To look upon the world

Last week several of the #NunsOfTwitter tweeted about the UK government's Illegal Migration Bill. Those tweets - from different spiritualities and traditions, but a unity of perspective and passion - and the ensuing conversations, led me to this reflection...

In the Society, just after we profess our perpetual vows, the congregation prays a solemn blessing over us. I have heard blessings with similar themes at profession ceremonies in other orders, so I imagine there is an ancient universality about it. Ours begins with Abraham and Sarah, and, in a few lines, takes us through salvation history; through God's covenant of love with his people, and his enduring tenderness, care and mercy, eventually revealed in Jesus. And then we come to today; to this very moment...

Today it is right that your house should echo with a new song for these our sisters, because they have heard your voice and offered themselves to your holy service... before praying specifically... 

May their lives reveal the face of Christ your Son... We pray that in the freedom of their hearts they may free from care the hearts of others; in helping the afflicted, may they bring comfort to Christ suffering in his people; may they look upon the world and see it ruled by your loving wisdom. 

This week I have been reflecting on those words, especially the final few, almost twenty years since they were prayed over me. I will admit that the caring and the comforting is often easier than looking with love upon this wounded, unstable, often heart-breaking world, and seeing it ruled by God's loving wisdom. But they are inseparable. And looking upon the world more intentionally, with the loving, compassionate eyes and Heart and mind of Jesus has to be a fundamental part of my call. It is a grace to be prayed for. It is a grace granted during the First Week of the Exercises especially, when we contemplate sinfulness - our own and the world's - seeking to look on faces and places with God's eyes, discovering the richness of his mercy... and a grace to seek to return to.  

One of our former Superiors General once wrote Only those who have believed in love can direct their gaze toward the pierced Heart of Jesus... Without this belief in love, the pierced Heart of Jesus, which we experience in the pierced heart of our wounded world, would be truly unendurable. But we can gaze at that pierced Heart, enter into it, love it, because we know there is more to it than ugliness and pain - because we believe in love.

And looking upon the world, listening to its pain; entering into its pierced heart; allowing myself to be opened and challenged at depth by its beauty and its brokenness; responding and caring deeply, are inherent in my call, whether I consciously remember the blessing invoked on me at my profession or not. All this is also inherent in the vocation of every religious, whether they are monastic or apostolic, female or male; however they spend their time, whatever their charism or mission. And this is why, throughout the world, you will find religious women and men, their hearts stretched and broken open, quietly and not so quietly going about their ministries and their lives of prayer, especially with and for those most in need of love, hope, inclusion and an awareness of their dignity.

And it is why the #NunsOfTwitter will continue to tweet, with passion and concern, especially when Gospel values, social justice and the dignity of each person are at stake.