i. On Deeds
Giving and receiving has a role in my life. Together they constitute “love”.
The moral of the life of Jesus in His own words are, “Love one another as I have loved you.” To me, loving is giving to others whatever I have received from God. Receiving from others is my willingness to be influenced by others.
I have been enriched by the many stories of persons I have met. They have been an inspiration to me. I know of a woman who had been chaste, yet she was infected with HIV by her husband. I saw how she stood by him and stayed in the marital relationship. I often wondered to myself, if I were in a similar situation, would I have responded in the same manner?
Sometimes, I feel challenged by the people around me who seem to live out the vows I have taken more fervently than I do. Their faithfulness and commitment in life push me on to be faithful to my God, and the mission He has entrusted to me.
More important than what I do is the reason behind why I do them. The motivation and intention underlying my actions are important, besides my openness to be at home with failure and turning to God when things don’t work out the way I want it.
ii. On Experience
My experience journeying with those whom I serve has been one of feeling with them, and feeling for them – feelings of anger, frustration and helplessness over the evil and injustices around; feelings of joy and hope on possibilities; and feelings of happiness and satisfaction on the good that I have contributed.
My personal experience of God is His companionship which gives me a sense of security and calm in the midst of storms. I know what He has done, for more than I can count, for me, with me and in me. The Lord of love has reached out and touched me; He is truly my shepherd God. In the words of Robert Doran, “Who I am is a far more extensive and rich story of experiences, feelings, insights, judgements, decisions and religious commitment than what I do.”
My lived experience in the 24 years of my religious life has encompassed the good and bad, pleasant and painful, wise and foolish, all these and more have been raw materials for greater self-understanding following my reflection on them. Anthony de Mello once said, “The master was an advocate both of learning and of wisdom.” “Learning,” he said in reply to a question, “is gotten by reading books or listening to lectures. And wisdom? By reading the book that is you.”
iii. On Self
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it, “you must love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matt. 22: 37-39).
Over the years, living my life as a good Shepherd Sister has taught me that self-realisation is a starting point for responding to other human beings in a non-exploitative way. And so I try to apply this in my ministry as well.
In summary, encountering and listening to the stories of others energize me; looking at my own past, my sacred history, helps me understand its role in shaping the person that I am.
My past and present have come together, teaching me to dream for my future; to create a dream that dares me to plan, to take calculated risks, to be different, and to go beyond my fears and barriers. For I know that going beyond is the “I and Thou” experience. This knowledge alone urges me on.
~ Sr. Mercy Daniels, rgs ~