Fr. Justin Sheehan, OCSO
19th Friday of Ordinary Time
Sometime early in the last century, an anonymous Christian wrote the following poem: “I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew / he moved my soul to seek him, seeking me; / it was not I that found, O Savior true; / no, I was found of thee. Thou didst reach forth thy hand and mine enfold; / I walked and sank not on the storm-vexed sea; / ‘twas not so much I on thee took hold, / as thou, dear Lord, on me. / I find, I walk, I love, but oh, the whole / of love is but my answer, Lord, to thee; / for thou wert long beforehand with my soul, / always thou lovedst me”.
The monastic vocation presupposes that God is someone who has reached forth his hand and enfolded ours. He passed by and saw us struggling, and said to us: “Live, and grow like a plant in the field”. To respond to the monastic vocation is to respond to this Person who sought us and found us, and confronted us with our filthy crimes, knowing long beforehand what he would find in our soul, and yet always loving us. To be a monk is to seek the Lord, and afterward to know he moved our soul to seek him. It is to discover a love which loves us without looking for any return, which loves us even though we are sinners, which loves us as we lay wallowing in our sins.
Then the word of the Lord came to us: Your time has come, the time for love of God above all things. Blessed are those to whom it is granted not to have a spouse, who have made themselves that way for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.
To the person who responds, “I can accept this, for the whole of love, the whole of the monastic life, is but my answer to you, Lord”, then God for the second time draws us out of nothingness to being, not so much because we have truly sought him, as because he has sought us. And then it is not so much we who bind ourselves by solemn profession; it is the Lord who sets up an everlasting covenant with us.
When we remember our sins and are covered with confusion, he will remember the covenant he made with us at our profession, and will invite us to the life that shall last forever. Then we will recognize, as if for the first time, the face of him who first loved us, and if we keep our gaze fixed on him, we shall find that death cannot end the joy of seeing that holy Face.