Through Him, With Him, In Him: Mass at the Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy

This homily was with the Poor Clares, you should visit!

300 North 60th Street, Belleville Illinois

I like the phrase “walk with Jesus.” I’ve heard it a lot, I’ve used it too. It emphasizes that Jesus is with us, He is our companion through whatever is happening in our life, and it has that sense of progress and pilgrimage - we haven’t arrived yet, we’re on the way, and He’s with us. He can and does continue to work with such imperfect instruments as we are! I could go on, but anyway I like this common phrase about “walking with Jesus.”

But Colossians 2:6 says to “walk in Him,” and to ‘walk in Jesus’ sounds somehow more radical, somehow more challenging. The verses that follow underline this sense of not just being near Jesus, but radically identifying with Him, a sense that somehow His divine life and our own lives become so intertwined and cooperative that it’s hard to draw a line between one and the other. I don’t know if that’s the right way to say it, so let’s let Paul speak for himself: “You were buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him,”… “He brought you to life along with Him.” We recognize here a theme Paul underlines elsewhere, maybe most of all the stunning statement of Galatians 2:20, “Now I live, not I, but Christ lives in me.”

I still love the idea of walking with Jesus, but I want to grow more and more into the idea of walking in Jesus, into the more radical and complete identification that Paul seems to be teaching. This certainly elevates the standards for our examination of conscience. Not just harmony but real profound unity.

Here’s something that is just really mind-blowing. A few verses later Colossians said, “in Him dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily,” and that phrase we understand well enough. We believe that full divinity dwelt bodily in Jesus, of course. But here’s the stunner: “and you share in this fullness in Him.” Quite a meditation point, yeah? Think of the meaning of that first phrase, which we understand well enough: the fullness of divinity dwelling bodily in Jesus. Yes, we believe that, it’s fundamental. Now, with that firmly conceptualized in our minds: “YOU share in this fullness in Him.”

There’s something there I can’t begin to express - but the adoration of Jesus takes us into the heart of it. To adore Him in His Eucharistic presence is to know that He is after not only the pursuit of a way of life, but the sharing and commingling of inmost life itself.

But to try to practically apply this walking in Jesus, we can turn to the Gospel and from all this richness just pull out one very simple pattern. The passage began with Luke 6:12 — “Jesus departed to the mountain to pray, and He spend the night in prayer to God.” The night spent in prayer: that’s the first piece. Immediately follows the second: “When day came, He called His disciples to Himself and from them He chose twelve.” And a few verses later, the third, ministry: He is teaching, healing, casting out demons. It’s a perfect illustration of a simple but important spiritual pattern.

It begins with our personal union with God in prayer. This precedes our ministry. It even precedes our community. People can debate this today, but isn’t the pattern of Jesus’ own life clear in the Gospels? Everything flows from His prayer, from that solitude. Yes, Christianity is essentially communal — but the community flows from the union of each member with God.

And just as consistent as the primacy of solitude and prayer, we have the equally constant pattern of that prayer leading into community. Our communion in the Church will not be adequate if it isn’t flowing from our prayer. But the other side is that our prayer isn’t adequate if it isn’t leading us into community. One comes before the other, but neither is dispensable, nor are they separable.

And then comes the apostolate. It, too, derives all its fruit and depth from the elements that came before. So prayer comes first. Community flows from prayer. The apostolate flows from prayer and community. This isn’t an amazing new discovery, just the most simple pattern that is worth noticing and rejoicing in, as it is lived out so radiantly at the Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy and in other contemplative communities. The pattern is no less true in family life: each member’s discipleship precedes and enables the deepest family harmony, and there you have a domestic church with a mission in the world. It’s no less true for a parish priest. The work is no good if it isn’t about community, and the work and community are both empty if he isn’t praying. But that being said, I think we can rejoice and thank God especially for the gift of contemplative communities that place the pattern so radiantly before us. Adoration, Community, Apostolate. This is now, as it was then and always will be, the way we get to Luke 6:19, “And power came forth from Jesus and healed all.”

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