To follow Jesus

Religious life in the Church is, first and last and beyond anything else, a response to the invitation of Jesus to follow him, to “come apprentice” to Jesus in his prayer to the Father, in his works of mercy, in his teaching, in his hope, in his love. Sometimes that invitation is known and cherished in the heart for a long time until circumstances and opportunity align and a specific religious community comes to the fore as a place of interest and welcome. Other times that invitation is experienced only as a sense of quiet unease with one’s usual life; when the word of Jesus to follow does finally come into focus it seems to do so as a complete surprise. But whether the one or the other, the thing that matters, the only thing, is the response.

For Julian, the invitation came to life as she lay dying, taking the form of her curate urging her to look upon the face and form of Jesus on the crucifix he held so she would be comforted by it. Julian’s trusting assent to this disposed her to be able to receive the sixteen revelations then made to her, and afterward to spend the next forty and more years as an anchoress, dedicated to prayer and to rumination on what Jesus had shown her, and to writing it down for her fellow Christians.

Whatever the shape religious life may take, of prayer and contemplation as in the Order of Julian, of service to the poor of the world in others, or of preaching and teaching in still others, the love of Jesus initiates it, the love of Jesus feeds and sustains it, and the love of Jesus makes it fruitful in the world.

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