Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 24, 2021
One person dominates my thoughts as I reflect on today’s Gospel. It isn’t Jesus, Who is obviously the central character in every Gospel story. The importance of His very significant walk along a sea shore; beach combing for Apostles, is certainly of huge importance. Especially so, during these first weeks of Ordinary Time, when there is much to be learned about discipleship. But, it seems Jesus has stepped to the side, directing my attention elsewhere.
Nor am I focused on Peter, Andrew, James or John, who were drawn from their work by a magnetic force way too powerful to resist. Who could possibly say “no” to an invitation delivered by “The Voice” so filled with peace and joy and love?
Whenever, I am working with this particular passage, I often find myself imagining the reaction of the abandoned father and hired hand, left with so much unfinished work. Not so this time.
The same, peaceful, joy filled and loving voice that drew four fishermen from their work, has invited Sr. Laurene Burns, O S.C. “to follow!” Early Saturday morning, January 16, the powerful force of infinite love, drew her spirit from her earthly body, carrying her into the presence of our God, to Whom she had committed, the entirety of her 92 years. And so, all of the other characters in this story of “call” and “acceptance” somehow have faded into the shadows. For me, the spotlight is on Laurene.
Over the years, Laurene honored me by sharing many of the details of her life …a life of service and discipleship. So by reflecting on the story of a disciple I personally knew, I seem to have a better understanding of, and appreciation for, the drama that unfolded on the shore of the Sea of Galilee…many generations of discipleship ago.
Laurene was what we commonly refer to as a “cradle Catholic.” She was born into a devout family. In that sense, I wonder if the very first “call”…the initial invitation “to follow” was spoken even before her birth? Clearly, from the earliest age, she was formed into a “Christian” through the efforts of her parents, family and teachers. But, she quickly learned to listen for herself.
A childhood illness left her bedridden. Possibly those months of solitude helped develop her spiritual listening skills. However it came about, God gifted her with a particularly discerning spirit. She had exceptional hearing, and her ear was always directed toward “The Voice” inviting her “to follow.” She always did.
As I think back on what she shared with me about her journey, it seems that like Peter, Andrew, James and John; she was impulsive in responding to “The Voice.” There must have been times when her family and friends felt like Zebedee, as she simply dropped what she was doing, and moved on. Where is she going? What is she doing now?
But, I think that what might seem impulsive to those left behind, is actually the response to that magnetic force too powerful to resist. Even as those 4 fishermen dropped their nets…and even as Laurene put aside whatever she was about; when discerning spirits hear “The Voice” they enjoy an inner logic. They understand that there is a reason for “the call.” They make a conscious and free decision “to follow.”
There were stops along the way, when Laurene felt that she had finally arrived. She knew the Mt. Tabor kind of experience that Peter naively enjoyed when he said to The Lord…It’s good we’re here…I’ll set up camp so we can stay. There were times and places in her life when Laurene felt settled in.
However, the wisdom of Sirach 24:8 comes to mind: My Creator chose the spot for my tent. In the end, she always understood that her dwelling place was just that…a tent. When she heard “The Voice” whisper: follow me, she broke camp and moved on.
For Peter, Andrew, James and John the journey led to Jerusalem for the ultimate experience of Resurrection. The experience that at last gave meaning to their great adventure with Jesus. Laurene and her 3 traveling companions followed “The Voice” to their monastery on Shattuck Rd. in Saginaw, Michigan. Here, for many years, they have lived the life that “The Voice” first inspired in St. Clare. And now, Christ, Who invited her into a life of discipleship and service, has called her to Himself…into the Eternal life of peace and love.
Reflecting on the story of a disciple who we personally knew, often inspires a deeper understanding of what we, ourselves, are called to. From Laurene Burns, a Sister of St. Clare, I am reminded to keep my ear turned towards “The Voice” and to be willing to move. I am reminded that a life of discipleship, even when lived out in the solitude of a sick room, or within the walls of a monastery, can be the greatest of adventures. And from this Gospel, I am reminded that when we are courageous enough ”to follow” the journey ends in Easter joy.
Some of you may know this and others of you may be hearing this difficult news for the first time. Our Sister Laurene died January 16, 2021 at home with us. We had a private funeral Mass at the funeral home followed by the committal where she was laid to rest in the St. Francis of Assisi section of Mr. Olivet Cemetery in Saginaw, Michigan.
Because of age, high risks and social distancing, we missed hearing your memories of Laurene. Your memories will help ease our sorrow and also give us a chance to comfort one another. Perhaps there will be a time in the future when we can come together and celebrate the gift of Laurene’s life. Until then we hold these memories in safe keeping.
Sisters Dianne and Laura