“Why are you here, Elijah?” Fr. Griffin reflects

by | Mar 25, 2015 | Formation

Griffin consecratedSo much happens on March 25th in the Vincentian Family – Father Pat Griffin reflects on “Why are you here, Elijah?”

Father Pat Griffin continues his series Considering Consecrated Life …

I measure my time as the Director of the Daughters of Charity with the celebration of their renewal of vows –their renovation on March 25th each year. The first conference which I gave to the Company in Paris took place during the retreat in 2011. The last conference happened during the renovation retreat in 2014. The blessing of being present for this silent act of self surrender on behalf of the poor lifts a Vincentian heart up and provides food for thought in this year of Consecrated Life.

Clearly, the closest associations for the renovation rest in Mary’s fiat at the Annunciation, hence the vows on that day. For me, however, the well-known scriptural passage in which Elijah encounters the Lord on Mount Horeb evokes another connection:

Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, Why are you here, Elijah? (1Kgs 19:11-13)

One might suggest many reasons for valuing this colorful and mysterious text. Various translations offer different renderings for the final phrase which indicates the Lord’s presence, and most of the proposals rely on paradox (as here). “A light silent sound” reveals the divine immanence. After all the tumultuous and violent events of wind, earthquake and fire, the Lord appears in a much softer guise.

When I think of some of the wonderful women who seek to renew their commitment, I imagine the dynamic involvement with apostolate, community life, personal issues, and assorted difficulties, as well as many blessings. In whatever manner the Lord becomes known in those sometimes challenging experiences, they are not the milieu for the renewal of vows. No, a moment of expectant silence provides the time and opportunity for a private conversation which makes claim on another year of her life. For me, the question asked of Elijah offers her a stimulant: “Why are you here, Elijah?”

The Daughter of Charity can hear that question addressed to herself: “Why are you here, Sister?” The response cannot be: because all the other Sisters are here, or because I do this every year. Rather, when she hears the query, her reply must resound like the fourth vow: because I want to give the whole of my life in community to the service of Christ in the poor. I think the character of the question as “why” prompts the response of the fourth vow. The “how” falls more under the rubrics of poverty, chastity and obedience which follow and interpret the “why.”

On the solemnity of the Annunciation, the Gospel reminds us of Mary’s free and total gift of self to God. She, of course, offers the model for the Daughter of Charity. As consecrated persons with a Vincentian spirit, we can stand with our Sisters in their homage to the Blessed Mother. We can allow the call for renovation to echo in our hearts as in theirs. All of us need to prevent our summons to service from becoming stale. The opportunity to renew our promises to the poor and one another as well as to our God emerges with force and conviction.

“Why are you here?” It is a good question. We can allow it to be posed as we center ourselves for prayer. We can consider its meaning when we gather around the table of the Lord. Our efforts to care for others provide another context for self examination. As we prepare for the sacrament of penance, as we open the Bible to read, as we offer counsel, and as we engage in many other activities, we have numerous opportunities to ponder the meaning of our actions. As we reflect on the question “Why are you here?” we can analyze our motives genuinely. We can seek to interrogate ourselves honestly so as to discover what truly lies in our heart. We can act with purity of intention

In a particular way, we remember and pray for our Sisters on the Solemnity of the Annunciation as they renew their vows. As we celebrate that moment when Jesus came to our world, we recognize how it happened through Mary’s free and total surrender of self. Through her intercession, we seek that same spirit.

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