Sister Mary Christopher of the Child Jesus
Diamond Jubilee Mass
Holy Spirit Monastery
16th August, 2019
Isaiah 61:9-11; 1 Peter 1:3-9 Gospel: Matthew 11:25-30.
Today is a day of jubilee, a day of rejoicing, for we are celebrating a 60 years of the consecrated life of Sister Mary Christopher of the Child Jesus. What a witness to commitment and fidelity! Sixty years ago, Sister Christopher professed her first vows of religious consecration – poverty, chastity and obedience.
Today is then also a day of thanksgiving – that interior attitude that cannot but take shape in a soul who realizes, with increasing clarity as the years go by, the utter gratuity of God’s merciful love. The slow acquisition of wisdom leads us to understand that we merit nothing on our own; we neither created ourselves nor can we redeem ourselves. That we know for sure. Yet, in his infinite goodness, the Lord has enabled you, Sister, to do great things for him as an instrument of his love and as a steward of his mercy. He chose you to bear lasting fruit and that, for sixty years, you have been doing.
Yes, we are grateful to the Lord for choosing you to live the consecrated life. We are likewise grateful to you for saying “yes,” not just once many years ago, but day after day in those successive little fiats – and occasional larger ones – that thread themselves like beads that make up the rosary of life. Moreover, we thank the Lord, too, for the many blessings, your fidelity and generosity have brought to the people for whom you have prayed and those you have served.
Whatever one’s vocation, it is seized and lived anew every day. God’s choosing, his calling out, his searching of us demands a daily response. Each of us has his or her own history of this “inexpressible dialogue” between God and the person, between the love of God who calls us forth and our freedom to respond lovingly to him.
In fact, our first reading from the Book of Isiah reminds us that the Good News that Jesus proclaimed drew deeply on his heritage and brought the message of Isaiah to fulfilment. I am sure that Sister Christopher in her time in prayer has situated herself in this long history, savouring how throughout the history of humankind, God promises goodness to His people.
The first letter of St Peter begins in the usual way with a kind of prayer, which is full of hope. Christian hope is not just wishful thinking; it is an utter conviction of what is going to be realised. Here there is a guarantee of an “imperishable inheritance” to which all can look forward to with faith and confidence. The basis of that hope is the resurrection of Jesus, St Peter, who himself had a personal knowledge of Jesus, is presented here as praising the readers of the letter, who, “although you have never seen him, you love him, and without seeing him, you now believe in him”. Joy and consolation should be the over-riding experience of the committed follower of Jesus. This joy and consolation is not taken away by our experience of hardships and disappointments in our lives. Quite the contrary.
Joy is the deeper part of our Christian experience, and Religious are witnesses to that joy brought about by that encounter with Jesus, that abiding in the presence of his love.
Then in what must be one of the most beautiful texts of the gospel, Jesus bares his soul: he speaks of his unique relationship to the Father and of his deep desire to embrace us in our weakness and weariness. We listen attentively to these words as we become aware that our weariness is the door into the gentle mercy of Jesus. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
What a beautiful invitation from Jesus! This passage is worth reading over and over and memorizing so that it can easily be reflected upon during those more difficult moments in life. We all have those moments. The moments when we feel overwhelmed and burdened. It could be we are burdened by some tragedy in life, or it could be we are burdened by the small and monotonous aspects of life. Nevertheless, whatever the case may be, Jesus wants us to hear and believe these words. “Come to me…” He says. Come to me no matter what is going on in your life. Come to me without hesitation and without fear.
Jesus also promises us that His “yoke is easy” and His “burden is light.” What does that mean? Does it mean that coming to Jesus will remove all hardship from our lives? No, not really. What it means is that coming to Jesus will enable us to endure and walk through any hardship we encounter in life.
Jesus, the miracle worker, invites us to learn from him, for he is gentle and humble of heart. We let this invitation linger in our hearts. Dear Sister Christopher, sisters and friends: Let us reflect, today, upon this gentle and glorious invitation from Jesus. Let Him enter into whatever it is that burdens you. Let Him carry the yoke that you carry and give you, instead, the gentle yoke He has prepared for you. The cross you bear may not go away, but it will be transformed and made light in His grace.
We congratulate all the sisters for their ongoing powerful spiritual presence among us. Contemplative life brings about a tremendous spiritual flowering in the Church and the graces that God has given through this community of Poor Clares are many fold and beautiful.
We are all beneficiaries; we are all on the receiving end of God’s love. That is why our own love can be fruitful. Sister Christopher of the Child Jesus, that is why you have been graced to accomplish such great things with your 60 years of consecrated life: why you have been an instrument of his joy in the world.
We pray that you will continue to surrender your life and all that you are to Jesus. You have continued for 60 years to accept His invitation to come to Him. With you, dear Sister, we thank Jesus for his unfailing love and compassion, and we join with you and your sisters to celebrate your diamond jubilee of faith, trust and commitment!