Past and Present, Living Through One Another

by | Aug 17, 2016 | Formation, Reflections | 5 comments

Past and Present, Living Through One Another (I John 4:7-16)

At a Eucharist honoring the deceased members of the Vincentian Family, I picked up on a verse from the first reading (1 John 4:9).  It starts out with the question, “How was God’s love shown to us?” It answers, “God sent his only Son.” And here’s the line, “that we might live through Him.” One person living through another. Us living through Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alive through us. Taking it out further, other people living through us and us living through other people.


I think of an elderly woman, fairly infirm, who had no children of her own, but had scads of nieces, nephews, grand nieces and nephews – and many friends. She couldn’t easily get around and was pretty much confined to her wheelchair. But over the years she had become what you might call the communications center for that circle.

At first in letters, but recently big time on email and Facebook, she was in daily touch with somebody or other in the family, and with high interest in what everybody was up to. You might say she was living this last part of her life through her family members. It wasn’t as if she had lost her own identity, but rather that something of her was being communicated to these others. Their lives were picking up some of her spirit. In some ways her voice was coming through theirs. Not that they were parroting her, but rather that her stories and ideas and attitudes over the years were creeping into theirs and influencing them. They were doing the talking out of their own hearts for sure, but some of her was coming through their speech and actions.  She was living through them.

And how about the deceased members of the Vincentian Family we have known and loved. How about all our beloved ones who have passed on? Have you ever caught any of them talking – and even acting — through you?

Take some deceased individuals who were special mentors and role models to you. You sat at their feet, as it were, and pretty much without realizing it learned what they had to teach, especially about life and Vincentian life. Twenty five years later you find yourself drawing on something of the depth of their insights and life-lessons. You hear traces of their voices speaking in yours, and again and again you find yourself speaking in their voices. It’s not as if you’re not speaking in your own voice, but yours has been infused and overlaid with the sounds of theirs.  They are speaking through you, and most likely more in actions and attitudes and instincts than in words.

Isn’t it something of the same with the voice of the Lord Jesus coming to speak through the sound of your own?  Can you look back over the years and notice that something has changed around the way you value things, the way you line up what counts and what counts less? And hasn’t that something been a Someone; i.e.,  the person of Jesus who has gotten more and more into your heart and even into your bones such that you’re looking at your world differently.

– Why is it that no matter what your political party, you’re siding with those positions that would side with the least of the sisters and brothers?

– Why is it that you can resonate with calls to join together more closely rather than the ones to separate apart?

– Why it is that the call to sacrifice for the good of the neighbor make more sense than the ones to always put yourself in the number one position?

Isn’t it because the tone of the Lord has come to sound more in the timbre of your own voice, has broken through into the interior places of how you see things and respond to them?  And conversely, isn’t something of the same happening when your voice starts to live more under the influence of how Jesus speaks? When His intonations and inflections and distinctive accent start to show up in your speech?

That is to say, gradually through your reading and your praying and especially through your encounters with Jesus’ person in the person of the other, you’ve found:

– Jesus voice becoming a kind of shaper of the inflections your own voice.

– Jesus eyes becoming more of a lens through which your eyes begin to see.

– Jesus hands becoming more of a template for the workings of your hands.

– Jesus heart becoming more a purifier of what’s running through your own heart.

These deceased Vincentians and loved ones live — through you. And you, in a sense, live through the influence they’ve had on you. Still deeper, the Lord Jesus lives through you and me. And we all keep on trying to live through Him.

And so at this Eucharist when we sing our Amens in response to “In Him and With Him,” — and today especially “Through Him –” let us put ourselves more and more fully into just those words so that we might come to act and speak and witness and live — through the Lord Jesus Christ alive in His Spirit in our world.


  1. Ross

    “I think of an elderly woman.” I wonder if that elderly woman ever worked for Sloan-Kettering.

  2. Marguerite Broderick

    I love this thought which has resonated in my mind and heart for some years–that we live out the dreams of those who have gone before us. Firstly, as Christians, we live the dream of Jesus, and all those others we love and who love us and even those we do not know.
    This is beautifully developed here, Fr. Tom. Thank you.

  3. Kathryn Maleney

    Thanks so much for this reflection! So often I find that cousins of mine have the same response as I to issues in the world and near at hand. I have long thought that it is because of our grandparents’ lives resonating in us, and their teaching their children, our parents, that we still share common understanding and perspective on things. And these grandparents were taught by their grandparents. And the love of Christ resonates and lives on through all of them teaching us, and we hope that we pass it on, express the love of Jesus in our lives, so that our lives will continue to resonate on through the years.

  4. Hank Thiel

    Ii was so blessed to hear the remarkable awe-inspiring words of Rev. John Conway for two years. He spoke of the presence of Jesus within me…That we are substantially one. To this day, 58 years and 14 grandchildren later, that concept motivates my every action.
    Staying aware of it is a bit more difficult.

    So, thank you Tom for your inspiring words. God bless you and your good works.

  5. Jack Timlin

    Tom, great! Made me think of Bro. Larry. Thanks.

    Jack Timlin

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