This week at our Inter Community Novitiate, we spent some time reflecting on the nature of religious life. Our liturgical celebrations mirrored our discussion as we celebrated the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the World Day for Consecrated Life on February 2nd. During our celebration of the Eucharist, I truly felt a spirit of thanksgiving to be gathered with others who had also discerned to walk on this pathway of discipleship.
|ICN participants listening to a question from the group.|
I am still pondering many of the strands that came up for me during our two days together, but I think much of what we talked about can be summed up in a parable our presenter shared with us, called the Gift of the Rabbi. In the story, an abbot of a monastery that has gone down to only five members goes out to meet with a rabbi in a nearby cabin to ask for advice. While the rabbi didn’t have the answer the abbot was looking for, his words as the abbot was leaving was, “the Messiah is among you.” The abbot took this back to the monastery and the monks tried to make out what this message could possibly mean. They kept asking, which one of us could be the Messiah that will save this monastery? In their questioning, they found a newborn respect and reverence for one another that ultimately was attractive, and people spent time among them in their prayer, and some even asked to join.
This parable illustrates for me how religious life is, above all else, about witnessing a life of discipleship. I can see this at work in my ministry this year, where my greatest gift is my presence to the women I serve, rather than any activity I might do with them. What matters most in my ministry is the act of showing up week after week and, through that action, giving the message to the women I serve that I value and reverence them.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world” (5:14). Jesus is not telling his disciples that they can be light of the world on some unforeseen and distant day, but today! Right this very moment! Likewise, all of us who follow the path of discipleship are light for the world, right this very moment.
|The stage set for our morning prayer with the bags with our names|
written on them and a candle before each bag.
As we discussed during our time together, religious life, by following the example of Jesus Christ, who is our Light, we give light to those around us. We celebrated this among ourselves when we prayed on Thursday morning. We had been encouraged to write messages of encouragement for everyone there, and to put those messages in bags with our names written on them. At the end of prayer, we were invited to pick up our bag so that we could bring it home with us and read our messages there. Through our messages to one another, we were able to be light for one another on our journey and, hopefully, by showing each other honor and respect, give light to the world.