Reflection for the Perpetual Profession of Sister Jennifer Halling
Deborah Peters, OSB | May 14, 2022
Hosea 14:2-10; John 13:31, 33a, 34, 35
“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad” (Psalm 118:24 NRSV).
We have cause to celebrate. We are receiving a new member into our community and we are filled with joy.
The readings for tonight’s liturgy not only invite us to turn to the Lord, they show us the way. Hosea says “ . . . take words with you… the fruit of your lips… to plead to the Lord for mercy… for healing and for love. There is no help for us anywhere else. We trust God’s word. Hosea tells us we shall again live beneath God’s shadow and flourish as a garden, for God says, “It is I who answer and look after you.” He adds “I am like an evergreen cypress; your fruit comes from me.”
And what a perfect gospel for this feast. It is the Last Supper, a gift that Jesus gives those he loves. In fact, he gives his love, his hopes, his dreams, his life. He is preparing his disciples to form a new church and a new community, one that will be guided by a new commandment “… that you love one another. Just as I have loved you so, you also should love one another.” He wants us to care for one another. He speaks to his “children,” asking them to imitate him.
Just so does St. Benedict speak to his children saying, “Listen carefully, my child, to the instructions of your master, and incline the ear of your heart, cheerfully receive and faithfully put in practice the advice of a loving parent…”(Sutera 1).
Such is Benedict’s invitation to the one who seeks God. Now, after years of studying and living the monastic life, it can be said that the one who seeks God is ready to accept the way of the gospel as a goal and the Rule of St. Benedict as a guide. Tomorrow, when Jennifer makes her monastic profession, she will bring all her experiences, her talents, her dreams, and her life to the community. She brings her family, her friends, her education, her various occupations, her experiences at Shantivanam, her work with prisoners and more—much much more. She is a part of all she has met, and she will step beyond that to another milestone in her search for God. Further, as she stands before the altar and sings three times “Receive me, O Lord, and I shall live, disappoint me not in my hope,” the Sisters will, in an age-old ritual, echo those words, giving honor to their own monastic profession and to hers.
Our community members have other ways of offering support to our new members. One of those is a part of tonight’s liturgy. Jennifer will receive each Sister’s individual promise of support. This is not insignificant, for it is a life-long promise, one that each of us counts on, an act of following Jesus’s commandment, that we love one another just as he has loved us.