In the Easter season, the first readings at Mass feature the Apostles as they undertake their missions. They are out in the world, preaching, healing, baptizing, and ministering to others. These early Christians are on the road. They travel to those who need healing, care, community, and the hope of the Gospel. From one day to the next, I find it hard to keep up with just where, geographically, Peter, Barnabas, Paul, and the others are as they undertake their ministries.
The situation is not entirely different at my university and many others, where students are graduating. These new graduates go out into the world and leave behind a place of relative security and familiarity. We faculty, staff, and administrators say goodbye. In a way, the graduates, like the Apostles, are being missioned to go into the rest of the world to serve, heal, and bring what they have learned to others.
In contrast to the language of travel and mission, Jesus’ words from the Gospel according to John, which we hear in this second half of the Easter season, are all about “remaining” (15:4). That led to me think about my own children’s graduations and what it means to find stability in the midst of change. Whether it is a graduation, a new phase of marriage, a friend’s cross-country move, or the changes of birth, aging, or death, we need stability, too, as we undertake our respective missions.
In John chapter 15, Jesus gives two ways that help me to find stability in the midst of change. Jesus describes us as the branches that are attached to the vine (John 15:1–8). He is the vine and we are the branches, and we stay connected to God when we remain in him. For me, prayer is a way to stay attached to the vine. Daily prayer is grounding and stabilizing and keeps me connected to the root source of all life, God, even as circumstances around me change.
Jesus also tells us to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12–13). While the particular people that we love and serve—or who love and serve us—may change over time, love itself can be a constant in our lives, if we choose it to be so. Love always remains as a possibility, even if the particular nature of our relationships and how that love is lived out concretely changes. For example, although some of the men in the prison community that I visit are released, new ones join in, and my relationship with the community as a whole continues.
We need one-on-one relationship with God and a relationship to at least one enduring community. We also need to be willing to face change and move with it, rather than resisting. Prayer and loving service are two ways that keep us rooted in the midst of change.