Chapter talk – 4th Sunday of Easter – May 8, 2022, cycle-C
“Jesus said: ‘My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they shall follow me’” (Jn 10:27). And then this later passage from John’s gospel: “I shall not call you servants any more….but friends” (Jn 15:15). We are friends because we are known by Him, and we have been taught the mysteries of God because all has been revealed to Him by his Abba. So, with this last passage in mind let us change the first sentence of our Sunday’s gospel to read: ‘My friends hear my voice; I know them, and they shall follow me’. Imagine this in the Divine encounter: hearing the Divine voice, being known, and then following. If we tease out what is said just in this one pithy saying of Jesus it is profound. If we are truly friends of Christ we hear, we listen to His voice. It is our faith that leads us into the posture of ‘listening’, trusting that the Divine voice will be speaking His silent word. But we must clear out all that gets in the way. Often our ego resounds so loud with stuff that we clearly do not hear the Divine voice, the voice that cries out daily in the depths of our heart.
Pope Francis in commenting on this gospel has said that we cannot call ourselves “a follower of Jesus, if we do not listen to His voice. And this listening should not be understood in a superficial way, but in an engaging way, to the point of making possible a true mutual understanding, from which one can come to a generous following, expressed in the words, ‘and they follow me’ (v.27). It is a matter of listening not only with the ears, but listening with the heart!” (Angelus, April 17, 2016). Easter graces us with resurrected life. However, we must ‘let go’ to receive this life. One may ask: what do I need to let go of? It is as simple as the ‘I-It’ mentality, to use Martin Buber’s profound image. This mentality is very linear, there is no Divine inclusion in the dynamic. To bring the ‘I-Thou’ posture into the encounter means the ego surrenders its current posture. How we meet each day is dependent on our desire to hear the Divine voice regardless of what is on our plate that is asking attention. The risen One is always going before us…is always speaking the Word of life that we need daily….But will we listen to it and let it anchor all that we do during the day?
This Sunday is the 59th World Day of Prayer for Vocations. I simply like to read and comment on the titles of each section in the evocation that Pope Francis offered for this day. The first is: “Called to be protagonists together of the Church’s mission”. Protagonist means we are the main character or the essential person in the play or the event. Pope Francis is saying we all are protagonists, we all are agents of evangelization, living and spreading the word of God, a word of inclusive love, a word of unconditional love, a word that even stretches to our enemies. Building on this, is the next title: “Called to be guardians of one another and of creation”. Is this not what is at the heart of a Cistercian vocation: to be lovers of the place and lovers of the sisters and brothers? To live this in a monastic community spreads hope, and helps to keep this horizon of care for our earth and for one another alive; we are singing its reality beyond the time and space we are occupying. The next is: “Called to welcome God’s gaze”. This is the essence of prayer, the essence of our daily encounter with God. As I said above, the Divine voice utters the Word of life daily and God’s gaze looks upon each of us with love. And then this title, “Called to respond to God’s gaze”. Once we welcome and receive God’s gaze, this gaze leads “us outside of ourselves”, that is, outside of ourselves to the ‘other’, the ‘other’ be it friend or foe. The final title is: “Called to build a fraternal world”. Pope Francis says: “we do not only receive a vocation individually; we are also called together”. This tells us why community is so important. We link to one another our individual vocation; each one’s call is at once deeply personal, and this personal call lived authentically is never separated from the vocation of the community.
We are shepherded by God’s unconditional love in Christ and this gift received, moves us to shepherd one another and all of creation. We must hold this horizon of God’s love and life before our consciousness daily, for this is how, step by step, we live into our vocation both individually and as a community. Let us not forget that we form a living body of Christ, and are thus called to be a living body of peace and of transforming love.
Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess