I'm interrupting the sequence of ten verses of scripture as they have chronologically appeared or had significance for me throughout my life. On Thursday it will be the feast of our founder, St Madeleine Sophie Barat, and in honour of this I asked her two days ago if she would like to choose a verse for me to share via this blog. And having asked I then sat back... and by the end of the day, Sophie had gently reminded me to look at the Gospel for her feast.
John 15: 1 - 12 is a rich text, which never fails to inspire and challenge, and to speak of Sophie. I am the true vine, says Jesus, and you are the branches... A highly appropriate Gospel with which to celebrate the daughter of a cooper, who as a young girl helped with the tending and harvesting of her father's vineyards. And then: Abide in me as I abide in you... Abide in my love... Love one another as I have loved you - and the message is even more appropriate for a woman who gave her life to Love, in the Heart of Jesus.
And then, late last night a bomb ripped apart lives - so many of them young - in Manchester. Responses, as always, are veering in different directions: there are those instantly screaming hate, division and violent retribution, and those urging unity, and the resilience of the community spirit already evident in so many people who rushed to help the survivors. That, for so many, was their first, instinctive reaction - to scoop up terrified survivors, bring their expertise, donate blood, simply to help, in whatever way they could; and that is the story which needs to prevail.
And Jesus' message of love also needs to prevail. Love one another as I have loved you... Which means with tenderness and compassion, forgiveness, concern and a whole, generous heart. With humanity and selflessness, completely, to the very last drop. This is what it means to be one heart with his Heart, to be one love with his Love. This is fundamental if we are to learn from the Heart of Jesus, for it to be as an open book, as Sophie wrote in our 1815 Constitutions: and, two hundred years later, this, surely, is what lies at the heart of the call from our 2016 General Chapter, to live more humanly, in the radical style of Jesus.
Love one another, as I have loved you... Jesus' final commandment to his disciples, and Sophie's reminder to me and to all of us, of the love in which we must centre ourselves. May this united strength prevail, and be the healing of our wounded world.