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“Conscious participation in the dying/rising process that is Life is our human responsibility.” What does this mean for those of us who consecrate their lives to God?

We Earthlings must broaden the frame in which we see ourselves! We are participating in a process of life that began aeons ago, moving forward to manifest increased capacity for loving consciousness and conscious love. The more I reflect on how all of creation shares in one community of life, the more I begin to see the teaching, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus in a new way as well. Jesus, as God’s Word in human flesh, both teaches and empowers us to live consciously and lovingly as participants in this on-going spectacle of God’s continual creating.

Jesus reminds us humans that participating in living also means participating in dying, and that this process can be – is intended to be – life-giving, for others as well as for ourselves. His teaching alerts us to the neediest among us, to those – of all species – who do not have status or a voice, and tells us that this is our neighbor for whose well-being we are responsible. His teaching and example inspire us; the gift of his Spirit empowers us to live relationally and caringly with the whole creation.

We humans – and indeed all living beings to some degree – have within us a deep instinct for life. We westerners have named it the survival instinct, an energy that impels individual members of species to get and to do what will contribute to the survival of their species, and hence to the larger, on-going process of life. That instinct expresses itself in animals and in humans in the urge to possess, (as squirrels bury acorns against winter hunger), in the innate impulse to relate, also expressed in the sexual drive (which preserves the species’ future), and in the urge to dominate or control (as in claiming turf).

community of lifecomunità di vita

life in communityvita in comunità All three of these instincts serve the on-going life of the species. In all living beings these instincts represent the energy of a larger Life that is creatively expressing itself in ever new life forms and potentialities. It is important to note, however, that these energies, instinctive in other species, become, in humans, conscious – their expression must become a matter of choice.
They must be consciously and lovingly placed in the service of the larger community of life.

It is not surprising that these same instinctive energies are the areas traditionally cited for focus and intentionality by men and women who wish to consciously dedicate them to the well-being and enhancement of life as a whole.

It is not surprising that these same instinctive energies are the areas traditionally cited for focus and intentionality by men and women who wish to consciously dedicate them to the well-being and enhancement of life as a whole. In the Christian tradition, we have named them as vows poverty, celibacy, obedience. Some people find themselves drawn to gather in community with the intention of helping each other give direction to these energies. They want to monitor their sense of security, to live trustingly rather than seeking security in accumulating wealth or even accumulating “stuff.” They want to support each other in directing the connective energies in ways that will enhance life for all species. They want to use their personal power not to dominate, but to make their gifts and potentialities available to serve the needs of the rest of the community of life – in healing, teaching, peace-making.

It should be clear, however, that these energies are the energies of Life – they do not belong to us personally, nor are they the particular possession of men and women who call themselves “religious.” They belong to the larger life process that keeps moving forward, keeps making new connections, and above all, keeps deepening the bonds, moving into new depths of conscious love and communion. All humans must direct their attention to how they express these energies in their lives.

Given, as we saw earlier, that cooperation is fundamental to the on-going process of life, how can we humans learn to participate in such a way that each of our lives makes its tiny but irreplaceable contribution to the good of the whole community of life? In every spiritual tradition attentiveness is a central and essential practice. We need to “walk slowly and bow often,” as Mary Oliver says, to discern the patterns embedded in Life’s own processes, so that we can participate with mutuality and exchange rather than domination and control. We need to be aware of the subtle movements of our own hearts, the mind-games we play, the ways our ego wants to intrude itself into even our most generous moments. We must learn to be attentive.

And we need to remember the sign of the cross that is central to our Christian path. The cross is not an invitation to suffer as much as we possibly can, as if God loves us better when we hurt. It is, rather, a reminder that everything lives by sharing its life, that “dying” – giving of ourselves – is, or can be, life-giving when it is embraced by a loving heart. It is so counter-intuitive! Our immediate instinct is to do everything we can to secure ourselves, to enhance our own lives. That’s not a bad thing.

community with earthin comunità con la terra

But always, then, we have to place ourselves within this wider frame of Earth’s community, and God’s revelation to us in Jesus: “Unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain.” By choosing to live cooperatively, consciously and willingly participating in the mutuality and exchange of the Larger life of which we are one small part, we fulfill the role that is given to us as human. Conscious participation in the dying/rising process that is Life is our human responsibility. Everything depends upon our real-izing this. The survival of life on planet Earth depends on it.

Sr. Elaine Prevallet, SL

Question for Reflection:

Do I monitor my ego-satisfying needs so that I keep that energy flowing in the stream of Love into the world?