The Love of Christ compels us!

March 25, 2015 by

This is Part 2 of Sister Maria Allen’s special message giving an “insider’s view” of religious life today.

“For the love of Christ compels us, because we are convinced that … Christ died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.”

                                — 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Sister Marcia Allen

Sister Marcia Allen

Sociologists tell us that there are two fundamental movements in any organization — and to experience the purpose of religious life unfolding in real time, we must understand both of these movements.

The first is vertical. That is, the organization must delve more and more deeply into the roots of its meaning and purpose.

For communities of religious this means that they must continuously contemplate the Gospel meaning of their life in light of their particular charism. For Communities of St. Joseph this means that we continue to plumb the depths of certain Scriptures in order to better understand how our charism lives in our world.

Our root Scripture is John 17:21-23. This is where we read Jesus’ prayer that all of us might be one — one with God as God is one with Jesus, and Jesus as one with us as he is with God and all of us with one another, as God is one with Jesus and with us.

This passage, in its most simple terms, means that all of us are connected in God’s love; we are all united with one another willy-nilly.

This reality, contemplated over a lifetime, leads us individually and as a community to give our lives to relationships that are reconciling and healing, that give meaning through friendship and loving that is active and inclusive.

In other words, no person and no creature lie outside the possibility of God’s loving power and our cooperation with it. Other Scriptures support this central theme. The first is Matthew’s gospel, Chapter 5, that ends with God’s rain falling and God’s sun rising on the just and unjust alike. That is how inclusive our love must be!

A second supporting Scripture is Philippians 2: 1-11, the hymn that celebrates God’s perfect self-givenness in becoming human. Again, this describes our work in our world — self-givenness that makes us more and more human.

And, finally, a third key Scripture is from Ephesians 3:18-19. There we learn the dimensionless love of Christ — a love that knows neither height nor depth, nor length nor breadth. It is without dimension in its divine capacity to love all. There you have it! Our root commitment is to this boundless and all-inclusive love — the love that we commit to give and the Love that has already committed itself to us and to all of creation.

The second movement for any organization, if it is to remain a living organism, is horizontal. This is the movement that calls for continual adaptation so that the organization is always timely according to the needs of the world around it.

The horizontal movement is one that enables the vertical movement to survive in what is always a contemporary reality, just as the vertical movement lends meaning and stability of purpose to what is contemporary.

Adaptation is always challenging — a matter of clear-sighted and prudential judgment. For us Sisters of St. Joseph, adaptation comes only through long and studied communal discernment. We listen to and observe what is around us. We examine our own abilities with the question of how we can effectively respond to the needs that call us.

How is the most appropriate way we can respond — the manner in which our charism will be free to do what it must do?  How can we respond to the needs of our time in such a way that the charism is free to heal, console, build up, give meaning to, or reconcile differences and conflict wherever we are?
According to our founder’s inspiration centuries ago, we do this through “any work of which a woman is capable.”

We can do any work of which we are capable because our real work — that is, our mission — is to
provide the environment or the service through which others can come to their true selves. We do this through any means in which we are competent.

What this means is that we have a built-in predilection to adapt. We are wired, so to speak, to be alert to what is needed and respond, even if it means moving out of the familiar and comfortable.

This is why we came to Kansas in the first place. It is why we began schools and hospitals when the towns of Kansas and other places in the great western expanse of the United States were just getting started and needed these services. It is why we sent sisters to northeast Brazil, the poorest region in that country.

It is why we find ourselves today involved in parish ministries, counseling services for children and those in trauma and addiction counseling, advocacy and action for immigrants and those who are trafficked.

It is why we have stepped into the great spiritual void of today’s culture with responses of spiritual companioning and retreats, hospice and whatever work will enable us to reach and assuage the hunger in people’s spirits today.

Excerpts from Sisters’ annual mission commitment statements illustrate how the charism leads us into real time, rooted and adapted:
“I commit myself to follow Jesus in the ministry of visiting the sick, home bound and hospitalized, to serve in my parish in the funeral ministry and to witness in the weekly Peace Vigil.” — A sister volunteering her presence in a small town

“I commit myself to…walk with those suffering from violence and be a healing presence, taking any nonviolent justice stand required. I pray that any seeds of violence in me in the form of anger, resentment, judgment or fear will be transformed into seeds of joy and inner/outer peace…. I will try to be peace.” — A sister who counsels abused children

“I will be more mindful of what it means to be ‘present,’ serving those especially who suffer from chronic pain and our neighbors who need advocacy in nursing homes or in their own homes.” — A sister retired from nursing but still active in her field of expertise

You will find us wherever spirits languish in confusion, violence or fear. We will be there — because the love of Christ compels us!

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