In our Basic Letter of June last year, we invited you to make plans since we were approaching the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the death of our beloved Foundress, Mother Elisabeth. Today, the time has come for us to celebrate this special event in gratitude and joy.
Some sisters have expressed their meaning of commemorating the death of Mother Elisabeth especially now in the 150th year of her death. They found themselves confronted with the question whether they, as her followers, have already lived out her charism, vision and mission faithfully. Have they continued dreaming her dream? In what way do they share her spirituality to others? Are they worthy yet, to call themselves members of her Congregation? These questions actually apply to all of us as well, don’t they?
Dear sisters, embracing once again our CB identity has been one of the abundant fruits of this sesquicentennial commemoration. We are grateful that 150 years after her death, the Congregation is still fully alive. This strengthens our faith that death does not separate her from the beloved Lover of her heart, Jesus Christ. Her experience that love is stronger than death speaks eloquently once again here (cf EG 106). This strong belief certainly is a source of strength for us, her followers, as well. It is a strong foundation as we commit ourselves to safeguard the existence of the Congregation and its continual mission journey in the world.
Her experience of the love of Jesus Crucified is the center in her life and becomes the source of her spirituality. It is very clear that by maintaining her intimate relationship with the Lord she never let this source dry up. Like the woman at the well she, too, longs for being filled by the Life giving Water. From this same well we, too, are invited to drink and get inspired. It strengthens our identity as CB sisters; the identity we claim to embrace anew after the 150th anniversary of her death. We believe that her spirituality is still relevant in today’s context.
Dear sisters, to enrich our reflection on this so memorable day, let us focus our attention on the first Apostolic Exhortation from the Pope on Evangelii Gaudium that was released recently. Pope Francis opens his exhortation by mentioning: “The Joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.”
In this call to share the joy of the Gospel we can at least reflect upon two important dimensions clearly manifested in the life of Mother Elisabeth. First of all we are invited to always have a close and continuous relation with the source of Joy, Jesus Christ the Lord. In Him we find the spring of Joy one can always drink from. We believe that true joy only comes if one has maintained a close relationship with Him. From Him, the joy that can quench our thirst for happiness is overflowing. What is being asked from us, is the effort to always build up a good relationship with Him. We should be aware to remain in union with Him as He said: “Remain in me as I remain in you”. True relationship is, if we always remain united with Him. As we are one in Him our lives will bear much fruit; the fruit that will bring eternal joy (cf John 15; 4-11). The question for us is; how strong is our personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Does it bring joy? Or is there any other ‘false joy’ that occupies our hearts instead of the true joy from the risen Christ?
With Mother Elisabeth the depth of her relation with Jesus no doubt is the source of her joy. Jesus is the central figure in her life, long before she even founded this Congregation. The steadfastness of her closeness with Him was proven even during difficult situations. We can say that her love and self-giving was even more solid during trials. She stood firm believing that nothing could ever separate her from the love of Christ. Thus, her relation with Christ is unbreakable. Let us listen again to what she cried out loud during the time of tribulation. She said: “Who shall separate me from the love of God?…or…or…or fire of sword? No, nothing will be able to separate me from God” (EG 106). We might compare ourselves with her experience given in similar situation. This can give us picture of how deep our relationship with God actually is.
The second point we can reflect upon is the sharing of joy to others. Joy is not an exclusive gift for us. It is a grace that, once granted, will brighten our surroundings. We are summoned to share it with others since this gift of love is never isolated in a narrow world of selfishness. Our joy comes into its fullness when shared to others. See here the paradox reality! By sharing we are not loosing but fulfilling. We understand this because the source of our joy is eternal. We can be sure of this as Jesus said: “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete” (John 15; 11).
One of big challenges in the world of today is to find true joy amidst modern developments and all its advantages and disadvantages. We are thankful for the many great things advanced technology and communication give to us. However, it is undeniable that some of them open the door to negative influences. Every second the media bombard people with various bids of what they call happiness. There are thousands of products that claim to be the source of joy and contentment of one’s life. Still, there are many people in authority who cry out loud to proclaim their strive for people’s happiness and welfare by ignoring the suffering of many. In short there are ways for people to search for joy. Unfortunately many only find worldly pleasure and fail to find true joy.
Amidst this challenging situation of today, what can we do? We are not called to solve the big and complicated problems in the world. We have neither the power to stop all bad things that happen around us nor can we avoid all troubles of the earth today. However, we are still in the position to share our own lives. We can share our encounter with Jesus to others. We can be witnessing to others by loving them as Jesus has loved us.
Therefore, dear sisters, let us start doing something from within ourselves by sharing joy and love. This can be done in many simple ways. We may start from the very nearest around us, our own community. Maybe even in your own community there are fellow sisters in need of your radiant joy. Give them a simple smile or a warm touch of care, a short prayer or even a sincere greeting. A simple expression of attention sometimes works wonders to those in despair. Our apostolic ministry starts here, simply by sharing love and joy.
From the community we can widen the radius of joy. We can share it to others, to the people we meet. This can be our coworkers, parishioners, youth, students, patients etc. Let us brighten the gloom of the world by sharing a spark of joy. If every member manages to do so, our Congregation will no doubt lighten the burden of many.
As we graciously commemorate the 150th anniversary of Mother Elisabeth’s death let us renew our commitment to be an instrument of God’s compassionate love. Let us mark this festive day with our simple contribution to make this place a better world by being agents of joy and love.
Thanks to all of you for making today special. May the fruits of all you have done enrich us and the people around us as well.
Have a Blessed Feast Day!