Twelve year old girls generally begin to see the world with a larger vision. Their bodies are changing and their minds have reached a certain stage of development where they are able to move beyond the confines of their own existence. They question not only themselves but also the rightness or wrongness of what occurs around them. This is the time most young girls challenge authority at home, in school and in society. It was at this very tender point in my life that I first felt the “pruning” of God’s Word.
“If you want to know about love, read the book of John,” I was instructed. Along with an insatiable curiosity about the world and the tender buds of a sense of justice (according to my own measure of justice) I was also a hopeless romantic. I wanted to know about love. So, I read the book of John also known as the Gospel of John. I fell head long in love with Jesus. (A condition, I’ve never recovered from.) I will never forget the moment I realized that Jesus is a real person, not just a character in a dramatic story.
The recognition of Jesus’ true identity set the stage for a life-long love relationship. John’s gospel also did something else very significant in my life; it set the datum point for my budding sense of justice. Most nuns and sisters were blessed with loving families that fostered their vocation. I cannot claim that kind of heritage. There must have been some roots of love in my family. We learn love from being loved. However, to say that love motivated my natal family relationships would be a huge stretch. What accounts for even the possibility of the growth of love and a sense of justice beyond self driven motives in anyone but particularly in those whose formative years do not seem to “stem” from love? Jesus’ analogy of the vine and the branches has given me insight into the answer to this question.
Just as an example, I, at twelve, a very tender part of my life, read John’s gospel. Throughout, Jesus tries to speak of love but is thwarted, rejected, betrayed and killed. I kept hoping he would fight. But he never did. Consistent in Jesus was the offer of love to whomever he encountered. I could feel the challenge, the pruning accompanied with my first reading of that gospel. The tender buds of “survival at any cost” were being cut from my heart. The new growth of a self-centered existence with a “me-centered” sense of justice was painfully clipped by the Word of God.
Ultimately, God had the last Word, Jesus’ way of love, his call for God-centered justice meant that nothing was lost, nothing that is but the dried dead buds, twigs and branches of injustice and unloving. To remain in Jesus, is to let the sap of love run through the whole of us.
The mystery of living in Christ is, although I dislike the pain of pruning and the uncertainty that comes with whatever new growth takes its place, I also desire a deepening love relationship with God. To quote from the commentary by Elizabeth of the Trinity found in the May 2015 Give us this Day, “It is in there in the very depth that divine impact takes place, where the abyss of our nothingness encounters the abyss of mercy, the immensity of the all of God. There we find the strength to die to ourselves and, losing all vestige of self, we will be changed into love…”
Ana Cloughly, OSB