Stand ready to answer God
when He asks you
if you are available for Him
to become more present in your life
and through you to the world
may you willingly respond:
Let what you have said be done to me!
Today is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the opening prayer of the Mass we pray ” that the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin may bring deeper peace to those for whom the birth of her Son was the dawning of salvation.” How must we celebrate the Feast of Mary’s birth if it is to be for us a source of “deeper peace” in our lives?
In the hyper-functional world in which we live, many of us sense that we must restore a balance between action and prayer, between involvement and detachment. In his short story entitled The End of the Machine, E. M. Forster writes of a world in which human beings are unable to bear the experience of silence. Often enough, it seems as if today we are not far from that state. Wherever we turn we find ourselves, willingly or unwillingly, bombarded by incessant outside stimulation. The result is an interior restlessness that demands yet more and more external distraction. So, we tend to live in constant motion without direction, acting out of the discharge of our unconscious drives rather than the freely chosen act of what Adrian van Kaam calls our “love-will.”
To ponder the birth and so the life of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is to reflect on the significance of her choice, of her willingness to say “Yes” to what was being asked of her. Without her consent, salvation would not have dawned. Our peace with God was dependent on Mary’s attention and willing response to what God asked of her, to her life task and vocation. Thus, it seems not too much to say, that our peace depends on the same attention and willingness in us.
Given the frantic nature of our lives, we can tend to think that peace comes from a kind of “peace and quiet” in which the life and needs of the world can be blocked out of consciousness. We can think of silence and solitude as an escape or a drug from the demands of life. On the contrary, however, the escape is the hyper-activity and constant noise. Our addiction to noise and distraction comes from the deep intuition that real silence and attention will ask something of us. It will call us beyond our reactive life into a call for a response to the “one thing necessary” in each of our lives, to a realization of the gift we are called to be for and to give to the world this day. Dante tells us that “In his will is our peace.” It is in doing what is asked of us that we experience the peace for which we long.
The Fundamental Principles tell us that, as Mary, we too are called to offer the world the presence of God in a unique way. We both long and fear to offer our unique gift to the world. We fear it because we have our judgments about what is valuable and what is not, and we want to be significant and valuable on our own terms. Yet, we also long for the peace that can only come when we are giving away all of who we really are and what, in its poverty and ordinariness, only we have to give. So, peace does come from being still, but because in being still we can hear what God is asking of us. We must be quiet enough first to feel the anxiety of our own being and then to allow God’s grace to strengthen us to do what is asked of us despite it.
Some time ago, Brother Lawrence Harvey created a reflection which paired some of the teachings of Pope Francis with our Fundamental Principles. Following are the words of Pope Francis which he paired with the section of the Fundamental Principles at the head of these reflections.
We may ask ourselves: am I anxious for God, anxious to proclaim him, to make him known? Or do I allow that spiritual worldliness to attract me which impels people to do everything for love of themselves? We consecrated people think of our personal interests, of the functionality of our works, of our careers. Well, we can think of so many things…. Have I, so to speak, made myself ‘comfortable’ in my Christian life, in my priestly life, in my religious life, and also in my community life? Or do I retain the force of restlessness for God, for his Word that makes me “step out” of myself towards others?
– Pope Francis, Homily for the Opening of the General Chapter of the Order of St. Augustine, Rome, 28 August 2013.