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Encountering Jesus

Encountering Jesus

May 5, 2024

Jesus says in today’s gospel (Jn 15:9-17), “Remain in my love.”  This is a declaration….it is spare in words, simple on one level to understand.  Imagine yourself in an encounter with Jesus in prayer and out of the silence these words come: “Remain in my love.”  Jesus goes on to tell us ‘how’ we remain in his love. He says, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love…”  Jesus offers himself as the paradigm.   He follows with these words “just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”  As he has loved, as we witness how he loved and ‘loved to the end’, so we are called to do the same.  The struggle is that we can only love as he loved if we remain in his love!

Thus, this obvious question touches the shore of our consciousness: how do we abide in this love?  We abide by living, embodying Jesus’ commandments and the first is to love God, ourselves, and one another, friend, or foe.  Pope Francis said: “To love like Christ means saying ‘no’ to other ‘loves that the world offers us: love of money…, love of success, of vanity, of power…These deceptive paths of ‘love’ distance us from the Lord’s love and lead us to become more and more selfish, narcissistic and overbearing….Ultimately, Jesus asks us to abide in his love, to dwell in his love, not in our ideas, not in our own self-worship….He asks us to overcome the ambition to control and manage others.  Not controlling, serving them.  Opening our heart to others, this is love, to be trusting, giving ourselves to others” (Angelus, May 9, 2021).  From Pope Francis’ evocative words we get a taste of when we are not abiding in the Divine love, of when we fall into those ‘deceptive paths of love’.

St. Bernard in his sermon 27 from the Song of Songs says: “What a capacity this soul has, how privileged its merits, that it is found worthy not only to receive the divine presence, but to be able to make sufficient room!  What can I say of her who can provide avenues spacious enough for the God of majesty to walk in!”  This is the capacity we all are endowed with: to receive the Divine Presence and make room for this Presence to dwell intimately within our depths.  So, then, this question: how do we make room for the Holy One to dwell within us?  Bernard continues: “She (the soul) certainly cannot afford to be entangled in lawsuits nor by worldly cares; she cannot be enslaved by gluttony and sensual pleasures, by the lust of the eyes, the ambition to rule, or by pride in the possession of power.  If she is to become…the dwelling place of God, it is first of all essential that she become empty of all these defects….Nor may she yield in the least to hatred or envy or bitterness ‘because wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul.’  The soul must grow and expand, that it may be roomy enough for God.  Its width is its love, if we accept what the Apostle says: ‘Widen your hearts in love’” (VI.10).  The ‘love’ that both Pope Francis and St. Bernard are speaking about is unconditional love, ‘love to the end’, agape love…It is this ‘love’, this ‘self-emptying love of Christ’ that we are to abide in…As we abide in this transformative love the way opens for us to do likewise: offering ourselves daily, one to another, and then doing this to the ‘end’, ready to lay down our lives for one another.

‘Abide in my love’, so simple, so straightforward a command…the interior encounter of abiding in Christ’s love gives the power of love to work within one’s inner life and this transformative power will then overflow in all our interactions and service.  Pope Francis and St. Bernard offer similar insights of the ways where we divert from the gospel way and do not abide in Christ’s love.   Deceptive paths, getting entangled by the ego’s incessant demands for what inflates it and not for what builds up Christ’s body of love.  The remainder of the gospel shows the far range impact of abiding in Christ’s love: ‘I no longer call you slaves; I call you friends for I have taught you everything that I have learned from my Abba’.  And then, ‘you did not choose me, no, I chose you …I chose you to go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last.’  All this is given us as we abide in Christ’s love.

Nine hundred years separates Pope Francis and St. Bernard.  And here their voices converge: communion of thought and experience.  Let us then receive their wisdom born of their experience and prayer, born from their abiding in agape Love, which is the Love Christ has left us with…and today he gives us this simple command: ‘Abide in my love’.

Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess

Chapter Talk – Sixth Sunday of Easter – May 5, 2024, cycle-B

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