Saturday, December 13, 2014

For the Sake of Love

Fra Angelico - Appearance of St Agatha to St Lucy
S.Lucia Altar, St. Agatha appears to St. Lucy by Fra Angelico

A young woman spent the night with her desperately ill mother before the relics of St. Agatha.  Tired from their vigil, they both fell asleep.  As the young woman dreamed, St. Agatha appeared to her and told her two things: First, her mother would be healed, and second, she (the young woman) would die a martyr.  Waking from her dream, her mother was cured and allowed the young woman to consecrate herself to God.  The young man who had hoped to marry the young woman was bitterly angry and brought her before the government on charges that, if she was convicted, would mean a gruesome death.  She was found guilty of being a Christian and was burned at the stake and stabbed through the heart.

A terribly tragic story…or is it really?  Looked at through the eyes of faith, we can also see in it a beautiful love story.  This was the story of St. Lucy, whose feast we celebrate today, handed down to us through legend.  Because of her devotion and love for Jesus, she was willing to sacrifice even her life on earth rather than deny Him.  As a result, she is with Him for all eternity.  Now, how many love stories in Hollywood have as an ending joy and happiness with one’s beloved for all eternity?

The mystery of St. Lucy’s decision to abandon marriage for love of Christ and consecrate herself to Him is still with us today.  Too often, we are confused about love –movies, books, and songs mistake romance and lust with love.  We are left with the impression that love is about roses, physical passion and hearing grand swells of music whenever our loved one is near.  But flowers wilt, romance gives way to the reality of daily life and sometimes the music of life strikes our ears as just plain noise.  It is then we get to the reality of love – love is an act of the will, to will the good for the other.  Sometimes, often, we must make sacrifices and hard decisions.  Only then can we say we have truly loved.

This is the reality of love no matter to which vocation God has called you.  We are all called to love, to become holy.   Then, the question of discerning your vocation becomes “how is God calling me to love?”  For humans, the married life seems more natural and considering the priesthood or consecrated life is more dramatic, shocking even.  With married love, we often may gloss over the struggles and sacrifices required to make marriage work.  A young couple goes to the priest with doe eyes for each other, yet hasn’t considered the work of marriage – how will they be good stewards of the money they earn?  How will they raise their children?  Suddenly, they may find themselves far apart on critical issues foundational to marriage.  Then there are the daily sacrifices and observances required to love one’s spouse.  A marriage may not have a formal rule like a consecrated community, but to be sure one must be willing to sacrifice their own will for the good of the other if the marriage relationship is to survive and thrive.  

On the other hand, we often see the sacrifices of consecrated life much more easily, and tend to forget the tremendous love and graces given to those who faithfully persevere in religious life.  We see the rule, the discipline, and the boundaries and forget that the reason these are in place is to provide the religious with maximum freedom to love – if I know I must be somewhere at a certain time, I am free to focus on loving God and my sisters during that time and activity.  The consecrated religious does not necessarily have to think about fitting in time for prayer because it is done for them through the rule.  This frees them to focus on their interior disposition during that time of prayer.  There is true freedom and a protected garden for real love to flourish.  Whether married, ordained, or consecrated, love transforms daily struggles, tasks, disciplines, and other actions from “I must do…” to, “I get to do…”

Finally, returning to our Saint Lucy, in today’s Office of Readings, we have this meditation by St. Ambrose from his book, “On Virginity”:

You are one of God’s people, of God’s family, a virgin among virgins; you light up your grace of body with your splendor of soul.  More than others you can be compared to the Church…  This is the person Christ has loved in loving you, the person he has chosen in choosing you.  He enters by the open door; he has promised to come in, and he cannot deceive.  Embrace him, the one you have sought; turn to him, and be enlightened; hold him fast, ask him not to go in haste, beg him not to leave you.  The Word of God moves swiftly; he is not won by the lukewarm, nor held fast by the negligent.  Let your soul be attentive to his word; follow carefully the path God tells you to take, for he is swift in passing.
How is Jesus, the lover of our souls, calling you to Him?  Through a marriage relationship? Ordained ministry?  Consecrated life?  Then do not be afraid!  Fly!  Keep your eyes on Jesus and do not look at the crashing waves the enemy would blast around you to keep you from Christ – stay faithful and God will resolve any doubts or obstacles in His time according to His will.  Pursue Him, while He is still near.  For the sake of Love!

Elderly nun with crucifix and veiled face and quote

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