Anyone who has survived to adulthood knows what these two experiences are like. We know rejection: when who we are, what we do or what we are wind up being discounted, pushed away or worse, torn apart by others. God willing, we also know acceptance: when who we are, what we do or what we are winds up being valued and perhaps even sought out and celebrated by others. Sadly, we also know how to reject the things and people we don't like; and accept the things and people we do...and throughout life our relationships with each other, and with God, seems to continually cycle through highs and lows of experiencing both acceptance and rejection. It's like riding a roller coaster, only there is no safety bar or harness to hold us in our seats...and we cannot see the end of the ride for want of trying and wishing we could just get off and put our feet on solid ground.
|The mantle is passed|
Not such good news for Paul. His return to Jerusalem has been decent enough. For the most part, as he retraces his steps and returns by way of the communities he and the other apostles have seeded with the Gospel message he is able to pause, pray and enjoy the embrace of the acceptance the churches offer to their teacher. He is accepted overall as a welcome presence, and though Agabus and others with the gift of prophecy foresee his eventual downfall in Jerusalem looming, he does not loose heart.
|Paul looking into the face of rejection...|
It would be easy to decry human nature, to condemn the crowds for the attacks on Paul and to embrace without reserve the parallel we see in his arrest with the rejection Jesus experienced in his Passion; but I think that if we embrace that parallel without some discernment on our part, then the Church will lose out on some valuable lessons on what it means to risk everything for the sake of the Gospel. Following Christ is more than just giving up possessions (or the ambition to possess), more than dropping attachments in order to follow Jesus as a servant to the Good News. It means being willing to take up and accept the crosses that are ours to bear: both the rejection and acceptance we will face in this life because of and for the sake of the Gospel. It means living as openly committed to the grace of God as Paul is able to manage (through beatings, imprisonments...even stonings) as he performs his ministry as an evangelizing apostle of the living God. It also means giving glory to God that acceptance means opportunity to deepen our witness to God's grace active in our lives.
Acceptance and rejection, two states of being that, when placed in proper perspective-with our faith at the center of our perceptions and practices, work to serve and proclaim the Kingdom of God. May God give us the strength and resolve of Elisha and Paul to persist through them both, that our common witness be one of faith and hope in God's love for us, and through us for the world.