Advent 2011

While walking retreatants back to their cars after a particularly grace-filled Frassati Young Adult Weekend at Villa Maria Guadalupe, many wondered how the treasured time together and with the Lord had passed with such rapidity, wishing to set up tents like St. Peter and stay. One Sister, musing aloud said, “Well, think of it like this…the retreat was like a foretaste for us! In heaven, we will never have to say good-bye, but we will always be together, with Jesus.” One of the young men, putting his suitcase into the trunk looked at her, shook his head and said slowly, “Yeah…but Sister–you never have to leave.”

 His meaning struck a cord- the fraternal communion of religious life is meant to be the lived anticipation of the communion we will know in Heaven within the Blessed Trinity, and a prophetic sign of the peace of the Kingdom of God being established here and now on earth. At this time of disunity, divorce, simply deleting people from one’s life, this sign is necessary and religious, as always, are called by the Church to be witnesses and “experts in communion”, architects and designers of it, showing that fraternal charity is not only possible in Christ, but the fruit of union with Him. 

 “I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.
This is how all will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.” Jn. 13:34-35

The call to religious life is referred to as a convocation, meaning that those who are called to a particular community and charism have been called together by God. “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” Christ is the one who chose me for my sisters and my sisters for me, calling us to walk this journey and make this pilgrimage in love, with joy and peace. We carry each other’s burdens, encourage and inspire one another, and by loving in imitation of Him, are able to bring healing to those places wounded by sin and weakness in our hearts and the hearts of those we serve.

Once one enters into community, an inner exodus must be made in going from “me” to “us”- from the slavery where I am all chained up in the prison of my “I” with selfish motives and ambitions, to the promised land where I live in the freedom of the children of God by grace, placing others first. I am freed up to embrace my truest and deepest identity as a beloved daughter of the Father, with Christ, my God and brother who is the first born among many. I stand in the two certainties He gave me in my baptism; first, that I am infinitely loved by God and secondly, I able to love without limits. And my limits are God’s limits if I’m willing to stand in him.

 Communion within community is made possible only in the Eucharistic Christ. “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him and I will raise him on the last day.” It is Jesus in the Eucharist who makes us one, as we allow the Holy Spirit to conform our attitudes and actions to Christ’s.

 “How do so many women live together in the same house? That’s just not natural!” No…it’s not. It’s supernatural! To be sisters of Christ, who is Life and to be sisters to each other and to all, is possible in the heart of the consecrated one because it is not a product of her willing it to be so. She loves, serves and receives with a generosity borne of prayer. With a great intensity and givenness, her love is not generic or impersonal but incredibly particular! -a real fraternal, agape love that compels her to lay down her life for another. By entering into genuine friendships with each sister, a religious learns that it is in “losing herself, that she finds herself”, going out of herself with openness, understanding, and self-forgetfulness.   

  In the common life, Jesus walks with me and talks with me, present within my sister. We truly begin to live heaven on earth, for the sake of Christ, and His kingdom, the building up of the Church and the world, and for the strengthening and safeguarding of marriage and family life.

 But I’d like to state the painfully obvious… we are still on earth and do struggle daily with concupiscence! 

We need mercy. And we must grant it to others who are also in need. “Blessed are the merciful, they shall obtain mercy;” this beatitude of Jesus is a treasured one. 

 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5: 23-24

 It would seem the reconciliation is more pleasing to the Lord than the gift! And the gift will not be received without first being reconciled. Sisters of Life live out our charism to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life beginning with the members of the Institute, reverencing Christ’s presence in each sister and living daily this ministry of reconciliation. In this way, when we approach the altar at Mass and receive our Lord, living in Holy Communion with Him and deeper communion with one another.  

 This Advent, as you journey alongside the Magi, bearing your gift for the Infant Jesus, placed on the altar of the manger, ask the Prince of Peace to give you the grace to discern areas of your life in need of reconciliation. He will grant you the grace of forgiveness of self and others, setting you free from inner captivity. O come, O come, Emmanuel! Then, like the shepherds, the angels will sing over you: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men of good will.”