HEARING THE COMMANDMENT FOR THE FIRST TIME

Dear Jesus,

Do you know how, in an instant, familiar things can become new again as if you were seeing them for the first time?  I have a cut-crystal vase that has been in my family for years and is now in my possession.  It sits on my dining room table and largely goes unnoticed.  Yesterday an unexpected ray of sunshine caught the vase and all its prisms burst into glorious color.  I’ll never look at the vase again without remembering that splendid moment.

From the time I was a youngster I have heard you speak about love and even command us to live your love.  When I was younger, all that talk of love became like the color on the wall in my study or the air I breathe, an ordinary part of my surroundings and, I suppose, taken for granted.  But did you see your words have any impact on my life?  Was I stretched because of them?

Just as that vase in new light made me see it for the first time, someone’s ordinary response to your commandment forced me to hear it for the first time.

When her husband died, she and I talked about some of her memories from the more than 40 years of their marriage – the last 15 of them with his being an invalid from early Alzheimer’s disease.  She talked about the pain of witnessing his powers fail, of having to watch him and care for him, as one would tend a child.  This man had been a very successful executive of the company he founded resulting in their being able to live a comfortable lifestyle.  Each of them drove a snazzy sports car with the top down as often as the weather would allow.

The first warning surfaced the day she found him pacing back and forth in a panic on the walk in front of their home.  He told her he was lost and couldn’t find the way back.  Then he couldn’t remember how to flush the toilet or where the switch was to turn out the light.

She was determined not to put him into custodial care as long as she was able to see to his needs.  She refused to refer to caregivers who tended him during brief times she was away from him as “babysitters.”  And she talked of the pain the first moment she realized he no longer knew who she was.  He thought she was his mother.

When I asked her how she had done all of that for so many years without burning herself out, she said, “I always had my faith.  Besides, isn’t that what love empowers you to do?”  Even in the worst times, she could remember the man he used to be.

After she left, I sat in silence and prayed.  Then I knew I had to pick up my pen and write to you about the transforming moment I had just experienced.  She was right.  Believing people live that kind of love.  Doing it seems to come naturally to them.  They couldn’t live any other way.  That’s when I heard your words for the first time and they convicted me.  Now I need your help to untangle my thoughts and deal with my grief.

I want to live in your love, but how can I do that?  I think I am too busy wanting to be loved, the recipient of other people’s affection.  Am I still at square one of my conversion process?  Are you becoming impatient with me to the point of wanting to give up on me?  Do you still see the potential in me that made you invite me to come and follow you?

Perhaps grace is working in me and the Spirit is working, too.  Do you know what else I think is finally making a difference and having its effect on my heart?  How long have I been coming to Eucharist?  About as long as I have been hearing your commandment to love!  All of a sudden, and I don’t know for what reason, the “do this in memory of me” words rang in my ears and made it almost impossible for me to come to the table.  I grant you I am a slow learner, but it dawned on me that loving others as I am loved by you means that I have to be bread broken and cup poured out for them.

The first disciples recognized you in the breaking of the bread.  New disciples today will recognize you in those whose lives are broken and poured out in service of the marginalized, the desperate, the hungry, the naked, the unloved.

It isn’t adoring you in the bread that you want from me.  That will not mark me as your disciple.  It is taking and eating and living the Eucharist that will guarantee my living in, with, and through you on the way to being in the Father’s love for all eternity.

As I write these words, Lord, I am hoping that you will get back to me with what I have to do to make a start.  I have been at this a long time.  I should be farther along and surer of myself.  Why do I feel like I am faltering, walking with the halting steps of a toddler?

I went back to look at the vase on the table.  Could it be that just by chance another ray would splash through it and thrill me anew as it had this morning?  But that didn’t happen and I had to remember the moment.

Now I wonder.  Please help me to recognize the bonds you want me to form with my brothers and sisters.  I am ashamed to write this.  Perhaps you must prompt me to recognize who are my brothers and sisters.  I know longer think they are just the ones with whom I feel comfortable.  Do not let me be complacent, much less a person who seeks only to be loved and served.

“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.  Remain in my love…. This I command you: love one another.” I think I hear the commandment for the first time.  Help me not to be afraid to respond and live it.

Sincerely,

Didymus

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