Our Lady of Carmel, the encounter with Jesus in “the suffering flesh of our brothers and sisters”
Amid the frenzy of everyday life, the search for the meaning of life takes place. Those who reach Mount Carmel, like the prophet Elijah, serve as an example. God's quest for happiness “is so important and all-consuming that some persons are ready to give up literally everything for this”. “Not all of us are called to climb up a faraway mountain; but all of us can try to make a little space for silence in our hearts to allow the voice of the Lord to reach us.” Helping the neediest is a way to meet Jesus, as Mary did at the foot of the Cross.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The House of Charity is a home (not a convent). It is a family, where children and adults with physical and mental difficulties are cared for,” said one of the seven nuns who provide the service for “the weakest with care, love, and dedication”.
“We have the support of the parish community and we are a family like many others. All seven nuns live together with the 29 men, women children, old and young, who cannot live on their own. They do not live in separate quarters. They all have one common kitchen. The youngest girl is a 12 years old; the youngest boy is now 13 years old. He came to the House of Charity when he was only three months old”.
Below we publish the nun’s reflection for the feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, on 16 July. She chose to remain anonymous.
Our lives are generally quite busy: family, work, school, parish; the flurry of activities fill our days, and at times, a good part of our nights as well. Such a life involves routine worry and weariness.
What can we do? The feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16 can provide light and inspiration. This feast has its roots in the 12th century when people were questioning themselves, searching for meaning in their lives in the midst of their problems and difficulties. The answer they found was quite radical: they led everything and went to live in a special place which helped them realise what was really essential for a fulfilled life. The place was Mount Carmel, a beautiful hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, where the prophet Elijah, centuries ago, met and spoke with God.
This meeting with God changed his life forever, giving him strength, courage, direction and power. It answered the deep questions of his heart. The 12th century seekers followed in the footsteps of this great prophet, aware that their choice was quite demanding, drawing inspiration from a person who knew something about the meaning of life. They took Our Lady as their patroness.
This way, Mary acquired one more beautiful Title – Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It added to the garland of names her devotees weaved for her through the centuries. The feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel invites us closer to the rich experience and journey of all spiritual seekers: the prophet Elijah, the first hermits of Mount Carmel (fathers of the present Carmelites) and most of all, Mary. Looking up to them, we begin to experience joy that will not be carried away by the inconveniences of daily life.
It is in God that one finds an everlasting joy! So, our life becomes a continuous, loving and exciting search for God. This search is so important and all-consuming that some persons are ready to give up literally everything for this, spending their life forever in the silence of the cloister. The Carmelite nuns live this special call and experience that God is, in truth, everything. The feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel helps us to remember that the experience of meeting God can happen in our daily, busy lives.
Mary experienced the love of God, who longs to meet and care for us, His children. She experienced it with such strength to become His mother. Now she invites and encourages us to walk along the path of prayer, one step at me. Not all of us are called to climb up a faraway mountain; but all of us can try to make a little le space for silence in our hearts to allow the voice of the Lord to reach us.
In that interior place, we can treasure His Word, so richly gifted to us in the Liturgy, in the celebration of the Mass and in the Bible. We can enjoy the presence of Jesus strongly and effectively communicated to us through the Sacraments. We also discover that Jesus is waiting to meet us in our brothers and sisters, especially those most suffering and most forgotten. Being close to the sick, lonely, handicapped, poor, exploited, deprived… is to be like Mary, standing at the foot of the Cross. In the suffering flesh of our brothers and sisters continues the passion of Jesus.
There is a special place where the voice of the Lord resonates strongly, where we can meet him in flesh and blood. It is in our brothers and sisters. Once we hear this voice in our hearts, we will be able to find it, recognise it everywhere, sometimes in the most unexpected and difficult situations.
(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this article)