“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Great beginnings, like those opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities, are more memorable than most endings. Because when we open the first page of a novel or watch the curtain rise on a play, we are charged with anticipation.
“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times,” is a great beginning precisely because it describes the paradox of anticipation. We’re roused by the rivalry between best and worst, two superlatives both as uncompromising as life and death: One must end if the other is to begin.
“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times” describes Thomas’ perplexing paradox of anticipation. Jesus promises him a place saying Thomas already knows the way there. But assuming this place is a destination, Thomas insists that he doesn’t know the way there. Because without knowing the end point, he can’t even decide in which direction to begin.
However, the right direction doesn’t matter because all lead to Jesus if we begin faithfully. Thus, “Have faith in God and faith also in me” is the only direction Jesus gives because it’s the only direction we need. If we begin faithfully we’ll always find Jesus in the end. That faithful beginning is how we discover that Jesus is not just a way, but He Who is the Way. That faithful first step discloses Jesus is the Way not to just a truth, but to the Truth, not to one life, but to the source of all life. However, such faith requires that we begin without knowing the end, confident that every step toward Christ during the worst of times always ends with best of times.
We seem to be in the worst of times. However, although the school year will not end as imagined, it is also the best of times. Because you get to decide the beginning of this end. You get to compose your own commencement address. Commencement means beginning. Composing your own commencement address, like penning the opening lines of a great novel, allows you to convert this year’s capricious ending into an auspicious beginning. Your commencement will charge the world with expectancy if you change the world with your fidelity. But faith always requires you to begin without knowing the end. Because you can only discover your proper end in Christ when you begin to walk in the faith of Christ. Address yourselves now to commencing that first step in faith the faith of Christ. For although you are as yet only in the lauds of your life, that first step well begun will be a far, far better thing than you have ever done. And then when the compline of your life finally closes upon your bones, it will be a far, far better rest than you have ever known.
About The Author: Conventual Franciscan Father Kenneth G. Davis is a visiting professor of spirituality and spiritual director at the Saint Joseph College Seminary in Louisiana.