Reflection for the Perpetual Profession of Sister Ironide
January 24, 2016
Sister Anne Shepard  

Today is holy to the Lord your God.  Rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength.

 These words from the prophet Nehemiah set the tone for us today as we rejoice with Sister Ironide and her family on this sacred occasion of her making final profession as a vowed Benedictine sister.  Unlike the prophet in the reading, I cannot imagine Sister Ironide standing high on a platform above all the people.  She is way too shy and reserved for that.  But we do know that she knows, understands and willingly proclaims the word of God in her manner, words and catechetical teaching.  Sister has lived in the community of Benedictine sisters for nine years.  She has studied the Rule, monastic tradition and Sacred Scripture.  Like the prophet Nehemiah, She knows the words of the law of God.  When people work hard to accomplish a great goal, the temptation is to want to stop and rest. God's people should stop and celebrate victories, just as Nehemiah and his people did; but we must also remember that God is never finished with us. After we give thanks to God for bringing us to a new place on our journey, then we must turn again to God in prayer asking, "What, now, is your will for us?" It is time for revisioning.

We are always on a journey with God. We rest for a brief time, but we do not stop. We keep seeking the new land that God is calling us to discover. God always has something new for us to do. We cannot become what God wants us to be by remaining what we are.  Psychologists tell us that change is hard and the only ones who really love change are young babies getting dry diapers

We know that doing God's will should not be a burden or source of sorrow.  On the contrary, walking in the path of God should bear the fruits of joy and happiness.  This is the sentiment behind the remarks of Jesus that "my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matt 11:30)" Sister Ironide, you will be finishing the phase of initial formation.  God is calling you to something new and we do not know yet what that is.  What we do know is that your sisters in community here and in the United States,  family, friends and coworkers will see a woman respond with the virtues of joy and happiness that are signs of who you are to us.

The second reading is (so) easy to understand from the view of one who is a professional tailor.  Imagine sewing a shirt and forgetting to add one of the sleeves, or a panel in the back, or half of the buttons, or the zipper in a pair of slacks.  We need all of the parts for the article of clothing to be complete.  Each part has a special place.  So it is in Christ.  We are all part of the same body, whether Jews or Greeks, Brazilians or North Americans, Christian or Muslim, prisoners or free, not only are we all one, we need each other.  That is the message here for us today.  We need the health of the whole.  When my big toe hurts my whole body hurts.  When I have a tooth ache I'm in a bad mood because it affects my whole disposition.  So it is in the church.  When one is hurting all of us are.  You know that so well here in this church.  I have been coming here these past ten years.   I know that you in this parish are community.  You care for the sick and the poor, the special needs of families in times of sorrow and tragedy.  You also know how to celebrate feasts and special occasions like today.  You were all baptized into the Lord and were given to drink of the same Spirit, the Spirit of Christ.

That same generous and loving spirit is what the prophet Isaiah said and Jesus is reciting to the people as written in the gospel of Luke.  "I come to bring good news to the poor, freedom to captives, sight to the blind."  And Who are the poor among us?  Who are those who are neglected or shunned, or imprisoned or without shoes or the necessities of life??  Who are those needing to be freed: the addicted,  the ones bound by past hurts and losses, those who think they have power and chose to be served rather than serve?  These people need the good news.  We all need to be that good news.

And finally, Saint Luke reiterates what that God is proclaiming a year acceptable to the Lord.  Our Holy Father Francis proclaimed this year to be a year of mercy.  In his letter to the people of the world, The Face of Mercy, Pope Francis suggests that when we die and go to meet our God, we will be asked “if  we helped others to escape the doubt that causes them to fall into despair and that is often the source of loneliness; if we have helped to overcome the ignorance in which millions of people live, especially children deprived of the necessary means to free them from the bonds of poverty; if we have been close to the lonely and afflicted; if we have forgiven those who have offended us and have rejected all forms of anger and hate that lead to violence; if we have had the kind of patience God shows, who is patient with us; and if we have commended our brothers and sisters to the Lord in prayer.”  Furthermore the holy father says:  “mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope.” 

Today we definitely look to the future with hope.  Thank you Sister Ironide for sparking that hope.