The third day of the meeting opened with a hymn for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and was proceeded by the following reflection (based on the Founder’s Week Day 8 “Further Reflection”):
God’s bidding often moves us beyond ourselves and into places and situations that are not often comfortable or familiar. And yet, we are equipped with the tools and talents to achieve something worthwhile in these moments of unpredictability. Often, we learn something about ourselves or others that would not have been brought to light in a more familiar circumstance.
In a reflection at the 2006 Assembly in Brugge, Brother Art Caliman, made the following observation about St. Francis Xavier and Ryken:
“The image of St. Francis Xavier continued to inspire Ryken and his followers to the point that it might seem to some that being ill-prepared and over-extended are truly part of our charism. And to a point that is accurate. Ryken, like Xavier before him, knew that there would always be reasons to settle in to the very good work that we do; that there would always be good and reasonable objections to moving on right now; that there would always be need for more planning and preparation. But Ryken, like Xavier, was “insatiable,” even relentless, in his mission impulse – seeing people and places in desperate need of hearing the Good News of God’s love for them, he could not wait for a better moment.”
Sometimes we understand intimately where God is asking us to go. Our own desires point us there. But we cannot muster the will to move through the fear of failure, the unease of change, or the discomfort of the unknown. But do we have time to wait for a better moment?
Enter a place of silence. Notice your breath. Know that God holds you in being. You are loved.
Ask God where the Spirit is moving you. Maybe you already know. Take your fears to God. Recall God’s mercy and love.
I think of the word missionary and I remember a Brother instructing me that a missionary is one sent to those who need him and has the good sense to leave before he is no longer needed. Mission is a task, but in the readings today Ryken and others like him have the feeling of unease, there is always something more to be done. I had thought of Africa when I first joined the community, but I got too comfortable in my situation in school work.”
When I visited Africa a sense of unease that I had earlier was reawakened in me. A missionary is one who has the sense of unease. Missionaries in Africa can find a comfortable niche. We used to have in our rule that one didn’t stay at a work or in a place for more than six years. One never accomplishes his work and one should never get relaxed. Xavier was basically rootless. Ryken put the Congregation in a hole because we were from the beginning overextended. But that may be part of who we are.”
Unease is the willingness to be vulnerable. At this moment our Congregation is quite vulnerable. Yet, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do something. When we feel that we’re enveloped in the love of Christ, it is possible to do something. When one feels the security of being loved, they will go out.”
I saw a correspondence between the December 3 reflection and today’s feast day. God’s bidding moving ourselves beyond ourselves into places and situations that are not familiar. In yesterday’s gospel, Jesus asked he blind men, “Do you believe that I can do this?” In some form I wonder if God, through the Angel Gabriel asked Mary the same question, ‘Do you believe that I can do this?’ As I think about the serious difficulties we will discuss today in various areas of the Congregation, I can feel anger, disappointment, and anxiety about some of our situations. However, the line that comes to me is the quote from the Founder, used in one of the Founder’s Week Services, ‘Plunge with confidence into God’s goodness.’ The Founder calls us to let God lead us into the uncomfortable, unfamiliar place, and to plunge there with confidence. Perhaps this call of the Founder should be the theme of the Chapter.”
I was struck by the expression of ‘being overextended’ and ‘ill prepared.’ What gives us the expertise to address so many of these issues, especially given the lack of cultural awareness of many of us. Believing that ‘in God all things are possible’ is very difficult and doesn’t readily dispel the disease we experience. Our feeling of being ill at ease is compounded by hearing outside voices who feel they have the answers and that we are making the wrong choices. These voices can seem louder than our own.”
I’ve been meditating on the gospel of today when Mary says: ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord.’ And it is then that the Angel leaves. Throughout the conversation Mary affirms she is the servant of God and let it be done in accord with God’s will. Only then does the Angel leave. Until we’ve fully understood the answer that Mary gives, the Angel will keep asking us questions. When the Angel leaves, Mary feels filled by God. At some point the Angel leaves us, and then we are filled with God’s love and will. Mary has many uncertainties and doubts, but only when she opens herself to God’s love does the Angel leave. During the difficult moments we are called to open ourselves to God’s will. Sometimes we don’t understand God’s will, but at such times we are called just to open to God and God’s love and that is enough. The work we are doing around the charism calls us to do this. There will always be challenges through our life and vocation. What really matters is our predisposition or openness: ‘I am the servant of God; may His will be done.'”
When looking at the multiple responsibilities I’ve had in my life as a Brother, I must recognize that each time I was ill prepared. I received new responsibilities because of difficulties elsewhere. At each moment I was anxious, but thanks to God I said to myself that if they entrust me with this responsibility then they trust me. They see possibilities that I am not aware of. If God and those with responsibility trust me, let us set on and do the work with the means at our disposal. I can say in all humility that the result was satisfactory so that I contributed to the happiness of many people. I am grateful for that and that gratitude pushes me to go on wherever I can render service.”
After the reflections, the group used the last paragraphs from the “Further Reflection” from December 3rd Founder’s Week Reflection as our closing prayer:
Being ill-prepared and over-extended is not always an acceptable or desirable position to be in. However, sometimes we allow our fears to convince us that we are ill-prepared and over-extended when we are not. When it comes to our encounters with other human beings, especially those who are marginalized, God has equipped us with the ability to love.
Today, love. You cannot wait for a better moment.
-Saturday, December 8, 2012 | Marriotsville, MD