Fr. Anthony Wieck, Sr. Theresa's spiritual advisor, celebrated the liturgy on Sunday. It would be the last gathering of the weekend of our group attending the profession of vows. I was profoundly moved by his words filled with insight and wisdom. He graciously allowed me to post his homily. Here it is:
What a wonderful weekend we have experienced together. Hasn't it been wonderful? We have been so edified by the example of all the sisters around us, their gracious hospitality, and most of all by the witness of Sister Khristina and Sister Theresa Aletheia who have surrendered their entire lives to the Lord, in love. It is a gift for all of us to witness.
What perhaps we haven't thought about yet or realized is that the vocation of these two beautiful sisters is meant for all of us in a special way. A vocation is a gift from God, and a gift is meant to be shared. The Lord has shared something precious with you this weekend so as to ASK something precious of you, of each one of us. The Lord brought you here for a purpose. Each one of you. He is asking something of each one of you this day. Perhaps you thought that you were coming simply to witness the vows of your beautiful relative or friend. But I assure you that God has bigger plans than that. Likely by the end of your time here you too can identify with the words of Jeremiah in our first reading, "You have duped me, Lord, and I have let myself be duped." These are words of love. God has done the end around on you, and me also. What is he asking of you and me? No doubt he is asking each one of us here to commit to him more completely in our own lives. He is asking us to follow the example of generosity given by our two sisters (which is a response of love to love). How can YOU now give yourself more completely to God?
Jesus tells us all in the Gospel today that whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever wishes to lose his life, for Christ, will save it for eternal life.
You and I, then, are surely being invited to a greater surrender to Christ, to lose our lives by giving of our lives more completely. That is why we are here this weekend. If we go to prayer for even a few intimate minutes, we will likely hear a gentle invite of Jesus, calling us to give more quality time to him. That gentle invitation starts with our prayer. What is your prayer life like? I think we can make a good case that Jesus' love language, that is, His preferred way of being loved, is quality time. What kind of quality time do you currently give to the Lord? What kind of quality time is He asking of you? Quality time in prayer is absolutely necessary for a deeper intimacy with Christ. Without it we will not experience new life, God's life. And without that life, what will it help us to gain the entire world, to put all our efforts there, and lose our soul in the process.What will it profit us? Nothing.
When we give quality time to the Lord in prayer, everything changes! Our lives begin to blossom, as our relationship with Christ begins to blossom. Absolutely nothing can substitute for intimate personal one-on-one time with our Lord in prayer. Quality time. For each one of us that kind of prayer will vary but it must be a staple of our lives. To simply be an average Catholic, going with the flow, being a generally good person in our lives, trying to fit in with the world, will never work. We'll never experience deep intimacy with Christ.
And we ought to pray to God that we not hear those scary words that Christ utters in the Gospel to those who arrive in heaven thinking they know him, for they have worked a few miracles in his name, and yet he says to them, "I never knew you. I never knew YOU! I never had one-on-ones with you. We never chatted much. You never shared with me your deepest self, your joys and your wounds. You never allowed me to be on the most intimate terms with you. You always kept yourself so busy. You didn't really have time for me."
No, let's not let that happen. We are called to something greater this weekend. St. Paul reminds us that we are not to be conformed to this age, but be transformed in our minds, discerning what is good and pleasing and perfect. As we come to know our Lord, we will want to give him everything, offering up our bodies as gifts, gifts of love. Our body is the vehicle of godly love. We are to offer it as a living sacrifice to God.
We have been reflecting on this all weekend, and now we are beginning to implement it in our lives in a deeper way.
But all this presupposes prayer. Prayer is the key. How is your prayer going to change after this weekend? If it doesn't change, much has been lost. Much fruit meant for you personally has not been savored. Much joy meant for your beautiful heart has gone unwelcomed. Many seeds will be left untended and will eventually die.
To be a disciple of Christ, making a difference in the world, as St. Paul did, one has to have a deep life of prayer. Otherwise we will never make a difference in the world. If you want to make a significant difference, you have to have prayer.
Let me give you an image of this. Think of a bow and arrow. The arrow can only travel as far as the string is pulled backwards in the bow. The deeper the pull, the further the arrow will launch. The active life, the apostolate, our effectiveness in making the world a better place, will depend upon the depth of our interior or contemplative life. Every one of us here has to develop a contemplative, interior life. You and I are called to it. Jesus has a lot to say about it in the Gospel.
The prophet Jeremiah was called to it. These amazing words of love we read today speak to us so profoundly. Look how filled with God's fire of love he is!
"I say to myself, I will not mention him,
I will speak in his name no more.
But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones;
I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it."
And in the Gospel, we are called to pick up our cross. This is part and parcel of following Christ. It is not an option. Peter, who last week is extolled for listening to the Father and proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Son of God, now listens to the father of lies, Satan, and tries to dissuade Jesus from his destiny of victory over suffering. He is worried about his own skin perhaps, having to follow a suffering leader in suffering. He is rebuked, and has to learn that true love embraces suffering. It does not shirk it.
Eventually he will embrace it fully, and become a great leader of the Church. But God will have to give him that gift. You and I are broken also. We don't have it together. We need Christ more than we realize. Our brokenness is our strength however, because it allows us to humbly go to Christ and beg for his healing mercy and for him to put us together again. You and I are really all Humpty Dumpty. We fall off the wall all the time! And our Good Shepherd Jesus loves us, and finds us quite endearing. That's always going to be a part of our daily intimate prayer with Christ. Put me back together again, Jesus! Lord, I need you! Or in the words of Blessed James Alberione, as we read in the booklet yesterday,
"Your mercy is infinite and I will never be able to understand it.
More than to scrutinize it, I want to adore it.
How is it that you have chosen me,
a person so small and so great a sinner,
whom you could see would betray your expectations?
It is totally your mercy. I am a miracle of God!
Your call transformed the twelve;
Your call has made me into a new person.
I have been grafted into Christ: his interests are mine;
My doctrine is His; my life is that of Christ;
I carry out the works of Christ, or better,
It is Christ who carries them out in me."
- Blessed James Alberione,
Founder of the Pauline Family
Let us make this weekend what God desires of it. Let us love Jesus back by offering him quality time in our lives. That quality time will be bringing our brokenness to Him and asking him to fix our boo-boos. It will be praising Him for many different graces. It will be revealing our deepest interior to our greatest Lover. I now wish each one of you to reflect for a minute on what you wish to give Christ as far as prayer time in your life from this point forward. Be concrete in your choices. He has certainly loved you concretely this weekend.