Celebrating Assumption day reminds us always of the life of Mary and Mother Elisabeth in their intimate union with God. These two women, who had big roles and became models for us as religious, continue to inspire and challenge us.
A year ago, together, we reflected the images of these two women in our lives. Their spirituality was very simple: both heard the word of God and put them into action. Mary was chosen by God in order to realize through her the work of salvation. This required a ‘Yes’. Without her free and total cooperation, nothing would have happened. She heard the Angel’s greeting: “… you are highly favoured among women….the Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28). Her childlike faith and response to the angel’s message: “… behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38). In the case of Mother Elisabeth, seeing the situation of her surroundings and after many years of silent supplication, entrusted her desires to God: “… my faith grew deeper and my hope stronger and a burning love attended by sweet tears granted me a peaceful rest…; and suddenly I heard the blessed “yes” from Heaven and that ‘yes’ was no other than this: “all things will come” (EG 6). Their ‘Yes’ changed their life forever. They were firmed and able to overcome the trials encountered daily because of God’s faithfulness and love to them and their personal response to Him (mystical experience).
As we go on, let us call to mind our individual ‘Yes’, the moment particularly when we answered His invitation to enter the convent. The first ‘Yes’ we uttered during our first profession in the midst of our sisters, families and the faithful people. Then recall also our daily response to Him from that moment, and the many inspirations and challenges as we lived-by our life.
This time we will continue our reminiscence of these two women in our life, taking into consideration their journey of faith and put emphasis now on the responses through their deeds/action: their Prophetic Journey. From their intense experience of the Father, they come out with a sense of mission from Him and express it in a life of compassionate service.
When Mary said her ‘yes’ to the invitation of God through the Angel and when Mother Elisabeth started the Congregation, both women faced challenges on their day to day life. Theirs was not a life free from stress. Let us journey with Mary when she was with Jesus, following him, his beloved son on the way as if He was her mission. She was always there with him even when sometimes she did not understand the responses and reactions of Jesus like when she and Joseph were looking for him: “Son why have you treated us like this?…..I have been anxiously searching for you” (Lk 2:48) and the answer of the twelve years old Jesus to her, “…did you not know that I was in my father’s house?” (Lk 2:49). Sometimes you need not say many things but just to keep quiet as Mary did. In the wedding at Cana: “…woman, why do you involve me…..my time has not yet come.” (Jn 2:4) but Mary continued, “….do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). There were many other instances in the Bible relating Mary’s deep relationship with the Father as she journeyed with Jesus and how she was challenged along the way. How would she felt then being with Jesus on his way to crucifixion and then to resurrection? She pondered all these in her heart as she entrusted everything to God. Her communion with Him makes her response to His will according to the signs of the time. This made her faith grow stronger.
Mother Elisabeth’s life too was not always a bed of roses. There were always a fight between the ego and the will of God. She too experienced being humiliated “… van Vloten …flung a scornful remarks at me….” (EG 110), downtrodden with the experienced in Sittard when “… several sisters have been relieved or moved….” (EG 158), but also felt grateful and happy “. .. the number of sisters were increasing as well as the various works of Charity. Daily experience and a great desire for spiritual progress that went with it… as we were blessed daily by the invisible hand of God” (EG 63). We got an image from her life story that she was always in communion with God for whatever actions she did and put her trust in Him. She was always in consultation to whatever decisions and actions she was making.
Possibly, you too experienced a colourful life since the last time you answered His invitation. You have seen your dreams made a detour. The future looks different as what was planned by you. You need to recognize that your prophetic walk with God is a unique journey. Like Mary, you will have period of prophetic disclosure; time of desolation; weariness; time of ministerial success, etc. All of them seemingly lead to the cross and to the death of all things you hold dear. Are you willing to continue to sacrifice yourself in order to make God’s plan a reality in you?
Mary and Mother Elisabeth were totally certain that in order to live in a balance way, prayer and action must be in harmony. Prayer separated from action can create an illusion of sanctity. It can be a form of avoidance. Action separated from prayer is superficial. Spirituality is at its best when there is a mutual and vital balance between prayer and action. How is this being transpired in our realities today?
Let us see our world which is for the past years and up to this time is facing financial crisis. We heard that many companies and institutions were suffering. News like workers being laid off from their jobs, crimes, robberies, etc. are the effects of it. These are all part of the system that if one is “not in order” the rest are affected. There is chaos around. This fact affected our Congregation as well. We are asked to unite ourselves to find a way out to respond to this reality individually, communally and as a Congregation as a whole. In a concrete way, this involves a re-evaluation of our lifestyles and the abandoning of our individualistic attitude. Areas and units are asked to unite together and find ways together to do something in this situation.
In 2010, we held our first international meeting for all the treasurers and their board in all the areas where our sisters are. We discussed and discerned together the financial crisis that affected our congregation. Last month, from July 1 to 18, a second gathering of all the treasurers and their board of the areas and units, as well as the sisters who serve in financial department in their apostolic ministry were called again. This time we gathered to strengthen and deepened in a concrete way our being steward in order to face our present and future situation of the Congregation.
Like Mary, our prophetic voice must be heard if we are to “bring down the powerful from their thrones and lift up the lowly” (Lk 1:52). In speaking the prophetic word, we hold together the task of re-evaluating, energizing and invite the sisters in the Areas to see/confront and find ways together to uplift our situations. Everyone is challenged to be a good steward as we go about how to improve our resources. We also not forget to help the people we live and work with. The call is to let everyone experience the outpouring love of God. Hopefully our prophetic word and action can let people experience the caring and gracious presence of God in their lives, everyone to whom we have given to care for in our life through the apostolate of the Congregation.
As followers of Mary and Mother Elisabeth, we have to be conscious and develop the pilgrimage of our life from contemplation to action. We have to start anew down the road.
Happy feast day to you all!