Typically a number of Sisters of Notre Dame move to a new residence in the summer, usually due to a change in a place of ministry. A sister, for example, may be a teacher in one town but becomes a pastoral minister in another town. A change may derive from health reasons or the need for a particular sister in a residence that needs her skills. Just as a family welcomes a new member, our residences do the same. We zig and zag to make room, accommodate, change our ways of doing things, and live daily life with new perspectives. We form a new unity, a new community in which each member is a sacrament of God’s presence. The same is true when a sister leaves a house. Whether the community increases or decreases in number, no matter which sisters comprise the residence, every community is a community for mission. Each community seeks to give witness to the presence of the Lord among them.
The Epistle to the Ephesians begins with God’s plan of salvation—and it includes us! And not only us but every generation. We were all chosen by God in Christ before the world began and given the responsibility “to be holy and blameless in his sight, to be full of love” (Eph. 1:4). In other words, Christ picked us to be on his team. As a team, what is our aim? Since the fullness of Christ fills the universe, then we too are filled with Christ and need to become more reverent towards Christ’s omnipresence. As members of his team, it is up to us to try to realize how we can make others more aware of God’s plan “to bring all things in the heavens and on earth into one under Christ” (Eph. 1:10). Now if this were baseball, what would it mean? We need to pitch the message of unity. We need to run the bases in a “life of good deeds” (Eph. 2:10). We must stretch to catch God’s wisdom. We need to keep up our courage after two strikes, because trials “are [our] glory” (Eph. 3:13). Make the most of present opportunities (Eph. 5:16) to steal a base in completing God’s plan of salvation. Through Christ the whole team grows, and the members are joined firmly together building up in love. Now that’s a home run!
Because evolution follows the trajectory toward more consciousness and more complexity, I guess that requires each of us to become more conscious and more complex. Sounds pretty heavy, doesn’t it, especially when July puts many of us into vacation-mode. So what can we do to become more complex? We can re-create ourselves by developing our minds. There’s always more to learn. What would you like to learn? A new game? A new language? More about science? Tips for better relationships? More about your religion? Challenge yourself to re-create yourself even when enjoying the recreation that July often offers. In the process you will become more conscious of yourself and see more truly who you are.
Our contemplative attitude toward living lies in seeing the real. We see people—all persons, even the annoying ones—as the presence of God. God says to each person, “You are my beloved.” To understand ourselves as beloved, we need to let the truth of our Belovedness become part of everything we think, say, and do.
What do you radiate? The electromagnetic field of the heart is about 5000 times more powerful than that of the brain. When our hearts are holding joy and love, the brain is less likely to focus on worry and stress. Instead, the brain focuses on love, empathy, creativity, and joy. Because the heart’s electromagnetic signal can be felt and measured 6-10 feet away, one person’s heart rhythm affects the heart rhythms of others nearby. Our spiritual gifts of the Spirit—charity, joy, peace, patience, and many more—can bring those same virtuous feelings to those nearby.
Today’s beautiful reading from Ephesians (3:8-12, 14-19) states that Christ dwells in our hearts. Yet the feast celebrates our need to reside in Christ’s heart, to take on his heart, to learn from Jesus Christ who is meek and humble of heart. But the dwelling is reciprocal. Christ’s dwelling in us gives us the strength to know “the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
I just finished reading Camron Wright’s novel based on a true story, The Orphan Keeper. A child stolen from India and living over 20 years in the United States senses his need to return to a place that’s a half-globe away. Wright’s page-turner tells of loneliness, abandonment, and loss of identity. The reader senses that the main character cannot reach his full human potential until he becomes connected with his origin. Connecting with his roots, he becomes more fully human. We, too must see ourselves related to everyone and everything. We grow in the context of community. As our country opens up after the pandemic, we will participate in more gatherings—parties, reunions, neighborhood picnics county fairs. Let these opportunities to connect help us become more fully human, more our real selves that are related to everyone and everything in the mystery of God’s Creation and Incarnation. In the new creation is the fullness of Christ, which is all humanity and creation bound in a union of love.
Each day is a new frontier to traverse. Each morning presents a choice to become more fully Christ in our world. What the day holds for us we do not know. Feats of courage will require feet of courage. A humdrum day also demands the courage to slog through. Morning prayer and morning walks set the tone. Both afford glimpses of God. “Oh, it’s You, God!” Fortified by God-glimpses, we set out on our day. Stay alert to God-glimpses in lyrics, a text message, a chance encounter, a child’s question, another interruption, the next task. At night review the God-glimpses and praise and thank God.
When in eternity we may learn more details of the Scripture stories. Perhaps, we may even learn a few humorous anecdotes that didn’t make the final edition of the evangelist. Have you ever imagined what has been left unwritten about the miracles or Infancy Narrative or discourse? I am imagining a different version of Pentecost. It goes something like this:
Andrew: Do you hear that wind? We better take shelter.
James: Look over there. The neighbors’ trees aren’t swaying. The wind is right in here — with us!
Peter: John, your hair is on fire! Quick, Thomas, get some water. No, wait, yours is on fire, too!
Thomas: No, it can’t be. I don’t feel a thing—well, maybe something like fire in my heart.
Philip: Look! A crowd is gathering! What do you think this means?
Bartholomew: Well, they certainly don’t know what to make of this. See how confused they look.
Andrew: Has anyone seen Simon?
Bartholomew: He’s outside! He’s preaching! Even the Egyptians are listening to him.
Philip: I didn’t know he could speak Egyptian!
Peter: The crowd really listened to us. It’s a miracle that they believe in the resurrection. And so many were baptized!
Philip: We must praise God for today’s miracles. But I wished they didn’t think we were filled with new wine.
There is so much to contemplate in Jesus’ ascension into heaven that I am glad many dioceses have transferred this feast from Thursday to Sunday. For Teilhard de Chardin, the Ascension was the most beautiful feast of the year, because Christ’s Ascension predicted the universe returning to the Father. It anticipated the fulfillment of all who live in Christ. From the moment God became incarnate, there has been no dichotomy between matter and spirit. God’s plan to make matter divine was fully realized in Jesus Christ. The Ascension means that we, too, are divinized. Instead of going up and away, Christ is in the heart of all creation, in each creature, dwelling there in his glorified humanity. As Colossians states, “Christ is all and in all.” Galatians says it another way: “It is Christ who lives in me.” Whatever you and I do today—work, play, pray—it is Christ acting in us.