The Last Days

Rosy Kandathil, OSB Letters home, Living in Community 20 Comments

It’s early April 2017 and I am approaching the final stretch of my master’s degree in scripture at Saint John’s School of Theology in Collegeville, MN. I’ve immersed myself in New Testament Greek and Old Testament Hebrew, taken theology and scripture classes, read volumes, written graduate level exegetical papers—all in preparation for this last semester of examinations. The next and last hurdle is my oral comprehensive exam, today, as I sit before a panel of professors who will probe my competence in the field of scripture and decide if I have demonstrated the level of proficiency required to have earned a masters degree in the subject. It suddenly struck me this week that I’ve spent two years preparing for this moment, but after all this work, I feel I’ve only scratched the surface of my study. I’m no master of scripture. I’m nervous; I’m not ready. I’m certain the exam will expose the truth: I’m still learning.

In these last days of Lent, as we hurtle toward the rituals of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the silent liminal waiting of Saturday, and the celebration of Easter’s promise of resurrection, I feel a closeness to the disciples. Although they could not have guessed at the trials they would undergo in the final days of Jesus’ life, they were about to enter a severe round of examinations. What had they learned at Jesus’ side in the course of their discipleship?  Who was this miracle-worker who told stories of the Kingdom of Heaven so persuasively, drawing crowds who offered praise and rejection by turns?  When put to the test, what answer would the disciples give to the questions put to them by the Roman authorities and by their fellows?

As I keep my eyes on the disciples during Lent, it gives me hope.  Being put to the test is a normal part of discipleship and human life. We all get tested from time to time. For the women and men who followed Jesus, the days following his arrest, trial and execution were unimaginably difficult and confusing. What was happening? What had they learned after all in Jesus’ company?  Would they be exposed?

Under the pressure of examinations, the best and the worst of a person’s character can come to the surface. If I’m paying attention, these moments of testing provide learning opportunities. For instance, I’ve been noticing my own tendency to isolate, procrastinate and self-medicate with social media when I feel overwhelmed by my work. Coming to a monastery didn’t magically cure me of habits that I have developed to deal with anxiety. Instead of looking to Jesus for help, I’d much rather make my own way. Like the disciples, sometimes I run away, deny, or distract, in order to avoid the pain of the road ahead.

On the other hand, as I prepare for these exams, I also notice the good.  I notice my own growing ability and confidence in scripture study. I can acknowledge gladly and truthfully that there are things I can say about and do with scripture that I couldn’t even six months ago. When I pause and consider this truth, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for this special time in my life. I am stronger for this process, and I will be able to serve others with greater skill as a result.

Like the disciples, I’m likely to discover that this comprehensive examination process will expose my weaknesses–while also proving that God is more alive, more loving, and more wondrous than I could have ever hoped or imagined. I am surely not alone. As I prepare for my comprehensives, I’ll be sure to remember that no exam has the last word on my life. The disciples may have displayed different levels of competencies in those final hours of Jesus’s life, but as they learned to depend on God’s mysterious grace the true gift of Easter emerged: “…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

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Read other blog posts from Sister Rosy in her series, Letters home.

Comments 20

  1. Many blessings….you gave it Your all in all! I am sure you will hear the words echoing in those hallowed halls of St. John’s “well done”!

    1. Thanks for your prayers, Christine! Your words must have been prophetic, because something very similar did happen after my oral exam. I passed with honors. 🙂

  2. Dear one, Sister Rosy,

    You are in my thoughts and prayers today. May you have calm, peace, clarity, and stamina as you share the wisdom you’ve gained these last two years.

    Be well. Be strong. Be of good cheer.

    Sue Ellen

    1. Thank you, Sue Ellen! Your prayers — and so many others — helped keep me calm, centered and sharp during my exam. Can’t wait to fill you in when I see you next!

  3. I heard strength in the midst of testing, Rosie. So I will respond with prayer to keep our eyes and heart open to the strength and freedom from fear God provides. Peace be with you.

    1. Thank you for that prayer, Jan! You’re right: I felt strong at various points during my exam. I was grateful to walk out of that room with head high and a masters with the additional distinction of honors!

  4. You speak beautifully. We are all in this together and there are so many more questions than answers. That is what I learned while acquiring my BA in Theology. My mind was opened. A degree did not make me a parrot, who could spit out answers. It made me think more deeply about the little things and the marvelous, mysterious world around me. I am more open to the nudges of the Holy Spirit. I have more confidence in the help that I will receive and more open to a life of service.

    1. You’re right, Cathy. I can readily admit with you to being a learner for life. Grateful for the chance to have had these 2 years to explore theological questions more deeply!

  5. Oh, to be a 🐜 on the wall during your oral exam. I’m sure you rolled their socks down and there is great rejoicing and celebrating by all as you bring this chapter to a close. Thanks for your regular sharing of this time at St John’s. Congrats 🎈🎊Hurry home.
    Phyllis

    1. I don’t know how much fun you would have had in that room — it got pretty heated at points! I’ll be sure to fill you in when I see you. Happy to report that the conversation went well, and I’ve been awarded a masters in scripture — with the additional distinction of honors!

  6. “As I prepare for my comprehensives, I’ll be sure to remember that no exam has the last word on my life.”
    My dear friend, Rosy….
    I think that I was most touched by this sentence. No matter what happens today (and, I am totally confident that the panel will not only hear your knowledge, but “feel” your goodness) this is just another beginning in your life. You will always be a woman with great love and compassion and strength….and, yes….knowledge. And, no exam will ever change that.

    Much love,
    Rita

    1. Rita, you always know just what to say! Thank you for your constant love and support. I am so grateful, and look forward to seeing you at prayers…

  7. Praying you through these exams! 2 Cor. 12:9-10, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamaties; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
    I have confidence that all shall be well!
    Love and prayer, Sr. Margaret

    1. Thank you, Sr. Margaret — always grateful for your carrying prayers! Happy to report that I got through the masters comps process with honors, and now am back at the monastery for Holy Week. A blessed Triduum to you and your community!

  8. Having seen you in quite a few test-taking scenarios in the past, I know you’ve got this. Im not sure I’ve ever known anyone who is intelligent and dedicated to the craft of learning as you are. I am so confident you will be great, because you already are.

    1. Thank you, Carolyn. You really have seen me through many examinations, and I always get nervous. Every single time. Thank you for your confidence in me over all these years. I’ll be graduating with a masters in theology now–and the distinction of honors!

  9. Rosy!
    Just now seeing this blog through the Holy Wisdom Monastery newsletter. Holy smokes! Congratulations…with distinction and honors! I loved your words, “I also notice the good. I notice my own growing ability and confidence in scripture study. I can acknowledge gladly and truthfully that there are things I can say about and do with scripture that I couldn’t even six months ago.” Ahh, Scripture study. Congratulations on your diligence and perseverance. I also appreciated your parallels between the disciples preparation for their “exams” Passion week and your preparation throughout the semester till final exams and this culmination of sorts. How do you feel? What is next?
    As for us, just trying to faithfully follow Jesus in our big, little corner of the world.
    BIG HUGS, Geri (and Pete)

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