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Gospel reflection

May 24, 2020: Feast of Ascension

Reading: Matthew 28:16-20

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped him, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Reflection:

When I was a new teacher, a sister several years my senior made a comment that has stayed with me, “Two things can be true at the same time.”

I was asking this sister’s advice on how to deal with a high school student I taught. Let’s call her Hermione. The gist of the conversation was that this student was like “. . .the girl with a curl in the middle of her forehead. When she was good, she was very, very good. When she was bad she was awful.”  I never knew which Hermione would show up for class. To my puzzlement, no matter which Hermione did show up, I liked her. She was funny, tender hearted and smart. I asked my older, very experienced sister something like “Why is Hermione so inconsistent? Why do I appreciate her even though she drives me crazy?” This dilemma of mine evoked the response “Two things can be true at the same time.” I began to understand that this student, at one and the same time, could be uncooperative and paying attention. She could be acting up in class and learning. I began to understand that, implied in sister’s advice, was the challenge for me to bring out the best in Hermione; expect her to act out of her best self; present her with challenges requiring her to play on her strengths not her weaknesses. I followed the advice as best I could. In the course of the same class, Hermione and I rose to the occasion and then both of us messed up. Two things can be true at the same time.

What in God’s name does this have to do with the gospel for the feast of the Ascension? The Gospel tells us that when the eleven disciples saw the Risen Jesus, “they worshiped but they doubted.”  Two things can be true at the same time. But no matter their worshipping and doubting at the same time, Jesus commanded the eleven to go and make disciples of all the nations. No matter that the eleven worshipped and doubted at the same time, it doesn’t stop Jesus from sending them out to do as he himself had done. He believed they would be their best selves even as they doubted. Two things can be true at the same time.

Action:

Do you recognize in yourself or others contradictory values, beliefs, behaviors that fit the description:Two things can be true at the same time? Are you okay/not okay with that? Why?

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Sister Denise Wilkinson

Sister Denise was the general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods from 2006-2016. She previously served as a high school teacher, college administrator, postulant/novice director and director of advancement and communications for the Congregation. Currently, Sister Denise serves the Congregation in various volunteer positions.

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