The Power of God’s Word

Monthly letters to help put the work of the catechist of the Good Shepherd into the context of the larger world · from the archives

A Reflection by Evelyn O’Boyle

Our friend and atrium colleague, Evelyn O’Boyle, passed into eternal life on June 21, 2017. During my last visit with her she handed me this reflection she had written for the sisters in her order. It’s a lovely taste of her deep faith, her love of God’s Word, and intimate relationship with the Lord. May you be blessed by her thoughts as we were by her life. – Catherine Maresca

All great words, written or spoken, have many readers, many listeners, in many places over the course of time. This is especially true in regard to the words of Holy Scripture. Among my happy memories of growing up in Ireland, I remember in particular visiting my grandparents in Northern Ireland, and most especially my father’s birthplace in Armagh. There we would visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral, followed by a visit to the nearby Protestant church, which at the age of seven, I found to be quite dark and forbidding, except for a few dim lights in the shadows. But I remember well a huge book, draped respectfully with a cloth and resting atop a high stand. I learned later it was a Bible, an object unfamiliar to me at my young age.

As I grew older, I became accustomed to the large Bible placed in our sitting room at home, in which were recorded my name and the names of my brother and sister on special occasions: our births and baptisms, holy communions and confirmation days. It was a special book for us all, but I knew nothing of its contents.

Later, the Second Vatican Council with its spirit of aggiornamento ushered in a renewal in reading and studying the Scriptures and in the practice of Lectio Divina. With the passing of time, our awareness of the centrality of the Gospel became very much a part of who we are and what we prayerfully do now.

We are reminded of this in John 8:31-32, “To the Jews who believed in Him, Jesus said, “If you make My Word your home, you will indeed be my disciples, and you will learn the truth and the truth will set you free.”

Though I knew that I was a daughter of God, I had never noticed this passage from John. At first I felt uneasy and uncomfortable with it, not even sure why. But havingreflected more on the “home,” I came to realize that the Scriptures were a place to which I could retreat, feel at ease, safe and secure in His Word.

I was more encouraged when I read in our PBVM Constitution that in making th Word our home we commit ourselves to accompplishing “the mission of Jesus who came into the world so that we might havelife more abundantly.” Does not John 10:10 speak of fullness of life, life in abundance?

Oddly, this was brought more clearly into focus for me one afternoon some time ago. As I prepared to leave my former oncologist’s office, I experiencd a moment I will never forget. The doctor coldly looked at me and stated, “You have such a diseased body, Sister.” The words were chilling, leaving me literally numbed to the bone. Having had a prior cancer diagnosis, I knew all too well that what he said was true but his comment was more than I could handle. I could barely make my way to the elevato and out to the parking lot. Once alone and seated inside the car, I remained very still for some time and wept. The Lord was very near me, however, and after several long moments, I distinctly heard these words, “Make your home in Me as I make mine in you.”

I could only whisper, “A diseased body doesn’t make any difference to You. You have chosen to make Your home in me.” It is difficult to describe what happened next but a great burden was lifted from my shoulders and I drove home with a heart filled with gratitude and hope. I was immediately reminded of how Jesus had said that He was the True Vine, and that we were the branches. I remembered that Nano, our foundress, had clung to the Vine. We know that she endured much pruning. I realized that to become a true and living branch of the Vine, I must open my heart and will fully to God and rest in His Word.

Our Constitution states, “The Congregation is shaped by fidelity to the Gospel as expressed in the spirituality and charism of Nano Nagle.” Finally Scripture reminds us in 1 Peter 1:25-26,

All people are like grass,

and all their glory is like flowers of the field;

the grass withers and the flowers fall,

but the word of the Lord endures forever.

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