My dear Sisters in Christ and Our Lady of Mount Carmel –
September 16th brings us to the conclusion of the 14th General Chapter of the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm. Safely, and wholeheartedly, we can bring to the altar this morning prayers of gratitude and praise to God for His unfailing help, not just during these past nearly two weeks, but for all of the effort, time and care put into preparing for the Chapter, for it seems, the better part of two years. The Lord alone knows who really did what to bring the Chapter to fruition, and we ask God to bless all who shared in the work of the Chapter. We also thank Our Lady for accompanying us all, and we know that the Faithful Mother will stand at your side as you go forward, new Council, new plans, and new zeal for the Lord of Hosts.
Concluding a Chapter is like a commencement ceremony without the pomp and circumstances. The end marks the beginning, like the birth of a child. No sooner is the new child born and people marvel at the beauty and life of the child. No sooner does this happen that someone remarks, “Gee, doesn’t she look just like Grandma”? Of course she does, because organically we are part of a family, a continuum of past and present. Our Carmelite vocation lived in community is always just that, a living thing, and we are responsible to live it and to keep it alive. However, we are not on our own. God is always intimately a part of our reality. He constantly infuses in us, through His Holy Spirit, the charisms and helps we need and upon which we depend. The first reading at Mass today, just like at a wedding, brings home the message “The difference is love”, doesn’t it? The loving difference is not just in the ministry though, is it? The loving difference is in the community, in each of us personally. Whatsoever we do to the least in our midst, we do to the good Lord Himself, and this begins within the Convent, or the Priory, walls. Patience, kindness, humility, lack of jealousy, a loving way of speaking and acting, this makes the difference. Prophecy, tongues, and mighty deeds without love can help to get us into the newspapers, as will bad news, of course, but it will not help us on our way to salvation.
The gospel also offers us a note for reflection. In the reading, Jesus asked the crowd, “To what shall I compare the people of this generation? What are they like?” and then described them, us, like children. Children see our highly complex world simply, because they see the world only through their personal interests, in a limited way, and judge accordingly. I think Jesus is warning us not to be like the critics he mentions, so unfair, so quick to judge and childish, never happy, always ready to find fault, and so slow to have an open heart to understand. Jesus invites us to lose the judgmental part of ourselves and to engage the loving, patient, intentional, listening, wisdom side of ourselves, good tools to take with us after today’s “graduation” ceremony.
Faith, hope and love remain and the greatest of these is love. May the love of God fill our hearts today, and if we carry anything away with us, let it be a deeper love and trust for God, which reaches to our neighbor. Amen.
Very Rev. Mario Esposito, O.Carm.