Recollection Material – February 2022: To Form the Heart


John 15:9-17


During the past consecutive four months we took the Report of the Prior General as reference for our monthly recollection. In the first, that of November 2021,  we focused on the task of revitalization to which the last two General Chapters had given so much importance and, of which the Report of the Prior General overflowed to give it continuity. The second and third recollections invited us to live with greater depth the virtue of hope. It is a theme which our Prior General made to resound from the beginning to the end of his Report and which he proposes as the tone to prepare the 56th General Chapter, to elaborate the Project of Life and Mission for the following six years, and to put into practice in our communities and ministries. This recollection invites us to contextualize our heart, and invites us to prepare it for the General Chapter of this coming March 2022. We need to continue forming our heart in consonance with the teachings and experience of our Master and Brother Jesus Christ, in such a way that, like St. Paul, we can say: “For me, life is Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:21).

Return to yourself.

          We are interior beings. Thus, when we enter the heart, the most significant symbol of our identity, we facilitate the encounter of the self with God. In an atmosphere of silence, conscious and receptive, we enter our heart, and from there, with humility and simplicity, we ask God for his Holy Spirit. He is the fountain of all grace. We ask the Holy Spirit to dispose our soul to listen to the Word and allow it to accomplice his work in our heart.

Your voice is my joy.

          10“As the Father loved me, I also have loved you; remain in my love. If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.  11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. 12 This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friend. You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master in doing. I have called you my friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. 16 It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. 17 This I command you: love one another” (Jn. 15: 9 -17).

Elements for Reading and Reflection.

          We choose three paragraphs from the Report of the Prior General that are related to the election and the sending of Jesus Christ to bear fruits of love.  The first is related to our condition of being called: We have been chosen to live the religious life, and as Augustinian Recollect religious, we are to love God and our brothers in our life and service of everyday.

          “The brothers in the Order live their vow of chastity with simplicity, hope and joy. The consecrated chastity is our way of loving Christ with all our heart, and consequently, it facilitates the availability to serve and love the neighbor, especially the mostneedy. Chastity is a gift that we receive and by which we choose with freedom: we know that, by it, we oblige ourselves to observe continence in celibacy, and with it, we desire to live the style of life of Jesus of Nazareth (…) Chastity facilitates the unity of heart and permits us to grow humanly and spiritually in love: a love that day after day becomes service and surrender of one’s own life. In love come in to play the intelligence, the will, the feelings, our desires and our affective-sexual dynamisms. The love of Christ gives meaning to our life. We are not satisfied with an ethereal or abstract love, but the concrete, where the deepest motivations of our heart, the existential values and our human projects come into play” (Report of Prior General 3, 2).

          The second paragraph makes reference to the forming of the heart, a task that is beautiful and arduous. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus Christ and be converted daily to come close to the sentiments of Christ Jesus. That is why the formation especially of the heart is a permanent gift and a task. It is the form of having life and life in abundance (Jn. 10:10).

          “The continuous formation looks first off all at the fundamental nucleus of the person, because it is itself and founded on it, is the possibility to achieve its destiny. It makes no primary reference to professional or cultural aspects or answers to external circumstances, but to the mystery of one’s interior life, to growth in the common life and to commitment of love to ecclesial service. Religious or lay we enthusiastically put ourselves on the journey like pilgrims, as St. Augustine conceives all project of life. To achieve it three lines of action are proposed: the permanent formation, the formation of leaders for all the ministries and motivated by evangelization” (Report of Prior General 10, 2).

          God’s love trusts in our capabilities and accompanies us to give us everything we need that we may have life and life in abundance (Jn. 10:10) and thus we may bear fruit abundantly (Jn. 15:16).

          “The Father is a farmer who trusts in us, he plows our land and removes the stones, he plants the seeds of hope in our heart, he cultivates us diligently every day, he irrigates us in drought, he does not pull out the darnel that grows side by side with the wheat and prunes the vine that it may bear more fruit. This is the story of the Order and of each one of us. We are the good soil where the mustard seed and the grain of wheat are deposited, we are branches of the same vine. “The good farmer patiently awaits the fruits of the earth” (St. 5, 7) (…) The Lord blesses us and continues to let the seeds of his Kingdom in us to germinate. At this point in time, it is also our turn to plow, to sow and cultivate. It serves no purpose to bury the talents, we cannot put our security in money, in success or in power. Let us not forget that it was the Lord who called us and continues to call us every day; it is he who sends us and who asks us to bear fruit” (Report of Prior General 10,4).

Biblical icons.

          1st biblical icon: Mt. 28:20 “I am with you always until the end of the ages.” Jesus is the Immanuel, i.e., God-with-us. The fidelity of Jesus Christ is sure, eternal, powerful. From the time God created us up to the end of the ages God is the faithful travelling companion who provides everything we need on the road. St. Augustine says in his Confessions:

          What, then, is my God? I repeat, what except the Lord God? And what Lord except our Lord? Or what God except our God? The highest, the best, most powerful, most omnipotent, most merciful and most just; most secret and most present, most beautiful and most strong, stable and incomprehensible, immutable, changing all things; never new and never old; renews all things and leads the proud to old age without their knowing it; always working and always at rest; always bringing in and never in need; always sustaining, filling up and protecting; always creating, nourishing and perfecting (…) (conf.1, 1, 4).

          God is Lord, Creator, Father, Brother, Friend, Savior and Life of man. From the preceding text of St. Augustine we focus especially on the word “always”  that connects us to his fidelity and in the last six verbs, that permits us to perceive with all clarity how God attends to man in every way and at all times that he may live his life with meaning, constructing the Kingdom of  God’s love, giving abundant fruit: he is below the beings, “sustaining them”; he is inside the beings, “filling them”; he is above the beings, “protecting them”; he is at the beginning of his creatures’ life, “creating them”; he is along the journey of his creatures, “nourishing them”; he is at the end of his creatures’ life “perfecting them”.

          2nd biblical icon: Jn. 20:21-23 “Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” We are sent to bear fruits of love in the task of evangelization. The fruits will be abundant if we are united to the Spirit of God, the fount of love. St. Paul says that “The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:5) And St. Augustine says that the love that the Holy Spirit given us is the greatest gift that we receive from him.

          The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are Charity, and then, as though flowing from its fount and in intimate connection with it, he enumerates the others which are: joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And indeed, who can have joy if he does not love the thing he enjoys? Who can have true peace if he does not have it with someone he truly loves?(…) That is why, the Good Master recommends charity as though only she deserves to be recommended, and without which the other goods cannot be useful or can be separated from the others that make a man good (Io. eu. tr. 87, 1).

The Holy Spirit gives us a sensitive and generous heart so that we may put our charisms at the service of others.

Let each one put at the service of others the charism he has received, as good administrators of the diverse graces of God. If someone speaks let it be the words of God. If someone renders service, let it be in virtue of the strength received from God, that God may be glorified in everything for Jesus Christ to whom be the glory and the power forever and ever (1 Pt. 4:10-11).

Communitarian Dialogue.

With humble and fraternal attitude let us share with the brothers what the following questions suggest:

1. The encounter in prayer which I daily have with God, does it enable me to love the brothers?

2. Am I receptive of the great gift of the Holy Spirit: charity? Do I share it?

3. How do I digress from the task of forming my heart having Jesus Christ as model and Master?

4. Am I an evangelizer leader?

5. How do I practice the service of accompaniment?

6. Do I care for my prayer and formation so as to live out the services of evangelization and accompaniment with quality and charity?

Final Prayer…

          Give us sensitivity, O Lord, so that in our daily prayer we may be receptive of your abundant love. You are the fount of love! Make us open and restless, Lord, so that we may form ourselves to live out chastity for evangelization. You are the Master of Charity! Give us patience, joy and dialoguing skills that we may build more fraternal communities. You are a community of love! Give us a passionate heart to speak out generously before any needy person. You are the Good Samaritan! We ask it of you, faithful God, Father, Brother and Friend that you live and be our Travelling Companion. Amen.

          The love of God and of the brothers is what we should think of always, and meditate always, and remember always, and practice always, and fulfill always” (Io. eu. tr. 17, 8). +

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