In the past attention has been given here to our Redemptoristine custom of focusing on the mystery of the Incarnation every 25th of the month. At Midday Prayer the Prioress offers the scripture reading followed by a reflection for the edification of the community, what we call a "ferverino", something designed to fan the flame in our hearts. Afterward we renew our vows together. Here is this month's reflection.
and the Mystery of the Incarnation
by Sister Paula Schmidt, OSsR, Prioress
Peter began to say to him, "We have given up everything and followed you."
Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you,
there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters
or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel
who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age:
houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands,
with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.
But many that are first will be last, and (the) last will be first."
When the fellow hears the advice of Jesus he just can’t do it. He goes away sad, because ‘he had many possessions’. Or maybe it would be better to say: the many possessions had him. I am sure that Jesus was sad too. St. Mark says that Jesus had looked at the young man and loved him.
Today the scene carries on with Peter saying to Jesus, “We are here, we have given everything”. I wonder if Peter was trying to make Jesus feel better, as if to say, “Look, we are with you. We have given up everything for your sake”.
But then Peter goes on in a way that asks, “What is in it for us now?” Maybe Peter had basically good intentions, gently suggesting that Jesus should also give some motives of encouragement to the next possible recruit that might come along. I suppose that is possible. But as the Synoptic Gospels portray Peter, it is more likely another case where he puts his foot in his mouth. However, the answer Jesus gives is very important for us. We can be grateful to Peter for his question. Jesus’ answer gives us a peek into his heart, into the very heart of God.
Today, as we do every month, we ponder and celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation. I always like to look back on the old custom of keeping the ‘virtue of the month’. In that ancient scheme, the virtue for this month is poverty, the second of the nine virtues given to Celeste [Maria Celeste Crostarosa, our foundress - 1696-1555] in the primitive Rule. Celeste draws her images of this mystery from the writings of St. Paul and St. John. Everything starts in the Trinity, in eternity.
The Incarnation is the movement of God the Word from the riches of the Godhead to the utter poverty of human nature. God goes to an extreme we can never remotely fathom, out of his love and concern for us. Is it fanciful to think that when he describes to Peter and the disciples what we will receive in return for our own total dedication as “a hundred times more” that is exactly the way Jesus sees the worth of what he is doing? We mean something to God, and I believe that in the radical poverty that Jesus asks of us, he want us to rejoice in acknowledging that our brothers and sisters in the human family are as important to us as they are to him; that they are worth all the pain. The community of Jesus is to be our riches.
I guess the question for each of us today is, “Where are my riches?” Are they the things that Jesus truly values? Or does my heart get stuck somehow on my own stuff ? Not material things but opinions, preferences, plans, expectations of others, our ‘druthers’, as Lil Abner would say. Let’s ask our loving Jesus, our brother, lover, and friend, to draw us freely after him, day by day into his mission for his and our world. With all our hearts let us renew our vows trusting in the strength of the Holy Spirit to be the wind under our wings…all the way to the end.