Mercy & newness of life

Today we are turning thirty-three years old as a religious community. And we come into that maturity with a renewed understanding of our purpose­ — more importantly, a renewed understanding of how it is we are to carry that purpose out. There is no better descriptor of this renewal than in that paragraph from Mother Cristiana Piccardo that forms the initial epigraph to our constitution.

“The remembrance of mercy is the savor of truth in every circumstance. It signals the perception that God’s mercy is present in every time and space of the human condition. Only through intense personal experience of this fact will we be led to pass from an arrogance that is easily scandalized, that sits in judgment on others, to a merciful compassion and openness to others. This is when our life becomes contemplative, a space charged with God’s living Presence, a manifestation of saving Mercy.”

So, three things that go together: Witness as leaven, the perception that God’s mercy is present in every time and space, and personal experience of that fact.

We are not here to “fix” the church, to effect change upon the church by liturgical, or even by exemplary, force, but we are here to live a life for which God has mysteriously fitted us, a life modeled by St Julian that consists in paying attention to Jesus amidst whatever is currently unfolding. Like adding moisture to baker’s yeast, it is that active response of paying attention, that listening, as St Benedict says — that tracking of divine mercy already present in every time and space that allows the witness of contemplative life to do the work it does. We see what God’s mercy is already doing in the world, we try to embody that, to model it in microcosm, full stop. Like that yeast, doing what it does, quietly effervescent, and (at its best), joyously, without mind to the effects it is having, this mercy builds the unique structure that is the bread of community. That is our work, that is our life, and the spiritual effects of it are God’s to direct and channel, to use for food where and as God will.

Let us walk into the new year, then, with a renewed eye, a sharpened ear, and a quickened heart to listen for mercy, to quietly become it here in our time and space.

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