May 25, 2014

Opening Our Hearts with Love

                                                                                                                                Sr. Nettie
                                                                                                                                6th Sunday of Easter

Today’s 2nd reading says, “Beloved: Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.”  And the Gospel says, “I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.”  These quotes point to the goal of our life, what we long for and what our monastic lives are oriented toward, union with God. But even though our Rule and Constitutions do everything they can to provide a way of life that helps us toward our goal, legislation is not enough, as we know well. Everything in our life can try to turn our minds and hearts toward God, but if our hearts are not longing for the Lord, if we do not daily make an effort to quicken our desire for the Lord, our hearts will find something else to desire. It is a great mercy that God has led us to a life that daily reminds us of our very real and most basic longing for God because without the support of community and Liturgy, we would quickly forget to listen to the calling of our Good Shepherd, our Beloved. We need this help. Unfortunately the reality of our life is that we will daily be up against ourselves, for we ourselves are our greatest obstacle on the road to Eternal life. No one else is, no other thing is. We can daily thank God that he does not leave us alone with ourselves. We are never alone, and I don’t refer to community living! Jesus says, “I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of Truth.” So already our Gospel readings are looking forward to Pentecost, as Jesus prepares his disciples for his Ascension, assuring them that they will not be left alone. I’ll leave these feasts to other chapter talks.

Instead, for my second thought, I’ll backtrack to the second reading. After Peter says, “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts”, he says to meet the consequences of Christ’s indwelling presence with gentleness and reverence because we will suffer for it. He doesn’t say if we suffer, but when we suffer, for Christ also suffered. This reminds me of the chapter on humility in the Rule of St. Benedict, especially the 3rd and 4th steps, where Benedict calls us to imitate the Lord in our obedience because Jesus became obedient even to death, and in this obedience our hearts should quietly embrace suffering. And what is our obedience, but to keep his commandments because we love him.  Or, as today's Gospel says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” This is putting things in the right order – keeping the commandments is the result of our loving him. It does us no real good to do what we should for the wrong reasons, such as to avoid being hassled, or to look good or be thought better of. Without love, our actions are not forming our hearts to be the light-bearing, loving person we were created to be. With love, our obedience, our actions will, with God’s grace, enlarge our hearts to love more. This is our call, our center, our hope, that he loves us, has touched our souls most intimately, and wants to remain in us forever, and he wants us to respond to his presence more and more until we abide in him as he abides in us. The fruits of this love are revealed and matured in sharing this love with everyone whom our lives touch. But this is possible only if we have let ourselves be formed by Christ’s humble obedience to the Father. Then, as the end of RB7 says, all that we do will be done out of love for Christ.

So let us be taught by Christ in the Liturgy these days to open our hearts more and more to our Risen Lord and to the Spirit of truth who is given to us to guide us and strengthen us even as it shows us our own poverty and the abundance of God’s love.

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