In the first reading today we heard: “Love is strong as death; passion is as strong as death itself. It bursts into flame and burns like a raging fire. Water cannot quench it; no flood can drown it. But if any tried to buy love with their wealth, contempt is all they would get.” Elsewhere from Paul we hear: “God it is who espouses us in right and truth and justice, in love and mercy and fidelity.” In our philosophy statement we say: Because we are Christ to one another, we form bonds of mutual love and respect and call forth the best in one another. So, do we, then, dare do any less for each other than what Paul says in the reading? What, then, does it mean to be in covenant with each other in truth and right; in love and mercy and fidelity? To love with a love that is as powerful as death; with a passion as strong as death itself? What does it mean to love each other with a love so powerful it bursts into flame and burns like a raging fire? You can’t buy that kind of love. Once you have it you can’t quench it with water nor drown it with a flood.
In Luke’s Gospel for Scholastica Day, Jesus gives us an example of “unquenchable love” for his friends: Martha, Mary and Lazarus. He seems to have gone out of His way to visit them in their home. We each need to know where our “Bethany” is – our home spot where Jesus comes, not only to visit, but to reside. Our Bethany is the place where we minister to the weary Christ and feed our hungry Guest. We savor the Word in the light – and that’s contemplation!
Bethany is where we take comfort in being regularly fed in Lectio and times spent at the feet of Jesus. We don’t have to stop our service ministries. We seek, rather, to take on a contemplative stance that colors the activities that fill our days. This contemplative attitude becomes ME. Remember, the promise in the Song of Songs: “I will lead you into the desert and I will espouse you.”
In the desert, life isn’t lacking but it is different. In the desert, two very different birds thrive. The vulture sees nothing but dead and stinking carcasses. The hummingbird seeks the lovely blossoms of the cactus plant. The vultures live on the dead past. The hummingbird lives on the fragrant present. Each bird finds what it is looking for. So do we. It’s a choice we make. If we do not become more contemplative in attitude and action in this desert where God draws us, we will fry in the noonday heat and suffer hypothermia at midnight.
Contemplation is more than a lotus pose or a prayer stool; more than a beautifully decorated prayer table or a view of the lake. Contemplation is more than hours in meditation or repeated mantras. Contemplation is witnessed in a smile or an infectious laugh; a consideration shown to others in our gentle movements, our volume of speech and closing doors, and our anticipation of the other’s need. Contemplation is beautiful music, a sunset; a baby’s first step; the last breath of a life lived in covenant.
Contemplation is more than centering; contemplation is centeredness. Contemplation is a way of life, not a way of praying. Contemplation IS, not DOES. It is being in touch with Jesus’ as the one thing necessary. It frees us to boast in the Lord, and causes us to savor the richness and zest of truth and justice, of right and mercy, of love and fidelity. “I will lead you and speak to your heart; I will espouse you,” says our God. There we will know the love described in the first reading: a love as powerful as death, bursting into flame and burning like a raging fire. A love that cannot be bought. A love that cannot be put out nor drown. So: here’s the choice: will you be a vulture or a hummingbird?
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress