Reflection -  April 2017

posted Apr 9, 2017, 8:30 PM by Nancy DeBiasi

 Image result for the road to emmausCan we be truly happy for those who enjoy what we do not have? This question arose when I was reading the Easter stories. I noticed how only a few disciples of Jesus actually received the gift of directly encountering his risen presence. Did those without this experience carry some envy or disappointment? Did they covet that direct engagement? Luke's gospel describes two disciples who felt extremely discouraged, choosing to trudge back home to Emmaus, mumbling downheartedly about reports that others had actually came directly in contact with Jesus. They had not experienced this and gave up hope of doing so. (Lk24:13-35)


Their emotions are not strangers to my own heart. During January a begrudging voice in me tried to take over my outlook on life. This chiding voice reminded me daily of friends and colleagues finding refuge from winter's bleakness by going to warmer locations. Every week someone else slipped away for a delicious break while I worked steadfastly with no hope of having similar leisure.


This poor-me voice finally hushed when a memory of an incident three years ago surfaced. In preparation for going to Iona, Scotland for a retreat, I went to a discount store to buy some boots. The clerk who waited on me expressed good cheer about my being able to make the trip. As I left the store with my new boots it suddenly occurred to me that the clerk most probably could not afford to go anywhere outside the United States. Yet, there she was, truly happy for me.


That recognition humbled me. The memory of it led to a deeper interiority where I could sincerely rejoice with those whose leisure I begrudged. "This is a kind of unconditional love," I thought, "to be happy for others whose prosperity is not mine."


Lessons abound when taking a backward glance. I learned that envy smothers gratitude. Desire for what is lacking can muscle its way into dissatisfaction and rob my life of the goodness it contains. Envy diverts attention from what already exists in beneficial quantity. In my situation, I neglected to see how I enjoy winter's beauty, the wide evenings of darkness that allow for satisfying gatherings of friends, the long spaces for reading books piled up during summer's feverish activity. I had also abandoned gratefulness for winter's gift of the nurturing space it provides for writing. Gratitude momentarily went down the drain of forgetfulness when I let my grumpy longings pull me away from recognizing the valuable gifts that were mine.


Many situations can tempt us to resent another's good fortune. Can we rejoice with those whose spiritual life seems to flow easily when ours feels more like a boulder stuck in the mud? Can we affirm the giftedness in another that is not in in ourselves? Can we support wholeheartedly those whose childhoods did not contain the pain that ours did? Can we reach out with compassion to the person whose illness is the exception while our chronic poor health rarely departs? Can we be glad for other people's material wealth? Can we be satisfied with what is ours?


We do not need to strive for another's benefits. The Risen Christ is near to us, just as he was with those two dejected disciples on the road to Emmaus who felt they lacked what others had experienced. Now is the time to release envy and welcome what we have already been given.


Abundant peace,


Joyce Rupp