Five years ago, I thought the choices of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious were also incomprehensible. From my viewpoint, they (a bit like Jesus) had been wronged, they had many strong and vocal supporters, and they had the wisdom and strength to act with forceful public power. They chose a different approach. Sister Janet Mock was then the newly named executive director of LCWR. To find my place in the Paschal Mystery, I turn to her address to the 2015 Assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, "Surprised by Joy." I find the quotes below especially important and challenging for me. I hold them quietly in my heart during this holy week:
I AM is how God actively names the Godhead. Notice that God does not say I WAS nor I WILL BE. God is I AM. What a profound consolation that is for us today, in these times. I AM here, I AM with you. I AM with you until the end of time. Allow yourselves to sink into that truth: I AM with you.
Our task is discerning where and how to be in communion with the activity of God in our world now, at this present moment.
In the life of Jesus, we see in the Gospels enormous activity. Jesus’ public life written from the perspective of his apostles and disciples gives us a panorama of activity: Jesus teaches, Jesus heals, Jesus lifts up, casts down – he moves with alacrity and purpose, he is on the go - until he stands before Pilate. At that point he becomes silent and passive. Until that moment in the Scriptures, all the verbs are active: he said, he reached out, he taught, he touched, he healed, he cast out . . . Suddenly before a man who recognizes him as innocent, yet lacks the courage to defend him and free him because of fear of the crowds, Jesus is silent. From that point on, the verbs in Scripture become passive: he is handed over, he is mocked, is scourged, is crucified, and says from the cross: it is finished. And then, wondrously, he is raised.
Knowing when God is calling you to activity and when God is calling you to passivity is a critical discernment for our times.
There were moments when we were rendered silent. There simply were no authentic words to speak…. In retrospect, it was in those moments that God’s activity became most evident.
Humility and openness and willingness to learn were movements within the activity of God and indispensable to the whole process.
Naming anything as prophetic is dangerous and fraught with the potential for hubris. The Spirit of God and time determine whether our acts are prophetic or corporate ego run awry. There are trends in our age, however, that demand our attention. How we address them can create an environment for the activity of God to flourish.
How would we name this moment…? What images come to mind? I offer to you the women at the tomb very early Easter morning. They came to freshen the linens and put the final touches on a body that had been pronounced dead, and found instead, an empty tomb. The body has risen. It looks different but is recognized by the way it lives and moves and has its being. It is in the encounter that the women recognize Jesus. And it is in the encounter that people recognize religious [and followers of Jesus Christ]….
We must tend what must die but the activity of God is with the risen body – being a presence, living with moral authority, and always, always with and for the poor.
So how shall we be in these years? How will our small voice be heard? Let us take heart from a story told by Sidney Lanier, who played flute in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for many years.
Once, during a rehearsal, the orchestra was moving through a fiery musical passage which was building up to a grand and blaring crescendo. As the
cymbals were clashing and the kettle drums rolling and the horns blaring, an impish thought crept into Lanier’s mind: “What difference does my flute make with its tiny sound in the midst of this thunderous roar of the orchestra? What if I should stop playing? What if not a note goes forth from my flute? No one will even notice.” Whereupon, still holding the flute to his lips, he ceased blowing into the instrument.
Instantaneously, the conductor banged his baton on the podium – and the full orchestra came to a screeching halt. In the deafening silence, the conductor peered from the podium directly at Lanier and roared, “Where is the flute?”
We, like the flute, are a small instrument in the orchestra of the cosmos – very small and very significant. Let us never stop playing our part ... the steady, faithful Reed of God.