25 years of varied life experiences and persistent searching finally all came together in one focal point. The inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, reminds us that “the sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” All the disparate rays of Eugene’s life came together in the focus of the sight of the cross.
Can I forget the bitter tears that the sight of the cross brought streaming from my eyes one Good Friday?
… Could I ever express what I experienced then?
Just the memory of it fills my heart with a sweet satisfaction.
Retreat Journal, December 1814, O.W. XV n.130
The memory of experiencing how he understood the focal point of his life would never leave him. It would be the focus of every action of his life. From now on, Jesus was primarily the Savior for him. Of all the expressions that Eugene uses to describe Jesus Christ, it is the one of Savior that he constantly comes back to in expressing his ideals and in all his writings.
Indeed, he sees everything through the focus of the lens of the eyes of the Crucified Savior. This is his testament to us, and it is expressed in our Rule of Life:
The cross of Jesus Christ is central to our mission. Like the apostle Paul, we “preach Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2: 2). If we bear in our body the death of Jesus, it is with the hope that the life of Jesus, too, may be seen in our body (cf. 2 Cor 4:10). Through the eyes of our crucified Saviour we see the world which he redeemed with his blood, desiring that those in whom he continues to suffer will know also the power of his resurrection (cf. Phil 3: 10). CC&RR Constitution 4
Each of us in the Mazenodian family has experienced an attraction and a calling to the charism of Eugene de Mazenod. We have come with our own spirituality and our own ideals and through Eugene we have found the point of focus for all this in the cross of the Savior. “The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus” – like Eugene we are invited to focus and to burn with the light of our Savior individually and as missionary communities.
Yesterday I spent a great deal of my time pondering and reflecting on what the Cross, what Jesus on the cross, what our Crucified Saviour on the Cross means to me. I thought of how for Eugene it inspired and drove him to evangelize, to go out to the poorest of the poor, to fight against evil and how he used militaristic words and images that I was unable to relate to, and that I was unable to move past (as I usually can do).
As I pondered and reflected on my experiences of Jesus on the Cross I was able to focus on my own response which the cross has awakened and flourished within me, filling me with a boundless desire to console and soothe, to tend to the wounds of Jesus and of his beloved, those who to all appearances are okay and even quite rich but who on the inside are the poorest of the poor. It is to them I reach out with a great desire to love and to serve in all the little un-noticeable ways that there are to serve and give of oneself. There is a great desire and need, a need for me to love in this way my brothers and sisters in my parish, in my family, in my Mazenodian Family.
I worried that perhaps this no longer meant that I could be “Oblate”, because it would mean that I am not missionary, not sent out in any way. And yet it is because of my relationship with Eugene himself and with the Oblate community, family that I am who I have become. These were not periods of comfort.
This morning in coming here I read the comments from yesterday and thought about the only distinctive sign that I wear which is the Oblate Cross – not the huge mission cross that would be erected where missions took place, not the large cross that Eugene himself wore 200 years ago but a small cross that fits me most perfectly. I do not wear any of the garb that Eugene or the people of his time wore – that too was something from 200 years ago, any more than I walk around dressed as people did in the time of Jesus. I am grateful for what Bart Zavaletta shared for it caused me to continue to look further and deeper within myself at why I do as I do, at who I really am.
It was what Frank wrote this morning that began to tie it all together for me. “Each of us in the Mazenodian family has experienced an attraction and a calling to the charism of Eugene de Mazenod. We have come with our own spirituality and our own ideals and through Eugene we have found the point of focus for all this in the cross of the Savior.” We each come as we are called – I come as I have been called with the gifts and love that God has given to me. Like another great Oblate I seem to have found a home for my heart with the Oblates, not just in a nice comfortable feel good way, but fully engaged with Jesus on the cross. “Through him, with him and in him”, I dare to quote: “Just the memory of it fills my heart with a sweet satisfaction.”