During this Easter season there are so many great scriptural stories of what it was like in the first century of the Christian era. All the wonderful encounters that the disciples had with people who caught the significance and truth of what they were sharing about God’s love in Christ sometimes makes me desire that kind of direct revelation in our day. This morning, however, as I read the gospel (JN 15:9-17), I became aware again of the gift that is still – and always – available to us as a vivid experience of God’s love. Let me explain.
In addition to the wildly joyful celebration in March of all the Sisters of St. Joseph, Albany Province, who are marking jubilees (anniversaries) of 25 to 75 (and, as last year, 80!) years of religious life, many of us have a personal celebration as well for family and friends. Since a number of the jubilarians live at the Province Center (our home that doubles as the administrative center as well), the province offers the opportunity for all those Sisters to gather their guests together on one day of celebration. Family members come from far and near – some staying for some days – to share a Eucharistic liturgy and sumptuous meal after which each jubilarian has a designated room for extended visiting. Yesterday I was privileged to participate in the “love fest” of one of those families and I saw throughout the day what I think Jesus would have been proud of as the fulfillment of his commandment for us to “love one another as I love you.”
Thunderous applause accompanied the conclusion of the chaplain’s praise of the lives of our Sister-celebrants. During the communion rite, as we sang “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord,” I was touched to see a young man, most likely a grand-nephew of one of the older Sisters, wiping tears from his eyes. Seeing the joy of family groups at dinner that included members from 3 to perhaps 93 years of age was delightful. Tables with mainly Sister companions for those whose relatives have gone to God reminded me of the deep commitments that we have to one another as friends in community. Most significant was the moment toward the end of the afternoon in our group where one of the brothers had to leave for work. As he stood, each of the family members – oldest to youngest, male and female alike, in-laws included, stood for kisses and hugs and a simple “I love you” that spoke volumes of family ties, regardless of distance or differences.
“Remain in my love,” Jesus said. And so we do.