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Cecilia González-AndrieuNovember 30, 2023
Photo from Unsplash.

A Reflection for the Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle

Find today’s readings here.

It has been difficult to write; grief does that, it overtakes us and renders us mute. The pain of our current world is heartbreaking, and this means we come to the Scriptures broken, just as our ancestors did. Those who came before us faced repeated traumas yet found ways to work through them. In our day we call this resilience, and there’s an entire field of research devoted to it. Are our Scriptures a primer on developing resilience?

Let’s face it, what is happening in the Middle East is so shocking that it can seem unreal. Or it can feel so massively awful that we fear losing ourselves inside our empathy. Our biblical ancestors chose neither of these two paths: to deny what is happening or to be paralyzed by grief. That we are here today learning from them tells us that their approach to resilience worked. Leading resilience researcher Lucy Hone has summarized three key strategies for resilience, do these correspond with what our faith tradition teaches us?

1. Awful things happen – Lament.

By the time the biblical writings got to us, multiple generations had lived through serious trauma. Our Scriptures make this very clear. Far from simplistic stories of heroes and visionaries, the biblical witness is a brutally honest account of horrific wars, famines, and repeated displacements. It is also about how often power is used against the weak, victimizing the most vulnerable. Of the 150 songs that make up the psalter, the overwhelming majority recount an experience of suffering. The preachers and writers who left us the Sacred Scriptures told us of betrayal, violence, corruption, and fear. This was their experience, not an idyllic world but a broken world that needed God’s companionship and healing.

As we deal with the grief of these days, we lament, we remember and we discern in gratitude that the wisdom of millennia is here to accompany us and help us be resilient.

2. Look for the good – Remember.

This is not about finding a silver lining or trying to reconcile terrible things with somehow being tested; it is about rebuilding our ability to process grief and to have hope. The Gospel of Matthew’s recollection of Jesus calling on Peter, Andrew, James, and John to join him is the kind of beautiful memory that can motivate us through the remembrance of pure joy. After Jesus had been arrested, when they feared for their lives, when it looked like the healing they wanted to bring the world had ended in failure, how often must Jesus’ friends have recalled moments like this for each other? They generously give us the details and help us relive it. They’re down by the water, they’re fishing, they’re together and the invitation from Jesus comes to ask them to spend more time with him dedicated to the work of God’s Reign. The Scriptures are full of such moments—when something truly beautiful breaks into reality and we are invited to pause, notice, recall, and even to reenact. Resilience experts teach grieving people to try to find three things in their day that they can recognize as good, with the hope that this begins to build a habit of gratitude. What psychology calls “benefit finding,” Ignatius of Loyola teaches us to do through the daily examen.

3. Choose what will help – Discern.

A final strategy for building resilience psychologists teach is to be attuned to what does us good or what harms us. Evidently, our biblical ancestors were clear about this. God’s gentle prodding could come from many sources; we just needed to be ready to listen and act in ways that would lead to the good. In the memory by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus’ friends had the opportunity to choose. I don’t imagine them making a snap judgment to drop everything and follow him. I rather think they had been living with him for a while, they knew what he stood for, and they knew that being with him felt right—what he wanted them to do would be good for them and for all.

As we deal with the grief of these days, we lament, we remember and we discern in gratitude that the wisdom of millennia is here to accompany us and help us be resilient.

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