by Sister Pushpa Teresa Gomes,CSC
This reflection was given at the Jubilee celebration on July 15, 2018 at the Church of Our Lady of Loretto at Saint Mary’s in Notre Dame, Indiana.
Today is a day of joy, a day of rejoicing!
It is the Jubilee, the Jubilee of our Sisters celebrating 25 and 50 years of commitment, of saying yes to God’s call.
Our Sister jubilarians, their family and friends and many of our community sisters and regular participants in this church are present here to celebrate this event. There is a deep feeling of gratitude within each of us! A gratitude to God for all God’s love and graciousness to us and especially to all our jubilarians.
The word “jubilee” is derived from Hebrew (yovēl), which means ram’s horn, presumably because a ram’s horn trumpet was originally used to proclaim the event, as it was done today at the beginning of Mass to proclaim the jubilee. The Latin word jūbilaeus is from iūbilō, means “I shout for joy,” So Jubilee is “a time of celebration or a time for rejoicing.”
As we look at the readings of today they are very apt for the occasion of the day. All three of them speak about vocations, God’s call and the responses to the call. The first reading (Amos 7:12-15) talks about the call of Amos to be a prophet. The second reading tells us that God has chosen us before the foundation of the world. And in the Gospel, Jesus calls the twelve and sends them out.
As I reflected on these three readings, I found the call of the three vows and the prominent themes of proclamation, service and thanksgiving: in the first reading a call to obedience and to proclaim, in the gospel reading a call to the vow of poverty and of service, and in the second reading a call to the vow of celibacy/chastity and of thanksgiving.
In the first reading Amos is called to prophesy to the people of Judah. God chose him and called him to be a prophet. In obedience, Amos responded to God. God chose Amos, because God knew that Amos was able to care and nurture growth to bring the people of Judah to God’s ways and to fullness of life. Though Amaziah, priest of Bethel, sarcastically calls Amos a visionary, nonetheless, the prophet is a visionary.
A visionary to put forth the vision of God, to give witness to God’s love and tender care through his or her life. One cannot claim to be a prophet of their own. Prophets are chosen by God and sent by God. They are on fire to proclaim God’s mission and uphold God’s vision as was prophet Amos.
Our jubilarians, each one of them was chosen by God and was called by God. And in obedience they have responded to God’s call, for 25 and for 50 years; they have lived their lives for God to proclaim and to give witness to God’s mission and uphold God’s vision. At times, it has not been easy for them to carry out this mission and vision, but they have been faithful with their whole being.
In the gospel reading, Jesus called the twelve and sent them out two by two. They were to be with Jesus and learn from him. He gave them power over unclean spirits and instructed them not to take anything for their journey but only a walking stick! No food, no sack, no money in their belts!
Can we imagine this in today’s context, even in those days, it would not be possible to go somewhere empty-handed. What is it that we really need for the journey today? What did Jesus expect them to do without having anything in their hands?
If we look deeply into this reading, what do we find? We find here the deeper meaning of the vow of poverty and a call to serve with one’s whole being. Jesus did not give them material things, nor did Jesus expect his disciples to give away material things. Instead, Jesus gave them power! The power to drive out evil and to establish good.
If we look around us, in our world today, there is so much evil and selfishness. On our own, we can do nothing. We need Jesus’ power to overcome the evil that is around us. Jesus told them to stay at the house where they enter first and share their peace! If anyone did not welcome them, they were to shake the dust off their feet to testify against them. What does it mean to us to stay where we “enter first” and “to shake the dust off,” in a place where we are not welcomed?
In my reflection, the first place we and our jubilarians have entered, is the heart of Jesus. We are called to remain there throughout our whole lives. The dusting of the feet indicates to me to shake off any of the bitterness, rejection, unforgiveness and any negative feelings from our hearts, so we can embrace Jesus’ peace and power as we go about doing his mission as Jesus’ disciples did.
The stories of Amos and the twelve whom Jesus sent out are the stories of our jubilarians who were captivated by Jesus, who allowed themselves to be chosen and changed into more than they ever thought they could be. For that to happen, they had to be willing to leave their sycamores, sheep and seashore. More importantly they allowed their hearts to be vulnerable to the touch of God, who offers endless possibilities.
The second reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians is one long prayer of thanks to God for having chosen us to participate in Christ’s life and the hope He brings. This prayer fits between the stories of Amos and the apostles as a reminder that we share their call. Paul says that God “chose us in Christ to be holy.”
Paul reminds us that we have been chosen since “before the foundation of the world.” The overarching theme of this blessing is thanksgiving for God’s gifts to us in and through Christ. Meditating on this reading, we can refresh our own faith. We could ask ourselves: what would be different about our lives, if we did not know Christ or participate in the Christian community?
What spiritual blessings have we received? What does it mean to you to believe that you have been chosen by God?
Reading and reflecting on this blessing, phrase by phrase, and applying it to our own individual and communal lives offers us the opportunity to deepen our communion with God, with one another and with those who have gone before us!
Pope Francis, in his letter “Rejoice,” to the consecrated men and women says, “Wherever consecrated people are, there is always joy!” In his recent Apostolic Exhortation, “Gaudete Et Exsultate” Pope Francis says that “happy” and blessed” become synonymous with “holy”.
We gain true happiness by faithful practice of the Beatitudes. We can only practice them if the Holy Spirit fills us with his power and frees us from our weakness, selfishness, complacency and pride.
He describes each of the Beatitudes:
- “Being poor of heart: that is holiness.”
- “Reacting with meekness and humility: that is holiness.”
- “Knowing how to mourn with others: that is holiness.”
- “Hungering and thirsting for righteousness: that is holiness.”
- “Seeing and acting with mercy: that is holiness.”
- “Keeping a heart free of all that tarnishes love: that is holiness.”
- “Sowing peace all around us: that is holiness.”
- “Accepting daily the path of the Gospel, even though it may cause us problems: that is holiness.”
“Those who really wish to give glory to God by their lives, who truly long to grow in holiness are called to be single-minded and tenacious in their practice of the work of mercy. People today certainly need words, but above all they need a witness to the mercy and tenderness of the Lord, which inflames the heart, awakens hope, and appeals to the good. The joy of bringing the consolation of God to all people.”
Pope Francis reminds us that we are all entrusted with this mission: find the Lord, who comforts us like a mother, and comfort the people of God.
From the joy of meeting the Lord and his call flows the service in the Church’s mission: to bring men and women of our time the consolation of God, to bear witness to his mercy.
This is what we celebrate as we recognize and honor our jubilarians today!
Let us go forth rejoicing!