The theme of this Gospel is clearly love but not the kind of love we see on film or on TV, hear on the radio or a CD. In church hymns, too, we frequently sing about love. But, as Oliver sings in the musical based on Charles Dickens’ story, “Where is love?” We ask: What is love?
Father Andrew reminded us the other day, love is a gift freely given. If we receive it freely, dare we do anything less. For just a minute, let’s step aside to look at where John places this teaching. It fits squarely between the Gospel readings from this morning (Saturday) and yesterday (Friday) and immediately after the Gospel proclaimed last Sunday: the vine and branches where we were reminded that it is only in our union with Jesus that we can render fruitful service.
Sometimes we hear this word “love” used in such a way that we degrade, lessen or weaken its significance. The way Jesus, or in this case John, uses the word for love just doesn’t apply to chocolate, a long drink or an afternoon nap. We may like and enjoy those things a lot, but we don’t “love” them in the way we love our neighbor.
It is notable, I think, that Jesus gives us just ONE love commandment. He does not say, “Love me, love my father or love God as I have loved you.” No, he says, “If you want to be my disciple, then you must love one another.” If we really love our brothers and sisters we do not have to worry if we love God. But, if we do not love everyone unconditionally, then there is no other way we can claim to love Jesus. We need to love like God loves – without exception.
We have the perfect model in the love between the Father and the Son – selfless giving. The Father has given all things to the Son. The Son lays down his life in obedience to the Father. One scholar writes that, “Love is the will to good…One who loves promotes the good, or wills the benefit and strength, of the beloved – this is the nature of God.”
Deep down, we all want to love and be loved. We like people to be our friends. Yet, because of our past experiences, the influence of parents and other people around us, the pressures of our society and our traditions, and plain bad habits, we often do not know how to love, do not know how to forgive, do not know how to be reconciled. We do not practice the skills we know that promote healthy relationships.
Sometimes people will love us back, sometimes they will not. People learn to love by being loved. We learn to share love and communicate our feelings by imitating the models we live with. Remember your mom coaxing you when you received a gift or a compliment: “What do you say?”
When I genuinely love others, there will always be some who cannot love me back but there will be others who will really respond in love. And it may be that my love has empowered them to be loving too. Benedict reminds us in the Prologue to the Rule – we heard it read just yesterday: “See how the Lord in his love shows us the way of life…. What is not possible to us by nature, let us ask the Holy One to supply by the help of grace … while there is still time, while we are in this body and have time to accomplish all these things … we must run and do now what will profit us forever.” We know, but too often forget, that Jesus never told his disciples to LIKE each other. He said, “LOVE one another.” And how does Jesus express love? We know it is freely and without reserve. He gives us a “how to” when He says: “I am gentle and humble of heart.” This is how we are to love one another: in humility with gentleness. Just as we cradle and carry a precious glass object, we value and treasure our free gift of love with special caring.
It’s a life-long journey, isn’t it? We may have fleeting moments when “perfect love” rises to the surface of our motivation to action. I think it was St. Irenaeus who said a very long time ago that “The glory of God is a person fully alive.” (John Powell)
You see, love is God’s very nature – God cannot not love. How does God love? Full hearted and unconditionally. Jesus gives us just one commandment that encompasses all the others. He does not say, “Love Me as I have loved you.” No, he says, “If you want to be my disciple, then you must love one another, as I have loved you.” If we really love our brothers and sisters, including strangers and even enemies, we do not have to worry if we love God. In one of our “love” hymns, we sing “Where love abides, our God is ever there.”
St. John does not say to us, “Wherever there are Christians, there is God” or “Wherever there is a Christian church, there is God.” No, he says, “Wherever there is love, there is God.” Wherever there is a person filled with love for others, God is there.Continue Reading
Did you hear that? Jesus said: “Ask for whatever you want and it will be given you.” I wonder how many times he may have said that to his parents? Isn’t that the same directive Mary gave the wine servers at the wedding feast at Cana? This is May and May is traditionally the month of Mary.” As one author notes: “Many Christians (particularly Catholics) consecrate themselves to the virgin Mary … to become ‘another Mary for Jesus, a faithful, loving, and trusting companion of the Savior.” We see that trustful relationship between mother and Son at that wedding feast. It seems to me that’s a good message to ponder in the time and space we find ourselves in this week. “Do whatever He tells you.” [you may recall some of what comes next …]
The miracle at Cana has never ceased happening. Every moment of every day Christ pours himself into the empty jars of our lives. He is the GOOD WINE – extravagant, abundant, endless. We can’t understand how it happens. We don’t know how it happens. We only know that it does happen. We’ve experienced it and witnessed moments when death is turned into life, sorrow into joy, and despair into hope. We’ve been surprised when fear was transformed into courage and we’ve seen people do things they never thought possible. We’ve done what we thought was impossible! We’ve known moments when empty lives have been filled back up. So …
When the wine runs out and you are confused – but others are looking for answers – (recall what Mary told the wine servers) – DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU.
When the wine runs out, and troubles swirl about you so your head is a muddle … When COVID is raging and safety guidelines are restrictive, turn to our Savior who was constrained on a Cross … and, DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU.
When the wine runs out, and you know aridity and still you struggle to be upbeat … When the wine runs out, when a loved one dies or a friendship withers, DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU.
When good intentions don’t fill the void but only seem to pave the road to you-know-where – DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU.
When your illusion of self-sufficiency is shattered and your spirit is empty, and you shake your water jar and hear the sound of hollowness, don’t despair – just … DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU.
When the day is a disaster, an embarrassment, a failure, grab your empty jar, fill it with what water of your tears and then DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU.
When your wine is running low, and no one else seems to notice, listen to your mother; remember what she told you: DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU.
When life lacks vibrancy and the future is colorless, fill your jar with the water of common life, not bottled water, not Dasani or Zephyrhills water … the water of your everyday life, and DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU.
When hope wears thin and faith is shaky; when you’re filled with guilt for deeds left undone and offenses given, bend your knee and bow your head and, DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU.
When life is full of changes that threaten, lean into the One who is changeless. When you have more questions than answers, there’s an answer for any query … DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU.
When your best efforts fall short and your life-glass looks more than half-empty, breathe deeply and, DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU.
“They have no wine,” Mary said. But they will. The miracle always begins when the wine gives out. Regardless of how it feels or what we think about it, the day the wine runs out is the beginning of a miracle. Christ does not simply refill our glasses. He transforms our lives, turning water into wine. That which was colorless becomes vibrant. That which had no taste now tingles the tongue. That which had no fragrance now has a full bouquet.
Simply remember this – plant it in your heart: when the wine runs out,
DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU.Continue Reading
This is the last post from Abbot Gregory J. Polan’s Circular Letter. You can read the three prior parts on our website under “Articles of Interest”: www.benedictinesistersoffl.org. The Abbot’s brief bio is at the beginning of the first post.
The following is from Abbot Polan’s recent Circular:
The conclusion to Chapter 4 of the Rule of Saint Benedict on the “Tools of Good Works,” reminds us that we must never despair of God’s mercy (R 4:74). This speaks to the passage of the Gospel according to John. Jesus’ teaching about peace (and we note that this is the first time the word appears in the Fourth Gospel) is not sugar-coated. It calls us to faithful endurance, to hope in what God will accomplish through difficult times and how it will end in God’s unique expression of peace – a kind of well-being that touches every part of our existence. And because the unfolding of this peace is part of a divine plan, its unfolding will be unique, accomplished in God’s time and offering us a teaching that is for the good of our eternal soul. Patient waiting is not an easy task. We live in an age of immediate results and instantaneous gratification of our needs and wants. That is not how the spiritual life unfolds. Rather, in God’s time, divine grace unfolds in a perfect way that leaves us in wonder at the wisdom of God’s plan – touched by heavenly perfection.
The challenge of this pandemic cannot be lived in vain. What have we learned from this time? What is the good that we have found hidden in the sadness of these times? What are some of the paths forward that we have considered as we look to the future? I invite all to consider these three questions and to share your thoughts. We can inspire one another with our reflections. May God guide us forward with deep faith, genuine hope and generous charity as witnesses to God’s presence in our midst “bringing us all together to everlasting life” (RB 72:12).Continue Reading
World Day of Prayer for Vocations
“Dream of Joseph” from Pope Francis
This evening I’d like to share with you excerpts from Pope Francis’ message for the 2021 World Day Prayer for Vocations. Back in December 2020, His Holiness Pope Francis declared Saint Joseph “Patron of the Universal Church” as he opened the Year of Joseph. His letter to us for today’s International day of prayer for Church Vocations is entitled “Saint Joseph: The Dream of Vocation.” Pope Francis writes:
God looks on the heart and in Saint Joseph he recognized the heart of a father, able to give and generate life in the midst of daily routines. Vocations have this same goal: to beget and renew lives every day. The Lord desires to shape the hearts of fathers and mothers: hearts that are open, capable of great initiatives, generous in self-giving, compassionate in comforting anxieties and steadfast in strengthening hopes. The priesthood and the consecrated life greatly need these qualities nowadays, in times marked by fragility but also by the sufferings due to the pandemic, which has spawned uncertainties and fears about the future and the very meaning of life. Saint Joseph comes to meet us in his gentle way, as one of “the saints next door.” At the same time, his strong witness can guide us on the journey.
Saint Joseph suggests to us key words for each individual’s vocation. The first is dream. If we were to ask people to express in one word their life’s dream, it would not be difficult to imagine the answer: “to be loved.” It is love that gives meaning to life, because it reveals life’s mystery. Indeed, we only have life if we give it; we truly possess it only if we generously give it away. God’s call always urges us to take a first step, to give ourselves, to press forward. There can be no faith without risk. Every “yes” bears fruit because it becomes part of a larger design, of which we glimpse only details, but which the divine Artist knows and carries out, making of every life a masterpiece. Every true vocation is born of the gift of oneself, which is the fruit of mature sacrifice. Our gift of self will not come to fulfilment if it stops at sacrifice. Were that the case, instead of becoming a sign of the beauty and joy of love, the gift of self would risk being an expression of unhappiness, sadness and frustration.
Pope Francis continues: “I like to think of Saint Joseph, as the protector of vocations.” In fact, from his willingness to serve comes his concern to protect. The Gospel tells us that Joseph wasted no time fretting over things he could not control, in order to give full attention to those entrusted to his care. Such thoughtful concern is the sign of a true vocation, the testimony of a life touched by the love of God. What a beautiful example of Christian life we give when we refuse to pursue our ambitions or indulge in our illusions, but instead care for what the Lord has entrusted to us through the Church! God then pours out his Spirit and creativity upon us – he works wonders in us, as he did in Joseph.
Together with God’s call which makes our greatest dreams come true, and our response which is made up of generous service and attentive care, there is (another) characteristic of Saint Joseph’s daily life and our Christian vocation, namely fidelity. Joseph is the “righteous man who daily perseveres in quietly serving God and God’s plans.” At a particularly difficult moment in his life, he thoughtfully considered what to do. He did not yield to the temptation to act rashly, simply following his instincts or living for the moment. Instead, he pondered things patiently. He knew that success in life is built on constant fidelity to important decisions. This was reflected in his perseverance in plying the trade of a humble carpenter, a quiet perseverance that made no news in his own time, yet has inspired the daily lives of countless Christians ever since. For a vocation – like life itself – matures only through daily fidelity.
How is such fidelity nurtured? In the light of God’s own faithfulness. The first words that Saint Joseph heard in a dream were an invitation not to be afraid, because God remains ever faithful to his promises. Do not be afraid: these words the Lord also addresses to you whenever you feel that, even amid uncertainty and hesitation, you can no longer delay your desire to give your life to him. He repeats these words when, perhaps amid trials and misunderstandings, you seek to follow his will every day, wherever you find yourself. They are words you will hear anew, at every step of your vocation, as you return to your first love. They are a refrain accompanying all those who – like Saint Joseph – say yes to God with their lives through their fidelity each day.
This fidelity is the secret of joy. A hymn in the liturgy speaks of the “transparent joy” present in the home of Nazareth. It is the joy of simplicity, the joy experienced daily by those who care for what truly matters: faithful closeness to God and to our neighbor. How good it would be if the same atmosphere, simple and radiant, sober and hopeful, were to pervade our seminaries, religious houses and presbyteries! Pope Francis continues…”I pray that you will experience this same joy, (my) dear brothers and sisters who have generously made God the dream of your lives, serving God through a fidelity that is a powerful testimony in an age of fleeting choices and emotions that bring no lasting joy. May Saint Joseph, protector of vocations, accompany you with his fatherly heart!”
Please pray for perseverance for our postulants: Marietta and Kathleen.
If it be God’s will, we pray: send vocations to our community.
God bless you! Stay safe – keep healthy and happy and never lose hope – believe that God has a plan that is unfolded for us day-by-day … which is all we need one-day-at-a-time.
~Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress
For the full text of Pope Francis letter (cited in the attached reflection) click on the link below.Continue Reading
How Catholic Sisters are Helping to Save the Earth
— and You Can Too
Presented by Sr. Sheila Kinsey and Sr. Melinda Roper
The webinar below took place on April 13th, but you can watch the recording.
Just click on the link below and it will take you to the recording.
Catholic Sisters have long been involved in efforts to protect the environment, address climate change and care for creation. Sr. Sheila Kinsey shared a global view from her vantage point in Rome on how sisters around the world are effecting positive change. Sr. Melinda Roper shared the grassroots efforts of her teamwork with local communities in the particularly sensitive eco-environment of Darién, Panama.
This special hour-long conversation was moderated by EarthBeat Editor Barbara Fraser and GSR Editor Gail DeGeorge, and these sisters brought insights and information on the some of the pressing needs of our planet, how sisters are making a difference – and you can too.
(click on the link above to watch recording of webinar)