You will be handed over by parents,
brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.
Luke 21: 16-19
For you alone are holy.
All the nations will come
and worship before you,
for your righteous deeds have been revealed.
Rev. 15: 4
These opening days of Founder’s Week are the closing days of the liturgical year. The liturgical readings steer us toward a reflection on the end times, at the personal and the universal levels. In today’s readings we hear two aspects of the reflection: a description of the struggle and conflict that is part of all life and a promise of hope that the saving will and power of God will ultimately prevail.
At first glance, the promise of Jesus to his disciples seems contradictory. What does he mean by saying that as disciples we shall be handed over, and some of us even put to death, and yet not a hair on our heads will be destroyed? To appreciate this comment we need to return to Chapter 12 of Luke’s gospel. “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. . .But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12: 4, 7). We are left to ponder the question: Where does our security and safety lie?
Life is filled with conflict, turmoil, difficulty, and pain. Not only that, to be sure, but it is undeniable that to attempt to live a life consistent with one’s deeper calling and vocation will necessarily bring with it many moments of difficulty, and often a troubling questioning of what we have accomplished with all of our efforts. But such concerns about our own efforts come precisely from the “perishable” level of our existence. From this perspective success, appreciation of others, status and recognition are the measure of our life. But from a different level, or ground, we are able to experience something that is indestructible. As Revelation expresses, we come to know the world and the lives of all as a part of the saving plan and will of God. The hope, as the author of Revelation sees it, is that at some point “all the nations” will come to know God’s saving power, and how that power has been at work, even when we have not been able to recognize it.
As we begin this celebration of Founder’s Week, may we pause and open ourselves to that ground of our being where the events, relationships, and works of our lives can reveal their true significance to us as part of God’s saving plan and continuing coming to birth of the Lord in our world.
The bosom of the Father is our own ground and our origin, in which we begin our life and our being. And out of our proper ground—that is, out of the Father and out of all that is living in him—there shines an eternal brightness, which is the birth of the Son…The ordinary ground of our eternal image always remains in obscurity. But the incommensurable brightness which shines out from this ordinary ground reveals and brings forth the hiddenness of God. All those who are elevated above their creaturehood into a contemplative life are one with this divine brightness, and they are the brightness itself. They see and feel and find, by means of this divine light, that they are themselves the same ordinary ground out of which this brightness immeasurably shines forth without measure.
Jan van Ruusbroec, The Spiritual Espousals