One of the things I love most about being a parish priest is getting to meet so many different kinds of people. I love hearing their stories, but – even more – I love the stories BEHIND the stories. I love discovering the beautiful humanity underneath the outward appearances; the glorious golden threads that make people who they truly are. These are often the things – paradoxically – that we try to hide from others; the things we often call our ‘faults’ or ‘flaws.’ They may also be the things only God and the people who love us most get to see. It is a rare and special gift for me that I get to see them too, sometimes.

I’ve learned from listening to the stories beneath the stories, that one of the things many of us share is a sense that we are not special, nor important. We do not truly believe that we can make any sort of difference in the world; that even the things we might be good at are not good enough; that since we cannot be the best at whatever it is that brings us joy, we should probably not tell people about it, because when they find out we aren’t the best, it will be embarrassing.

What makes me sad about this is that if everyone thinks this way, and everyone gives up on the things that bring them joy, there will be less art in the world; less beauty; less song; less prayer; less love. In a world that is burning out of control with evil and hatred and ugliness, we need every refreshing drop of beauty we can manage. Even if it feels like one tiny drop in the ocean, I am convinced that the little we each contribute makes all difference in the world.

If we truly believe what we proclaim – that God can do INFINITELY more than we can ask or imagine – then we must have faith that the tiny drop of joy, compassion, love, beauty, we each contribute will be magnified infinitely more in God’s hands, and used to help heal the world God loves so very much.

Mother Amanda

Download the Liturgy at Home booklet for Sunday, July 21, 2024.

Last week, the Anglican Church celebrated the feast of St. Benedict; the Gospel reading for that day is John 15:12-17, which occurs just after Jesus proclaims, “I am the vine and you are the branches.”

In this metaphor, the branches have one goal in common: to stay rooted in Jesus and bear fruit. And Jesus makes it quite clear in this passage what that is: to love one another. The branches can neither live without the vine, nor can they function independently. Their/our only goal is a common one: to bear the fruit which is God’s love. No one branch can do this on its own; no one branch is better than another, nor more favoured.

This description of the community is particularly apt for the feast of St. Benedict because it very accurately describes the kind of community he envisions. When any member decides to join the community, they voluntarily give up any rank or title or distinguishing feature that their secular life affords them, and – literally and figuratively – put on a new identity in the shared community of the monastic life. The tasks and work required by the community to function are shared out equally, and even artisans and craftspeople are only allowed to exercise their gifts for the collective good.

Quite starkly in contrast to our secular way of living, in a Jesus-believing community described by the vine metaphor, the goal of the individual isn’t personal gain, or accolades, or success, or esteem. Our goal is collective: to bear fruit; fruit that will last. And Jesus is clear about what that is; so clear that in these five short verses he repeats it twice:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

“I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”

We have one job and one alone: to love one another. It is simple but not easy. It means that in a world that celebrates individual accomplishment and individuality we must give up our ‘right’ to personal accolades. In a world that tempts us to gauge our worth by what we do and how much we can achieve, or how close to the top we can rise, Jesus tells us that our worth resides in abiding in God. In a world that teaches us we must compete with one other for everything, Jesus tells us we belong to one another.

As always, Jesus’ teaching is simple but not easy. It is as counter-cultural now as it was 2000 years ago. Maybe more so. It will perhaps always be a struggle, even for the best of us.

Yet, as the continuation of the Church and the many Benedictine communities worldwide can attest to, this vision of a communal life rooted in Christ, and the love of God it proclaims is more than worth the struggle.

Mother Amanda

Download the Liturgy at Home booklet for Sunday, July 14, 2024.