the right to remain

What does it mean to remain? In recent weeks, Jesus has been saying this word quite frequently.

“Remain in me as I remain in you.”
-Jn 15:4

“Remain in my love.”
-Jn 15:9

“I have chosen you to bear fruit that will remain.”
– Jn 15:16

So how does one remain? How do you put this into words? It’s much easier to envision a picture of a person walking away than it is to draw a picture of a person remaining anywhere. I’ve never gotten up on a Saturday morning and said to myself,

“Self, today, I’m just going to remain.”

Remaining is difficult. Remaining steadfast to my Catholic faith has been difficult at times, too. There were moments in my life when I had become so discouraged that I began to question whether Catholicism was the right place for me. If you’ve ever felt challenged by the teachings of the Church, or had doubts about your own faith in God, you are not alone.

After taking some time to pray about my questions, something always pulls me back to where I belong. The last time I felt challenged, I found myself reflecting upon the paschal mystery. Even through betrayal, antagonism and a humiliating public execution, Christ remained perfectly obedient to the will of the Father. Christ returned from the dead and entrusted to spread Good News. Moreover, Christ empowered them with the Spirit. Our God remains with us still to this day, in this very way.

Earlier in the year, I had the opportunity to walk away from ministry altogether. While I concede that I get to have a lot of fun in the office, pastoral ministers like myself are no strangers to stress, and the opportunity to try something different began to look appealing. I would have been making a decision out of fear instead of hope. I wrestled for a few days with what was presented to me, and I kept hearing these words,

“Remain in me.”

There were several events on my calendar during the month of April, and there are still a few more in June. I knew in my heart, these were good things. If I had walked away earlier in the year, I would never have the chance to see these endeavors come to fruition. There may come a time when God invites me to share in a new adventure, but I’m glad I didn’t walk away just yet.

There are other times when the call to remain is a call to something that feels like the complete opposite of remaining. A job can become so stressful it just isn’t worth the money any more. A relationship may feel so unhealthy or abusive that it simply needs to end. Sometimes, living someone else’s dream is a personal nightmare, and we find ourselves walking in our sleep to awaken. In all of these instances, the call to remain true to the voice of God in the heart requires the courage to walk away.

The way each one of us is called to remain in God’s love is unique to the gifts God has endowed within our hearts. As we approach the culmination of the Easter season in just a few short weeks, may we be guided to a deeper sense of the talents we have been given to reveal God’s love to the world. May we remain in Christ, Christ in us, and may our parish continue to bear the fruit of the Gospel.

Alas, the fruit of our union in Christ is the fruit which remain. Indeed, how sweet it is!

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