Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14
The stark meditation from Jesus, for today, is: "unless you change and become like children you will never enter the kingdom of God." And so, what could this "childlike" existence look like, and in which transition do you find yourself?" Maybe it is someone else going through changes. No matter, we are all involved, for better or for worse, in change.
The Word speaks to that today. The venerable, late, Fr. Carroll Stuhmueller, C.P. had a great interpretation of Jesus’ "lost sheep" commentary as it relates to leadership through changes:
In any experience of change there are two levels of leadership that are possible, an external and internal expression.
The external form of leadership has to do with routine matters, external needs and projects. This form of leadership addresses the matters of the "99 sheep," the routine stuff that causes change. Things wear out, more efficient ways of running a household are discovered, new programs replace the old, and such. The second level of leadership has to do with an internal, Spirit-lead form of decision making which is intuitive, courageous and heroic in its expression of God’s will. It may be the realization that the signs of the time are demanding a different witness from religious communities in order to "WAKE PEOPLE UP" in the words of our Superior General, V. Rev. Joachim Rego, C.P. It may be that a marriage is in crisis because the usual, habitual, sensual supports are no longer sustainable for a happy married life. There is a radical change in one’s physical well-being. Whatever this kind of change demands, if we are alert to the inspiration, the "one percent of ourselves," (that lost sheep), or if you will, "the child" within us, this graced-intuition will come to have a bearing upon our decision making and the changes we are experiencing.
The habitual consumption of the Word feeds the child, or the lost sheep, if you will, within us. The Word of God spoken through Ezekiel the prophet tells us not to be rebellious, and to open our mouths and eat what is given to us. The food happens to be a scroll of scripture. Frequently, at marriage ceremonies, Quinceañeras, and Baptisms, a Bible is presented to the recipient of the blessing or sacrament. Usually I take the Bible and place it in my mouth and bite on it. Much to the surprise of the gathered congregation, I ask the recipients of the Word to eat it, consume it, daily. "Mortal, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it; and in my mouth it was as sweet as honey." The "sweetness" is the actions that bring hope, relief, comfort, direction, and gratitude to those for whom the action is directed.
The saint whom we remember today exemplifies the use of that 1% of "grit, or grace" that is within us. Jane Frances (Fremiot) Chantal was born 442 years ago in France. She and her husband had 6 children, two of whom died in infancy. When she was 29, her husband died. After a period of severe depression she found that 1%, that spiritual force, amidst the suffering. With her spiritual advisor, Francis de Sales, she founded the Congregation of the Visitation for women who wished to live a religious life but could not endure the austerity of the existing orders. They were committed to working with the sick and the poor. She died at the age of 69, having founded 85 monasteries. Let us continue to consume the Word and nourish that 1% of powerful grace.
Fr. Alex Steinmiller, C.P. is president of Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School, Birmingham, Alabama.