Jung Eun Sophia
Jung Eun Sophia
The Rhythm of the Journey to the Paschal Mystery
In this second week of Lent, we are in the midst of the Paschal journey. On a recent evening walk, I saw some trees that had already given everything to the turning of the season. And yet, these trees seemed to still dream of a new journey, one which would begin with a budding shoot and then a flower, yet again. The calmness of the trees humbled me, because though trees know well of the stormy nights and dry seasons to come, they nevertheless begin their journeys, again and again, throughout their long lives.
Reflecting on our first reading today, Abraham, like the trees, is ready to continue his life journey. He hears a voice that says, "Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father's house to a land that I will show you.” Had Abraham heard these words during the spring days of his youth, he would likely have left for such a journey joyfully and excitedly. However, at the time of this message, he was already 75 years old. He was firmly settled in his hometown, in a life surrounded by kinsfolk and cloaked by his many social positions. At this advanced age, Abraham knew the journey would not be comfortable, especially because he would enter unknown foreign lands as a stranger, an outsider, and a sojourner.
In understanding Abraham’s calling, I pay special attention to the phrase, “a land that I will show you.” There is neither a map to guide him to a destination nor a master plan to follow, with budgets and details. We can see that Abraham’s journey is not a simple and joyful calling to a youth dreaming of the future and free to follow without restrictions. Instead, this journey calls him into an unknown future and a situation of uncertainty. The Lord invites him to leave the familiar, walk like a pilgrim, and become a wanderer, being open to possibilities. As such, one clear aspect is that accepting the calling means taking on a journey toward the promised land with faith and engaging in an endlessly unfolding process, to reach the mystery of God; this journey is eternally present.
God promises Abraham that he will not only receive many blessings, but that he himself would become a blessing. But what does it mean to be a blessing? The word for blessing in Hebrew is Barak, which means a gift or doing valuable things for others out of favor. During his journey, Abraham often encounters moments of deep loneliness and alienation as a foreigner. In the midst of this, he has to be taken in by generous hearts, to receive physical shelter and connection. Then later, he encounters numerous strangers, to whom he provides spiritual and physical comfort. He comes to meet many people with no resources, single mothers, hungry immigrants, and wandering exiles. In Abraham's journey, I find the rhythm of the Paschal mystery. Abraham receives blessings and then he, as a blessing, is given to others to bring with him the grace and spirit of God, as a gift of honor and respect. First, as a stranger, Abraham receives gifts, favors, and shelter. Then he pays forward kindness, hospitality, and warm-hearted conversations with and for others.
The Rhythm of the journey also manifests in the Gospel story. With his beloved disciples, Jesus walks into the Paschal mystery. The narrative describes that “Jesus’ face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light,” emphasizing the state of glory. On the high mountain, Jesus is transformed. Peter, one of the three who goes up to the mountain, replies to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here." Peter interestingly repeats the word "here" twice. Of course, he is eager to dwell on the mountaintop. Then, we hear God’s voice: “This is my beloved son. You should listen to him.” This scene is reminiscent of Jesus’ Baptism, an event of his mission initiation, which begins with God's blessing. The phrase "My beloved" is equivalent to favor and signifies a blessing. In this passage, I find the emphasis is rather on the last line, “they were coming down from the mountain,” in contrast to Peter’s desire to stay. So, Jesus and the disciples continue their journey. First, Jesus, who receives blessings from God the Father, goes to Jerusalem and becomes a blessing himself, as a lamb for the feast of Passover.
We, the people of God, are also invited into the Rhythm of the Paschal journey, which first begins with our receiving blessings, to then become blessings ourselves. We experience these abundant blessings and then encounter the cry of the poor, the lonely, and the oppressed. In this Rhythm of the Paschal journey, we continue to walk into the land that God shows us, as eternally present pilgrims, as a gift to others.
Jung Eun Sophia Park, SNJM
Jung Eun Sophia Park, SNJM
Jung Eun Sophia Park, SNJM, is associate professor at Holy Names University in California. She loves to give retreats, spiritual directions, and workshops in US and other countries. Her academic interests are global justice and spirituality, shamanism, postcolonial feminism, and mysticism. Sophia published numerous articles, including, “Jesus of Minjung on the Road to Emmaus (Luke: 24: 13-32), “The Galilean Jesus: Creating a Borderland at the Foot of the Cross (Jn. 19: 23-30),” “Cross Cultural Spiritual Direction: A Dance with a Stranger,” “Cross-Cultural Spiritual Direction: To Construct a Borderland.” Sophia authored many books, including A Hermeneutic on Dislocation as Experience: Creating a Hybrid Identity, Constructing a Borderland Community, Conversations at the Well: Emerging Religious Life in the 21st Century Global World, Border-Crossing Spirituality: Transformation in the Borderland, and An Asian Woman’s Religious Journey with Thomas Merton: Journey to the East/Journey to the West. She also wrote books in Korean, including Thoughtful Chats: How the Story Changed Women, Time for Sorrow, Beauty of the Broken, Seasons that I loved, Joy of Life, and For the Broken Humanities. She also writes articles on ordinary spirituality at the Korean Catholic News and offers women’s spirituality lessons through YouTube globally.
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