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Reflection after the Word—Jubilee 2019

posted in: Jubilee, spirituality

This reflection was given at the Jubilee celebration on July 21, 2019, at the Church of Our Lady of Loretto, Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana.

by Sister M. Veronique (Wiedower), CSC

Sister M. Veronique (Wiedower), CSC
Sister M. Veronique (Wiedower), CSC

Pope Francis has said that it is the vocation of all Christians to serve the church with freedom, creativity and hard work. Today’s celebration highlights the faithful, creative and enduring work of nine women whose vowed commitment totals 425 years of service to God’s people around the world. These women come from a long line of pioneering and strong Sisters of the Holy Cross; and as shown in today’s readings, these jubilarians and all of us stand on the shoulders of an even longer line of women and men whose faith in God’s promises has endured. Like Saint Paul, these jubilarians have spent their lives on behalf of Christ’s body, the church, encouraging, teaching and modeling with all the wisdom they possess the transforming love God has for all creation.

Like Sarah, the wife of Abraham, and Martha and Mary of Bethany, cherished friends of Jesus, the stories of our jubilarians are intertwined in the creative and unfolding mystery of God’s promise to be with us in love every day of our lives. With Sarah, we learn that no matter our gifts or weaknesses, no matter our age, we have a vital part to play in the Reign of God.

When we hear today of Sarah remaining hidden in the tent while her husband Abraham is busy entertaining the three strangers, we might be tempted to see her as weak or fragile. Yet here is a woman who accompanied her husband on a dangerous and lengthy trek with only the promise of God that to leave hearth and home would bear fruit in a new homeland and descendants beyond counting. Can we blame Sarah—who has lived into her old age on a thin wisp of a divine promise heard long ago—for laughing to herself at the strangers’ forecast? Have you ever heard an invitation to newness or generativity and thought, “Who, me?” “Why couldn’t I have been invited to this years ago when I had more energy, more time, better mobility?” 

Yet Sarah’s life and faith teach us that our vocation is at heart one of collaboration with the creative and evolving life of God in the world. Then our lives, like Sarah’s, become generative and we learn we need not fear the future, nor grow cynical with what is. We find that words, even if spoken by complete strangers, can reveal God’s heart once again to those whose hope has grown thin. We need only practice the hospitality of an Abraham and Sarah or of a Martha and Mary. In their generosity, each of them, like our jubilarians, learned where home really is; that home is where the heart is.  

Martha has great homemaking skills but instead of putting her heart into the work, she is burdened by it. Jesus does not chide her for working, but for not being happy and at home in her work for him. Mary’s work that day was to give her whole attention, her whole heart to listening to Jesus. Mary’s interaction with Jesus produces for her a synergy, an energy, a transforming love. Blessed Basil Anthony Moreau refers to this synergy we create and receive in working with God and others as zeal. Zeal is that attitude of the heart which rescues frenetic activity and makes it generative. Zeal is less about what, or how much we do, than it is about the quality of our presence in our work, how we practice hospitality.

Some key characteristics of hospitable people are that they are flexible, resilient, compassionate and open to God’s future with an eye to living justly. Our jubilarians have shown flexibility, resilience and compassion as they have engaged in diverse ministries. They have traveled to foreign lands, written inspiring stories of our history, worked with lepers, taught children, engaged with the poor and outcasts of societies, prayed with and for others, and opened minds and hearts to the love of God. Father Moreau encouraged: “Your whole life should have only one purpose, that is, assimilating more and more the thoughts, judgments, desires, words and actions of Jesus Christ.”  The example of our jubilarians confirms for us that in conforming our lives to the pattern of Christ, we expose our world to myriad, beautiful and unique ways of incarnating God’s transforming love. 

I thank God for the lives of these resilient and compassionate women, and for the countless women and men who have shown us the way home by their hospitable lives and zealous service. May the peals of the jubilee trumpet sound in our hearts each day as we serve the needs of Christ’s body until that day when the trumpet heralds an eternal jubilee.