THE WORDS THAT I SPEAK TO YOU ARE SPIRIT AND LIFE. Jesus consistently associated the Spirit with references to life. John tells us in the following chapter of his Gospel that on the last day of the Feast of the Dedication our Lord cried out aloud: If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink, the one who believes in me. As Scripture says "Rivers of living water will flow from his heart." The Evangelist goes on to comment: He said this concerning the Holy Spirit whom those who believe in him were to receive (7: 37- 39). The Holy Spirit, like flowing waters, is a source of ever renewed life.
St. Peter had been listening carefully to Jesus as he debated with those who did not accept his word concerning the Eucharist. When he made his confession of faith, he repeated our Lord's own words in part, finding no better way to express his heart-felt trust. Lord, where should we go? You have the words of eternal life. If the words of Jesus lead to eternal life it is because the Father gives them to him. At the same time, they are the fruit of the Spirit who unites the Father and the Son.
These words that impart the Spirit and so are filled with life have been passed on to us that we too might live by them. That his words might have their full effect in us we must take them into our heart by faith, with trusting surrender to the one who spoke them. To keep his words and to live by them, Jesus tells us, is the way we are to show our love for him. In today's Gospel these words of life speak of the Eucharist, which itself is promise of eternal life of sharing in the love that unites us to the Father in his glorified Son. The Lord gives his own person to us through his words, and most particularly through the words pronounced over the bread and wine that changes them into his body and blood.
We are expected not only to receive them but to live from them, having made them our own. By lives of prayer and praise and by active charity and service to our brothers and loved ones, and to all our fellow creatures, we give back to God, in homage to his glory what He has lovingly given us.
With certain words we can do still more. There are words into which we can hand over our very life and our whole being. We can surrender our self back to Him who made us and who gave Himself for our salvation. These words can be so filled with the Spirit that they give a fresh meaning to all that follow them. Our words too then becoming life-giving, through being a radical assent to the Spirit who inspires them. God makes it possible for us thus to engage our freedom, that we might be joined to Him in the great work of salvation and sanctification.
This is the homage that you are about to offer to God today, my brother Gerard, by pronouncing your solemn vows for life. These vows represent a commitment to live the monastic life as it is practiced in this community. More profoundly, your solemn promise is a consecration of your person to God so that the whole of your life is a witness to Him. You belong to Him body and soul more than to yourself by a free choice and by a public act that we call religious profession.
As you are aware, it is a great gift of God to make such a promise; it carries with it the responsibility that will engage you day by day until death to carry out from the heart what you undertake with this commitment. Remember that you are not left to your own resources; the Lord will not leave you alone. He is faithful and has promised to be with you to the end. His Mother Mary, help of Christians, who is honored so greatly in your native city of Bombay, will accompany you. He also gives you a community of brothers to assist and sustain you as you live out your engagement. Finally, in the Eucharist, which is the context in which you make these vows, he gives you himself as a pledge that you are to belong to him in an intimate bond of love that will endure for all eternity, in the heavenly kingdom. And so I ask if it is your firm purpose to pronounce these solemn vows for life.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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