Holy Cross feast days call for reflection on suffering, courage and transforming love

Sisters of the Holy Cross 2019 General Chapter
© Sisters of the Holy Cross, 2018

by Sister M. Veronique (Wiedower), CSC

This Reflection after the Word was shared on the Solemnity of Our Lady of Sorrows, September 15, 2018, at the Church of Our Lady of Loretto, Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana.

This week as we celebrate the titular and patronal feasts of Holy Cross, we do so from the distinct perspective of a wounded Church and suffering world. While suffering is not new to us, the fact that it so clearly touches our Church as we reel from the ongoing revelations of abuse, that it touches our neighbors far and near who are enduring the pain of natural disaster, war, ill health, forced separation from children and homelands, makes the hearing of God’s Word take on new meaning and calls us to resolute action on behalf of the Church and the peoples of our world.

The liturgy offers us a reading from the book of Judith. Judith lived during a time of persecution and chaos in Jewish history. She is a widow, a woman without status, and she is a woman of prayer who awakened one day with her disciple-ear to hear the cry of the poor. She cried out to God with them and heard God’s question: Whom shall I send? She accepts God’s invitation to risk everything to save her people and responds, “Send me.” Judith, like Mary, stood at the cross of suffering and believed that the promises made to her would be fulfilled. She believed in her God and she believed in herself. She became convinced that she had a part to play in God’s mission. She risked all, and her name is forever remembered and blessed.

The 2019 General Chapter logo unveiled this week portrays four women, icons of sisters who serve in our four Area continents. Their feet are firmly rooted in the world even as they look forward and upward and embrace the cosmos in their outstretched arms. However, these could just as truly image four diverse persons trapped in the swirling chaos of the world and who lift up their eyes and hands in petition, looking for assistance, looking for a way to be set free. We are both. The people of the world among whom we serve are both.

The theme of the Chapter, “Transforming Love: for the life of the world,” has called us to reflect on the signs of our times, and to pray for the Spirit’s wisdom to know what we are called to be and do as Sisters of the Holy Cross. Today we stand at the foot of the cross of so many wronged and hurting people. We stand in solidarity with Mary, Our Compassionate Mother, and ask for the courage and strength of faith to witness, not only in prayer and word, but by our actions for justice, so that those who suffer will know they are not alone. We pray for the inclusive love of the crucified Jesus, who reached out in forgiveness to the repentant thief and promised paradise.

If we remain faithful to God, believing in ourselves and our invitation to be God’s love for the life of the world; if we do not hesitate to risk our lives to relieve the oppression of the wronged and hurting peoples of our time, the words of Judith can become the song-prayer of generations to come after us: “Praise God who has not withdrawn divine mercy from the cosmos, but has shattered oppression by the hands of these people this very day.”

God, give us courageous hearts to live in hope in this time of darkness, and give strength to our spirits, so that like Judith and Mary, we may be steadfast in our resolve to be healing, reconciling, transforming love for the life of the world.