When leaders of communities are not reappointed as leaders – when their mandate has come to an end – they may suffer very deeply… They may go through a form of depression… Sometimes they may even have to leave the community, especially if the new leader is young and inexperienced and is afraid of their presence. Such people need a lot of compassion and help from wise people who accompany them; it can be a time when the cross becomes a reality. They must wait prayerfully for the time of resurrection, when they will again find a place where they can give life.
More from Vanier in Community and Growth! I really don’t have time to read the whole of this book with so many others competing for my attention.
I guess the recent quotations on this blog have been an attempt to flag this book as one to come back to; in the meantime, I’m not reading it so I really should return it to the college library!
But it has been making me think – about community, about leadership. And also, now, about the cross and the fact that, though we may know that death always precedes resurrection, we don’t always expect there to be quite so much death!
Our visions of the crucifixion can almost be simply an acceptance of Jesus’ pain as the necessary precursor to our joy with him, Jesus’ death as the necessary precursor to our life with him. We read the cross in the light of the end of the story. And well we should: such is the gospel!
But I wonder whether, in doing so, we thereby forget how drawn out was the crucifixion, how painful and how all-consuming was the process of dying for Jesus. And, in forgetting this, whether we also forget just how much death may have to come in our own lives before we see life again.
It might be the death of old dreams never-fulfilled or perhaps the death of something which used to be joy to us. And it might be something which does not die quickly and painlessly but which keeps giving us pain as we face the fact that it no longer has a part in our life. Perhaps for you it is a job, a leadership role in the life of a person or a community, a longed-for relationship. Perhaps it is something quite different. But the death of this part of your life is hurting more than you thought it ever could.
In this place where you are, let me invite you to listen again to Vanier: find one who will accompany you, who will give you grace to feel, to embrace the pain and the all-encompassing nothingness of this death, and who will help you to wait prayerfully for resurrection.
Because, though the death is greater and more than you could ever have imagined, surely resurrection will come.