Golden Jubilee Homily 2013
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
by Anne Shepard, OSB, Prioress
Our community of Mount St. Scholastica continues the theme of With Grateful Hearts as we open this week of celebration of our sesquicentennial, which includes the presence of our Brazilian sisters and sisters from our daughter houses, welcoming the family of Wangiri Maathai, gathering for the tenth anniversary of Keeler Center in Kansas City, telling our history to one another, and more. This morning we are gathered from rural towns and big cities to express a special message of gratitude to five strong women who said yes fifty years ago to God’s invitation to commit to a life of love and service to this community.
The readings this morning are so appropriate for a golden jubilee. The prophet Isaiah describes God’s maternal love for us: “Oh that you may suck fully of the milk of her comfort, that you may nurse with delight at her abundant breast! . . . As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms and fondled in her lap; as a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” Sucking from a breast, sitting and being hugged on a lap: these are strong images of a mother God, of a God who loves us. Sisters Ann, Barbara, Angela, Rosann, and Fran all had strong mothers. Some were strong Irish women and some strong Germans. Their strength was not only physical in some cases, but also in being Church where they were, being women of action on behalf of the Gospel. They made sure that their children were fed the Word of God as well as good homemade pies and breads. Our five jubilarians model God’s maternal love as they affirm others, literally feed others, laugh and cry, stay physically fit, and lend comfort wherever God places them.
In the second reading St. Paul asks us to glory in the cross of Our Lord. We Mount sisters began our 150th year by having a retreat last summer given by Australian Sister Margaret Malone. She set the tone for us as we meditated on our Benedictine vision of the spiritual life. One of her main references used in her conferences was Benedictine Greg Collins’s book, Meeting Christ in His Mysteries. Collins tells us, “In the agony of Jesus it was not his physical death or cruel sufferings as such that pleased God, but the depth of love and readiness for obedience to God’s will that his death signified.” Furthermore, he says, “the cross teaches us that our common human experience of community can be but a small reflection in this world of the light of the Trinity; but thanks to the cross we also learn that self-giving love, taken up by God can be taken infinitely further. Freely chosen self-sacrifice for the good of others was the medium chosen by God to show us that love—the rhythm of give and take pulsating perpetually at the heart of the Trinity is the hidden heart of all reality. The cross is the measure given by God to help us transform our human being—together. Each person is so utterly present to and transparent to the others that the light of each can shine through all.” We return here to the image of a human heart beating for us, pulsating perpetually, a heart full of
love as we who are in community, who are wedded to a life in the Trinity, are light to others.
In the gospel just proclaimed, we heard that Jesus sent seventy two out on mission. Now only Luke says seventy-two. Supposedly, we are told in a footnote from the gospel study guide to the Little Rock Study Bible, seventy-two is a symbolic number. “It is likely connected to Moses’ choice of seventy elders to share his work with the community or to the number of countries supposed to inhabit the earth.” But for those of us in large families, two more makes a big difference because we had to divide everything evenly. Remember? We perpetually professed members of this community were sent to the vineyard, often on two-sister missions, where the harvest was rich and the laborers few. Belgian theologian Lucien Cefaux, a biblical advisor at the Second Vatican Council, in his commentary on this gospel defines our vocation as one that is “to work in the kingdom of God. There are so many troubles in our world. There are physical troubles—which someday may be overcome. But moral troubles—who bothers about that? Disoriented lives, lack of ideals, deliberate denial of all ideals, the dreadful absence of God—who cares about that? It is our job. We must not wait for someone else. We are beginning the mission of the apostles all over again, as if nothing had ever been done. . . . Let us not stop. . . . There is always time to begin again and again.”
The five sisters, Ann, Barbara, Angela, Rosann, and Fran, have each worked tirelessly to build the kingdom of God. All have worked to make right the lives of those who are disoriented or disenfranchised. They have served the poor in concrete ways, by living at a Catholic Worker house, by serving at Donnelly, a college in the heart of Kansas City, Kansas, a place founded by our community in 1949 to meet the needs of urban immigrants and the working class, with special focus on "those who might not other-wise be served." They serve as pastoral workers in the parishes in Wyandotte County, one of the poorest counties in our state. They taught in large elementary schools and small ones, in the country and in the suburbs. They serve at Keeler Women Center, our most recent ministry that focuses on empowering women in the urban core of Kansas City through education, advocacy, personal and spiritual development.
These five sisters are so Gospel-oriented and so very Benedictine. This class has the reputation of being members that are generous and hospitable, given to simple living and concern for the poor, faithful to prayer, and present to community. They have had crosses to bear and have done so valiantly.
Finally, all gathered here today join the psalmist crying out to God with joy. We see the works of God, the tremendous deeds he has inspired you to do. God has not refused you, ever, nor will God. Let us rejoice forever!