Chapter Talk – First Sunday of Lent – March 6, 2022, cycle-C
“Without communion there is no mission”…Communion communicates mission….“Communion is the substance of mission”. What are these words of Dom Mauro Giuseppe saying to us? Is not the core of our mission as monastics communion, communion of heart and mind with God and one another? There is a creative tension between the ‘I’ that has said ‘yes’ to God and this same ‘I’ that surrenders in the process of creating a ‘we’, a communion of persons who together are giving their lives to God and to building up a world where God’s love always has the final word.
What does any of this have to do with Lent? We received ashes on Ash Wednesday with the words ‘Repent and believe in the gospel’. In other words, Jesus cries out to us: ‘Change your heart and mind and live the gospel way’. In The New Catholic Dictionary of Spirituality conversion is described as the process which brings us into “the mystery of grace operating within human transformation and the potentiality for persons and cultures to become a new creation” (p.230). Our conversion is not just for ourselves. It is very much connected to community and beyond to our world. There is no evangelizing without our lives first being evangelized…And we are evangelized by the gospels, by the living word of Christ who breathes his life-giving words into the silent depths: ‘Today if you hear his words, harden not your hearts’ (Psalm 94). Let us keep in our consciousness that we are entering Lent together as we each received Jesus’ call on Ash Wednesday to repent and believe, live into the gospel.
Let me share two more texts from New Catholic Dictionary. First: “Conversion is understood in The Rite of Penance as an inward transformation” (p.232). The implication of this pithy sentence is that conversion is not some shallow process where we quickly say, ‘I am sorry’ and there is no real inner change. And the second text is paraphrasing Bernard Lonergan’s thinking and others who explain “conversion as a set of judgments and decisions that move the human person from an established horizon into a new horizon of knowing, valuing, and acting” (p.234). This new horizon of knowing, valuing, and acting is the ‘new wine, new skins’ of Jesus’ teaching…It reflects his mind and heart…indeed his consciousness. We are called to grow into the mind and heart of Christ, to become more like him in our ‘knowing, valuing, and acting’.
How does our ‘established horizon’ become transformed into the ‘new horizon’ that Jesus embodies? The Rule tells us ‘Monastic life should always have a Lenten character about it…’ (RB 49). If we go to the root meaning of the word ‘lent’, as Fr. Simeon said on Ash Wednesday, it is good to keep in mind that ‘lent’ means ‘spring’…Lent is about life, generative life. However, for life to spring forth and abound, there is a cost, something is asked from us…and simply what is that? Is it not the gift of self? This is the offering…we surrender, we die to all that is not about ‘God’ and about serving God. We surrender, in order to live more truthfully the gospel way, we follow, without putting any limitation on following the One who is the way, the truth, and the life. Lent is preparing us for the ‘joy of Easter’, the joy of Christ’s victory over death, over evil, over anything that destroys life…the life that is God. If we are to rise with Christ, then are we ready to die with him, in giving over our selfish, controlling ways, our need to self-justify, our old ways of knowing and valuing into the larger new horizon of Christ’s heart and mind? Let us in our small and hidden ways embody the love that is Christ, the Divine love that alone can transform the power of evil.
During Lent the Rule emphasizes more time for Lectio…Why is this so? Pope Francis says this: “But there is one thing to which I would like to draw your attention, something interesting. In responding to the tempter, Jesus does not enter a discussion, but responds to the three challenges with only the Word of God. This teaches us that one does not dialogue with the devil; one must not discuss, one only responds to him with the Word of God” (Angelus, March 6, 2022). Here we have an antidote for facing evil. We meet it not with our words but the Word of God. In Hebrews we hear: “The Word of God is alive and active” (4:12). This Word reveals the darkness and concomitantly becomes the loving force that transforms the darkness. We are not alone…Christ, his Word is living and active…let us lean upon him more and more, and may our Lenten practice bring us each the needed transformation so that we may live our mission as a monastic community more fully.
Sr. Kathy Devico, Abbess