Our Paschal Journey: Transitions from Death into New Life

Our Paschal Journey: Transitions from Death into New Life

By Bob Donius

Bob Donius is a retired lecturer in Theology and Franciscan Studies and former Vice President of Ministries at St. Bonaventure University.

Scripture: Genesis 32:23-33:10

Lana sent me this email: “You asked about a possible focus for June 25th and I’m thinking about “transitions.” People in the old and new testaments are constantly on the move: the Israelites, Paul, Jesus…on the road, transitioning in one way or another from point A to point B to point… and it seems as though today we are all on the move in one way or the other. Yet in spite of that, we yearn for that “still small voice,” the “be still and know that I am God.” Transitions are unsettling, how do we find or create settling moments in that context? Maybe these random thoughts will stir something up for you to think about – or not. I know that whatever you come up with will be meaningful.”


Transitions are the nature of the universe.

                To a place: birds migrate with the movement of the earth around the sun/seasons

                In place: trees transition from spring leaves, summer growth, leaves wither and fall, buds, etc.

                Humans do both

Transitions make up our lifelong journey into greater wholeness and deeper union

-the paschal journey is the pattern of our life: from endings to new beginnings, from death

to new life

–from our 9 months in our mother’s womb to birth: Last Sunday Kim and I received this great news from our son Hansen, “Owen Robert Donius came into the light at 4 am today.”

–leaving the security of home to the adventure of kindergarten

–leaving childhood innocence to adolescent knowing

–from hometown high school to the wider world of the university

–from singlehood to the shared journey of marriage, “the great school of love” (new dimensions

of our selves emerge within the transition: husband, father, grandfather)

–from conflict into deeper knowing and connection

–from misunderstanding and hurt to reconciliation

–from this place to that place

–from middle age to elder age to old age

–from retirement to new freedom to be and do ( a loss of identity to a new-found identity)

–from pandemic to a new normal

–from sickness to health and gratitude

–from sickness to death and resurrected life

Vatican II: we are a pilgrim people; different than tourists, personal encounter with other people, cultures, places, all which form us and challenge us to grow. Jesus and Francis: an itinerant life

Thus, life is a pilgrimage, an ongoing journey of transitions, leaving one comfortable shore for a distant shore that is unknown, perhaps scary.

Every transition is something of a death, which our faith tells us will ultimately lead to a resurrection. This is not just the final transition, but is the pattern of our life. From death to resurrection. The promise of Jesus. Christianity is fundamentally optimistic, hopeful, confident.

JOURney: a day’s travel

Physical as well as spiritual

Dag Hammarskjöld: “The longest journey is the journey inward.”

We are a people on The Way:  a motif in various faith traditions:

Psalm 1

Blessed is the one who does not walk
in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in company with scoffers.

Rather, the law of the LORD is our joy; and on God’s law we meditate day and night…

John the Baptist Prepare the Way of the Lord, John’s gospel: Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life, Mark’s gospel (the earliest gospel written) “on the way, on the move, and then! Immediately…, Christians were first known as People of the Way

The opening sura in the Qur’an, the Fatihah:

“Show us the straight way, The way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray.”

Buddhism: The Ways to Enlightenment

The four main paths of Hinduism

The Way: El Camino de Santiago de Compestella, watch the movie!

None of us would eagerly choose the tough stuff of life: heartbreak, suffering, illness, loss, homesickness, death. But our faith tells us we are never alone in those dark moments; the One who is Love, the One who is Light is present there with us, carrying us to the perhaps unseen shore.

Easter Vigil: the church begins in darkness and the Paschal Candle is lit; Christ our Light/Thanks be to God!

Today’s reading from Genesis:

Jacob’s father, Isaac, makes him Master of his household, including his older twin brother, Esau. An ancient argument over inheritance. (Jesus’ story of the Prodigal Son in Luke’s gospel is a variation of this story. No accident, as this remains a challenge for most families, even today!)

After 20 years of estrangement: Jacob returns home, wrestles with an angel in a night of sleeplessness, and approaches his brother, who runs to him! Jacob bows in humility and calls Esau “my Lord” and referring to himself as “your servant.”

“To see your face is for me like seeing the face of God!”

Forgiveness is the way home, the way to wholeness. Without forgiveness, no love survives. This is the key of Jesus’ teaching. Love is the still quiet voice calling us forward. But love requires forgiveness. No doubt, our hardest journey. But our most essential journey. The fundamental transition in our life’s paschal journey, from death to new life.

Story: doctor friend to a friend with cancer: “The best thing you can do for your health is to let go of your resentments.”

Invite a pause in silent breathing.

Psalm 139: 1-10, 13-14, 23-24

LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
you know when I sit and stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.

You sift through my travels and my rest;
with all my ways you are familiar.

Even before a word is on my tongue,
LORD, you know it all.

Behind and before you encircle me
and rest your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
far too lofty for me to reach.

Where can I go from your spirit?
From your presence, where can I flee?

If I ascend to the heavens, you are there;
if I lie down in Sheol, there you are.

If I take the wings of dawn
and dwell beyond the sea,

Even there your hand guides me,
your right hand holds me fast.

You formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works!

Probe me, God, know my heart;
try me, know my thoughts.

See if there is a wicked path in me;
lead me along an ancient path.