"I Long to Experience Christ in the Present"
Embracing retirement, Edwin shares what he has discovered
I recently retired from teaching, after 25 years. We had a gathering at my house for the celebration of my retirement and my friend Guido later told me the speech I gave was moving. In the speech, I said,
“I feel like I’m still, very slowly, processing this notion of ‘retirement’. All in all, there is a sense of accomplishment and a sense of joy; a sense of joy not simply because of the obvious reasons: not because suddenly I will not have to deal with students, their struggles, occasional apathy, their inexhaustible need for attention, and every other sacrifice that this job entails, but a sense of joy that, oddly enough, derives from these very same things, from a job full of purpose, a job that can be full of happiness as well as frustration, achievement and fatigue, a job that can be a source of fulfillment as well as consumption of vital energy, a job that is in many ways a reflection of life itself. I do look forward to this new phase of my life, to a future of more leisure, to the challenges that new circumstances will bring; whatever is in store for me, I am full of expectation. More than ever, I feel life continues to be an exciting journey and I could not be happier for having been given friends that care about my destiny as my traveling companions, as the locus of my hope.”
This celebration was in the context of everything that has transpired in the last three years. Even within the backdrop of the tragedies of the pandemic, these years proved challenging in so many ways on a personal level: my father-in-law passed away in July of 2019 and a beloved uncle of mine died a couple of months later of a heart attack; in December of the same year, a very dear friend of mine unexpectedly died at home due to a Covid-related heart attack while his dear wife lay in a coma at a local hospital; schools closed down in March of 2020 due to the pandemic and we all had to learn new ways of teaching in the midst of unprecedented circumstances; my mom passed away in June of 2020 and I could not travel to be with her because of pandemic restrictions.
All of this, even when it was short-lived, brought a particular sense of uncertainty that at times verged on fear, just like when Peter, after walking on the water, lost sight of Him and was full of fear.
I have been asking myself what reflects my experience more - the joy and sense of accomplishment I felt during that celebration or was it everything else that has happened in the last few years? What reconciles this seeming contradiction in my heart?
I have been reading the Spiritual Exercises from 2005, which have the title “Hope does not disappoint”. In it I was reminded that life is a mixture of joy and pain, and hope is radically connected to memory. Without memory there is no hope.
Through the uncertainty and fear of these challenging events in recent years, they make me ask myself, “where do I find my hope?” What helps me to find hope is this companionship I have been given and the memory of the encounter I had twenty-five years ago with my wife and friends in the community? Without that recognition of a present Presence that I find in the community, there is not much hope.
In the end, this lack of coherence, uncertainty and fear is a resource, because these experiences make me miss Christ. In missing Him, He re-enters through His Church, which concretely are the faces in the companionship of the Movement. The experience of incoherence or contradiction is not against me but is instead a resource for me because it makes me long for Him, long for the encounter. This gives me the joy that is the basis of the hope I shared during my retirement celebration.
Edwin, Los Angeles, CA