There is a story I heard some years ago about a celebrity who was having a gathering at his home and invited numerous other celebrities as well as a local priest who had helped the host during a difficult time. The priest was known as a holy and humble man who no doubt felt out of place, but he didn’t want to disappoint this parishioner and attended the event. One of the guests was a famous actor known for his amazing versatility in reciting poetry. At one point during the evening the host asked this actor to entertain the rest of the guests. The actor lived up to his reputation and dazzled the other guests with his recitations of lines from poems and plays. The guests responded with robust applause.
The guests cried out for an encore, and the host requested he recite Psalm 23. The actor said he would under one condition, that the priest recite it after him. When the actor finished reciting the psalm it was met with great applause. The priest got came forward and began, “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want….” He recited the psalm in a soft voice as though speaking to just one or two people. When the priest finished there was dead silence. All you could hear were the sniffles coming from a few people, while some other dabbed the tears from their eyes. The actor then stood up and said, “It is obvious to us what we just witnessed: I know the Psalm, Father knows the Shepherd.”
I have sat through many classes were the professor spoke about the scriptures and I learned much about the Bible from them. I have been in many more Faith sharing groups, college students giving personal testimonies about their faith, and inspiring homilies where I realized that while the lecturers know the material, those who share from their hearts know the Shepherd.
When we pray the Scriptures, it should be a personal, moving experience for us. It is after all God’s word entering into our hearts. The Word that should inspire us and move us to experience more the great love God has revealed to us in the Bible. This weekend two of the readings are from Saint John, one from his First Letter, and the second from his Gospel. John writes beautifully about the love of God, and this comes not merely from his understanding of the prophecies of the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus, but also from his powerful experience of God’s love. John not only knew about God, he knew God and experienced Him in a very personal way. John’s writings have the intellectual understanding, and the experience that bring his words to life, even two thousand years after they were written.
The selection from the First Letter of John is brief, only five verses. It begins by reminding us that we are loved by God and quickly makes the connection, that being loved by God involves our loving one another. The passage then ends with the simple and beautiful verse, “God is Love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” 1 Jn 4: 16.
This is this love that we celebrate during the forty days of Lent and fifty days of Easter. Ninety days of remembering, reflecting on, and celebrating the great love God has for us. If you feel left behind in experiencing and growing in this love, fear not, we still have seven days left of the Easter Season, and ultimately God’s love cannot be confined to a particular time and is an eternal offering to us. Open your hearts and receive God’s love.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Image: Brother Placid Sellers, O.S.B.