Today’s reflection is a special request for a friend who is an Episcopal priest. They have the same Sunday readings as us Catholics, and when she was prepping for today’s sermon she posted a question on Facebook about what endurance means. Me being me, I had an immediate answer, and I can only assume she liked it because she asked me to blog about it. I told her I probably wouldn’t be able to because I had a class reunion Saturday night (and we know how those can be!).
As it turns out, class reunions are a great place to see endurance.
What does endurance have to do with today’s readings anyway? In his letter to Timothy, Saint Paul talks about remaining faithful to the Gospel in the hope of heavenly reward: “If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him.” My Catholic version uses the word “persevere” rather than “endure,” but I think the meaning is much the same.
Thinking back to last evening’s festivities, I have to chuckle about the friendships and habitual behaviors that have endured time, distance, and major life changes like marriage, children, divorce, career paths. For the most part, our appearance has endured. The people who were beautiful and “popular” in high school are still beautiful and popular today. The cliques we all formed at the tender age of 11 came back together as if it had been only 20 days since we graduated instead of 20 years. I spent most of the evening with the same people I are lunch with in “Commons A,” and so did everyone else. The black women were still the best dancers and the black men were still the best dressed. The smartest classmates still commanded awe and respect when they arrived. The Bretton Woods baseball team boys still knew how to throw a party and not lose their class, and the cheerleaders still had the gift of appearing socially advanced, especially to those of us who were feeling as awkward in that hotel ballroom as we did in 10th grade.
Last night, endurance looked an awful lot like habit. I have a feeling that spiritual endurance or perseverance is not all that different. Catholic author and speaker Matthew Kelley says, “Change your habits and you change your life.”
Of course, not everyone returned to the reunion last night. Some of my strongest high school attachments were not there. Like Jesus when only one of the ten cleansed lepers came back to thank him, I found myself asking, “Where are the others?”
Not all connections endure. The lepers’ connection to Jesus lasted only as long as they perceived they needed him. How many of us have that sort of relationship with God and church? When times are tough, it is easy for me to remember to lean on God, because I know how much I need help. Endurance and faith are my “go to” when I am struggling. When life is going well, that is the greatest threat to my own spiritual perseverance. I get spiritually lazy because I forget that I need God, I forget that I am who I am only by His grace.
I don’t judge those who didn’t return to the reunion. I didn’t go ten years ago. But I did go this year because I needed to see – in person – the people who shaped me and made me who I am. The boys I had crushes on. The cheerleaders who inspired me to look my best and were the example of self-confidence. The few who teased and bullied who now are just human beings in need of a hug. The black girls who accepted me and my non-dancing, timid white self. The childhood best friends who remember me at my purest. The honors achievers whose excellence drove me to achieve.
I return to give thanks. You all are amazing, beautiful human beings and I am grateful for each and every one of you.