Change of residence

I realized the depth of faith revealed in the tale Father was using in his homily. He was describing a priest who, instead of tabulating deceased parishioners, listed them as having a change of residence. Many of the surviving relatives must have found that imagery comforting.

Suddenly, my mind began replaying a memory where someone had recently passed from this life and thus changed residence. It had been a difficult experience for me. My first instinct was to stifle the memory replay of the events of that cold, winter morning. However, the scene opened again before me. The car was wedged against a tree. The side airbag had deployed. The drive wheels were spinning. The car, evidently in cruise control, was still trying to move forward. 

A number of motorists had stopped to try to help. The only thing we were able to do was to shut off the engine. The driver had not been wearing her seatbelt and was unconscious. All of us who had stopped to help were trapped in that horrible limbo of wanting to provide aid, not knowing what was best to do, and facing that sinking realization that perhaps there was nothing to be done. The memory closed with the emergency personnel arriving only to pronounce the driver dead at the scene. 

I had prayed for that driver as I stood beside her car the morning of the accident. Afterwards, I had prayed at Mass for her as well as her family and friends. This time though, with that imagery of her new residence in Heaven with Our Lord, I let her pass into His hands. 

This year I watched a little more closely to understand how the disciples recovered from the sudden emptiness of their world upon Jesus’ death. When Jesus rose from the dead the first thing He did was ease their doubts and fears. Then He walked with the disciples. Jesus called them to a change of residence not just at the end of their human existence, but from that moment forth. Jesus said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15). The Holy Spirit emboldened each of the disciples to go and do in ways they had never before imagined possible.

As the Easter season continues, how will each of us choose to take up a new residence? We can think of this new home as a state of being where we move closer to Our Lord. Where do we find this new residence? It is found in more deeply living the Greatest Commandment. By our life, we each are a witness for the Gospel. In actions such as being grateful for each of the special little things of life; choosing to give without expecting a return; having and being a quality friend; being brave enough to be the first to apologize, no matter what started the situation; forgiving someone even if he/she isn’t sorry; walking away from toxic people; and when we sense an opportunity to do so, finding a way to make/leave a positive mark upon the world. How will we know we are on the right track? A peace will settle into our heart. Others will recognize and comment upon the joy we emanate. That joy is God’s love shining forth from us.

Sometimes as we live this way we will see dramatic changes in our immediate environment. We and our neighbors will reap the benefits of living in a community committed to sharing God’s love with each other. Other times, we will give our best only to find that instead of sharing in the harvest we are asked to move on knowing only that we planted a seed for change. Depending upon how we choose to view it, that call to move along to continue to plant seeds for change can be an adventure or a fearful challenge.

Although some days they may seem daunting, those questions of where will I go next and what will I be called to do there have really been with us throughout our lives. They have and will continue to guide us in the discernment and living of our individual mission. As C. Joybell C. says, “I have come to accept the feeling of not knowing where I am going. And I have trained myself to love it. 

Because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air with no landing in sight, that we force our wings to unravel and alas begin our flight. And as we fly we may still not know where we are going to. But the miracle is in the unfolding of the wings. You may not know where you are going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you.” In her imagery, the winds that carry us are, of course, our Provident God. 

Are you ready to fly with God on a new adventure? 

Anchor columnist Helen Flavin is a Catholic scientist, educator and writer and a member of St. Bernadette’s Parish in Fall River.


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