useful after this time of renewal, given the diverse ministry experiences in my life. I had absolutely no idea how the sabbatical would unfold, particularly the fact that it culminated in the diagnosis of a brain tumour and the need for surgery.
Fifteen years ago I had a tumour and major brain surgery. As I recovered, I told myself that my life was now about being not doing. I was convinced that I would never return to a hectic life of doing too many things and thinking that what I was doing was so significant. I foolishly thought that I had learned about the need to care for myself and to live in a balanced way.
Well, of course, it didn't take long before I returned to my old ways: working too much, not relaxing enough, not taking quality time for family and friends, and generally rushing around.
So I'm now back in familiar territory: I have a brain tumour that has already had an impact on my life. I'm 61 this time. It'll be more challenging to bounce back. I have a similar drive and passion about achieving my dreams as I did in 2003, but my body has fifteen extra years of wear and tear. And the tumour is applying pressure on my brain, affecting balance and coordination. I'm not sure how much "bouncing" I'll be able to do.
I'd dearly love to get back to running races. I read my copy of Canadian Running today and realized that the dream is strong. Will I be able to stop relying on a walker? Or will I have to learn to run with the walker? The period of recuperation will be crucial.
Back to my request to friends. One friend was eloquent in his suggestion that I "cast aside duty and doing the right thing for the powers that be." He wrote of my tendency to do "the right thing" and what people expect of me.
This friend was right on. I've spent most of my Jesuit life doing "the right thing" and satisfying the desires of the powers that be in Jesuit life. He rightly pointed out that this has sometimes come "at not insignificant personal cost," dealing with difficult situations, cleaning up complicated situations. He goes on, offering a good picture of my Jesuit apostolic life.
It's a good letter. I'll reread it if I ever start to fall into old habits. He is correct. I have paid the price. I'm not about to take a vacation for the rest of my life, but I must go about my work in a different way and be with people in a new way. I used the phrase "This changes everything" a few posts ago. The health situation changes everything for my body. But it must also change everything for my spirit. That takes more willpower.
The rest of my life must have a different direction. I have no idea what that means. Do I run off and devote my time and energy to something I feel passionate about? Do I live and work with a marginalized community? I do not know what the future holds. But I am convinced that something has to change. The disciples encountered Christ and found that their hearts burned within. I'm still on sabbatical. I will leave in a few days to spend time with family and friends (and the stunning icebergs of Newfoundland). This change of scenery will help prepare me for surgery next month. I'll be preparing my post from St. John's.