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JourneyNote: When, Lord, Will You Be Done with Me?

By Fr. Eric Hollas

Posted April 18, 2024 in Religious Institutions

Our guest writer is Fr. Eric Hollas, OSB, Prior of Saint John’s Abbey.  Fr. Eric is the person to whom Donald Jackson originally brought the idea of creating The Saint John’s Bible.  Since that infamous meeting in 1995, Fr. Eric has tirelessly worked to ignite the spiritual imagination of people around the world.  This JourneyNote is an excerpt from his weekly email missive, “A Monk’s Chronicle”.

In the liturgies of Easter we do a quick read-through of the Acts of the Apostles. It’s a great story, in which the disciples confidently charged forward in the business of building a church. But to conclude that the disciples of Jesus knew exactly what to do in every situation would be a big mistake. In fact, there were more than enough moments of agony and indecision.

Jesus did not leave the disciples a handbook with all the answers. Rather, he left them the Holy Spirit, and that Spirit guided them through one challenge after another. It was tough going at times, and I have to wonder how disciples like Peter and Paul handled it all. Were there days when they prayed that the Lord would just leave them alone for a while? I have to believe so. All the same, God seemed not ready to leave them in peace. There was way too much to do; and in the cases of Peter and Paul, it would take two lifetimes to accomplish it all.

The movie The Agony and the Ecstasy recounts the ordeal of the painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Pope Julius II had commissioned Michelangelo to do the work, but the project quickly became bigger than either had imagined. In the course of it Michelangelo became the frustrated visionary, while Julius became the equally frustrated patron. In time their visits became tense, until at last Julius came up with the mantra that closed each encounter. “When will you make an end?” To which Michelangelo shot back with an equally testy “When I am finished!”

I’m guessing that there were days when the disciples prayed to God in words similar to those of Pope Julius. Much to their consternation, God answered with words that at first were no comfort. God did not leave them in peace, because God was not yet finished with them.

Truth be told, I’ve prayed those same words of Julius more times than I care to admit. Still, despite my pleas, God keeps nudging me from one tight spot to the next. Is this then the work of the Spirit within me? Perhaps. That’s why it’s so important to keep praying about it, because sooner or later God provides an answer — enigmatic though it might be. When, Lord, will you be finished with me? Every now and again I’ve been able to detect the playful reply from God: “When I am finished.”

Fr. Eric Hollas, Saint John’s Abbey