The Letter

Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter
May 12, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Judas Barsabbas and Silas are chosen to deliver a letter from the Apostles to the Gentiles in Antioch. It’s a critical letter – containing the apostolic decision regarding how the Antiochan church must observe religious practice.

Have you ever waited for a “decision letter”, one for which you were not sure of the outcome? Maybe a college or job acceptance letter? A bid on a new house? Or maybe a contest you entered desperate to win?

I remember waiting for the letter announcing whether or not the Sisters of Mercy would accept me into their community. It was a nerve-wracking wait for many reasons. I really wanted to be a Sister of Mercy but, after the initial interview, I wasn’t sure I could fill the bill.

The ride to the interview had seemed so distant from where I lived – in many ways. I had never seen such beautiful houses as those in the neighborhood surrounding the Motherhouse. And the entrance to the convent itself was, and still is, breath-taking. My six-foot self felt extremely small.

Sister Mary Assisium, who interviewed my parents and me, was an icon of the pre-Vatican II religious. She was perfection in her beautiful habit, cultured speech, quiet gait, and ultra-serious tone of voice. Her eyes seemed like big lakes in a sacred monument.

She scared me to death! I was a lanky, loping, gum-chewing teenager who still dropped the “g”s on my “ing”s. As we drove home from the meeting, I was pretty sure there was no way these women were going to invite me to join them! I think my parents were pretty sure too.

That interview happened on April 7, 1963. On June 2nd, I came home from work at the neighborhood deli, carrying a pastrami sandwich, to find an unopened letter lying on our dining room credenza. About ten feet away, Mom sat in the kitchen staring back and forth from the letter to me. For a few minutes, I stared back and forth from the letter to Mom, then finally got the guts to open it. It was dated May 31, 1963, Feast of the Queenship of Mary. ( After 1969, that date became Feast of the Visitation)

It said this, but in a lot of different, more beautiful words:

But the letter also implied, although not stated, an understanding that reassured my doubts.

Judas Barsabbas and Silas carried the same kind of letter to the Chrisitan Gentiles in Antioch. “You’re in. Just as you are.” And our Gospel today, tells us why that is so – Love.

Love is the test which measures us for Christianity – not religious practice, rituals, or personaility traits. The apostolic decision-makers understood this and came to a conclusion based on Gospel love.

Jesus makes this clear in our reading today, and how blessed are we to receive his invitation:

This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
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.
This I command you: love one another.

Poetry: Acceptance – Robert Frost

When the spent sun throws up its rays on cloud
And goes down burning into the gulf below,
No voice in nature is heard to cry aloud
At what has happened. Birds, at least must know
It is the change to darkness in the sky.
Murmuring something quiet in her breast,
One bird begins to close a faded eye;
Or overtaken too far from his nest,
Hurrying low above the grove, some waif
Swoops just in time to his remembered tree.
At most he thinks or twitters softly, 'Safe!
Now let the night be dark for all of me.
Let the night be too dark for me to see
Into the future. Let what will be, be.'

Music: The Letter – by the Boxtops: Well, the Sisters of Mercy didn’t exactly say they “couldn’t live without me no more”. But that’s the way I read it! 🙂

5 thoughts on “The Letter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s