Offering the gift received

Tomorrow thirteen of my sisters will be making their perpetual professions of vows in Rome. I know six of the group, including one who lived here with me while learning English; but all of them, known or not known, are my sisters, and I welcome and pray for them with great joy.

By Clara Malo RSCJ
Following a long-standing Society tradition, the group has just been given a name and devise (motto) which reflect their experience during the past five months of preparation, and will accompany them individually and as a group for the rest of their lives. Sometimes the connection between the name and devise is instantly recognisable; at other times the link is only immediately apparent to the group. But for this group, their name - Offer the gift received - and motto - From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace (John 1.16) - are not only connected but form a single, never-ending movement.

I've always loved that line from John: there's a lavishness about it, an extravagance and generosity; a God who doesn't dole out graces one at a time but showers us with them, from his fullness, regardless of our worthiness. It reflects the extravagance of the sower in two of the Gospel readings this week, digging deep into his supply, casting out great handfuls of seed, seemingly unconcerned about whether they will land in 'good' soil or not.

The special call - and grace - given to these young sisters by their name is to be equally generous and lavish in how they offer their lives, and all they have received - not just at the moment of their profession, but forever. And as the greatest gift they will ever receive is God's generous, unconditional love, that is at the heart of what they are being invited to offer in every circumstance of their lives. Like God and the biblical sower, they too are being called to be generous, extravagant lovers!

But, of course, the call to offer all that has been received isn't only for these thirteen women. All of us, recipients of graces and gifts from God's fullness, are called to be equally generous in how we love and how we offer back what we have received. And in the giving we undoubtedly receive, and what we receive we do not keep for ourselves, in this same, single movement.

Tomorrow, as my sisters make their perpetual vows I will be praying with and for them, in union with the Society throughout the world. And as they offer themselves completely and joyfully, to God in the Society, for our mission, I pray that they - and all of us - may live these words of St Francis of Assisi to his early friars: Hold back nothing of yourself for yourself, so that he who gives himself completely to you, might receive you completely.