REMEMBER, REFLECT, RENEW
Today is a day to remember the past, reflect on the present and renew ourselves and our community for the future. The word of God we have just heard proclaimed leads us to this conclusion.
The last Chapter chose as one of its themes the story of Emmaus, Luke 24: “Were not our hearts burning within us as He spoke to us on the road?” The Chapter noted that out of the confusion and challenge of the difficult moment of their crucified religious world, the disciples on the road “recognize the risen Jesus and the new reality they are living, and go back into their religious lives with renewed vision, hope and energy.” The Spirit of Jesus burns within them. Out of the difficult and sometimes confusing challenge of today, we are invited to renew ourselves for the future. We are invited as a Congregation to be renewed through our communion with Christ and one another and return with renewed vision, hope and energy.
The Founder said, at the time of the second edition of the CCRR: “All I hope for is that this second promulgation of our laws will kindle in the heart of each one of you new fervor that it brings about a kind of renewal of your youth…” 8/2/1853 (Circular Letter)
Are we open to the Spirit? Are we able to renew our spirit of commitment to our Oblate way of life? Are we willing to renew ourselves and truly immerse ourselves in the words and spirit of our Constitutions and Rules? Are they a source of life for us today? Is our oblation in our rule a total commitment in the spirit of our predecessors, such as the martyrs we have celebrated?
Here is a story that came to mind when reflecting on these readings:
A woodcutter one day approached a timber mill owner and he was hired. The salary and the conditions of work were very good. Thus our woodcutter, thankful, proposed to work hard. The boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he had to work. The first day the woodcutter cut 18 trees. “Congratulations,” the boss said, “continue that way.” Very motivated by the words of his boss, the woodcutter worked harder the following day but could only cut 15 trees. The third day he forced himself even more but could only cut ten. Day after day, despite his great effort, he could only cut fewer trees. “I must be losing strength,” thought the woodcutter. The boss came and the woodcutter asked forgiveness; he said that he did not understand what was happening. “When was the last time that you sharpened the axe?” asked the boss. “Sharpen? I didn’t have time to sharpen the axe!”
The axe (not a weapon but a tool!) in the story is what our Constitutions and Rules are to us in our Oblate life. The cutting of trees is like the work of evangelization. We must sharpen the axe, the tool of our life and mission, each day through our remembering, reflection and renewal of ourselves in our rule. [As one of my Oblate confreres reminded me: A dull tool can be the most dangerous one!]
On the day of our oblation, we were told: “Do this and live.” But if we have not sharpened our “tool”, using our charism and way of life to lead us, will we not find ourselves in the same position as the woodcutter? If we have not opened our Constitutions since the novitiate, what good are they for us? As expressed in the Chapter, there is a great richness there and perhaps we have only scratched the surface. The Spirit is there, given to us as Oblates and ratified by the Church.
As we remember, reflect and renew ourselves in our Oblate charism, our way of life and our Oblate Rule, we can more effectively do the work the Lord has set before us. As St. Eugene said to Fr. Tempier, our Rule is for us our source of life: “…these are no longer simple regulations, no ordinary pious directions; they are Rules that have been approved by the Church after the most minute scrutiny. They have been judged holy and eminently capable of leading those who embraced them to their destination.”
Our efforts and hard work on our own can be in vain, no matter how well intentioned, without the necessary preparation, without the necessary well prepared tools, without fully being open and responding to God’s Spirit which is there. Our Rule itself will help to show us how we can respond in the new evangelization in our day and time.
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