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Yesterday in celebrating the Feast of the Ascension, I was surprised and inspired by the reading from Ephesians 1:17-23, so I spent time pondering it, especially these words:

"May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to God's call, what are the riches of glory in our inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of Christ's power for us who believe."

Then today when I came across Associate Carol Lemelin's "SURPRISE!" reflection, together they seemed a great encouragement to accept Christ's commission to spread the Gospel along with its risks. So I share both of these surprises with you. Intro by Sr. Amy McFrederick, OP
  [caption id="attachment_1920" align="alignright" width="200"]Associate Carol Lemelin, OPA Associate Carol Lemelin, OPA[/caption]


Funny isn't it how some people absolutely hate surprises? When I eat out and the server gives me a long list of choices, I sometimes say, "Surprise me." My companions often protest with, "What if you don't like it?" Well, say I, "That's the risk. But if I do like it I can add it to my favorite things." That makes sense to me but to others the risk is too great and so they go on ordering the same things over and over. I think of the disciples of Jesus who left Israel to spread the Good News. I am sure some of their friends asked, "What if no one listens?" or "What if they throw you out of town?" or "What if they laugh at you?" I'm sure some of them were dissuaded from going, afraid to take the risk but, thanks be to God, some went anyway, otherwise we might never have heard the Good News! St. Paul was untiring in his efforts to support his disciples as they spread the Gospel in new places or in places where he left them behind to continue the work he had begun. His letters always began with exhortations to diligence and prayer and courage as he tells Timothy: "God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of love." He often expressed surprise at the depth of faith of these new congregations. Possibly because Paul had experienced every kind of hostile reception on his journeys, when his followers were successful he was elated. Paul himself is a surprise. A persecutor of the Christians transformed into the most tireless worker in the vineyard of Christ. We have his letters to give us courage to begin to spread the Good News but we hang back because we are afraid to take the risk. The papacy of Pope Francis is not just meant to change the Church as an institution but to change us. His intention, like Paul's is to encourage us to find the disciple in ourselves. Pope Francis speaks directly to us about spreading the Gospel. Like Paul he exhorts us to do more than spread the Gospel but to live the Gospel, and to rejoice in it. Anyone willing to take the risk will be surprised at the way their effort changes lives, including their own.

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