August 22nd, 2015
This is the Jubilee of Stars, stars as in Baruch 3: “The stars shone in their watches, and were glad; he called them, and they said, ‘Here we are!’ They shone with gladness for him who made them.” Stars also as in Sirach 43: “The glory of the stars is the beauty of heaven, a glittering array in the heights of the Lord. On the orders of the Holy One they stand in their appointed places; they never relax in their watches.” And finally stars as in Job 38, those morning stars who sang together and shouted with joy. I think you can guess where my inspiration came from! A certain star prepares the news of the week for us and no matter where on earth we begin, we always end up on some planet or other far away in the glittering galaxy, light years away.
We have four stars in our midst today who are shining with joy for their Maker; who have been faithful 25 or 50 or 60 years in responding “Here we are” when he calls, who have kept a long vigil for the Lord interiorly and exteriorly and who have filled his house with songs of joy. There they are day after day, night after night, encouraging us by their example to run the course with wholehearted love. And so we thank them for their united witness to the Cistercian way.
Yet, there is more to the mystery of stars. They have things in common and, at the same time, something unique and irreplaceable. As Psalm 147 says, “He determines the number of the stars; he calls each by name. And Paul says, “Star differs from star in brightness” (1 Cor. 15). Therefore I would like to play a game and call each by name---certainly not the secret name that only God knows, but a name nevertheless that they have acquired for themselves in so many years of community living; a name that is not the whole story but one shining part of it. The names I have discerned are Transparency, Magnanimity, Receptivity and Responsibility (the latter with a strong dash of Ingenuity).
Sr. Hazel Transparency, you are much like David when he recognized the truth in Nathan’s parable. “I am the one” he admitted, without fuss or frills, excuses or blame. How beautiful when a light shines so simply, honestly and directly. It is a very clear star and partakes in the mystery of Mary’s Magnificat, she who knew both her beauty and her poverty and could sing: “He has looked with favor on the lowliness of his handmaid; surely from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
Sr. Mary Ellen Magnanimity, if we stay with the David story, I could say that you share in his great-heartedness beginning with that passion for God that made him totally oblivious of his littleness as he went forth to silence Goliath who had dishonored the Holy One of Israel. There’s a way you have of jumping in to serve and to save that is beautiful and sometimes even breathtaking, as when, finding yourself suddenly confronted by a shark in the sea, you pushed your friends behind you so he could eat you first and give them time to get away. Such a star sheds light far and wide and shares in the mystery of Mary’s greatness of soul when, at the Annunciation, she offered her life, come what may, to God’s plan for our salvation, saying, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.”
Now let’s turn our eyes to another star, Sr. Monica Receptivity, she who sees and receives God’s many faceted gifts in her life with gratitude and wonder, and who prays like David, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house that you have brought me thus far?” To have the eyes to see God’s hand in everything, to experience the gift in everything from near death experiences, to paths taken that did not lead to the end, to desires fulfilled yet found wanting in light of the one Desire of your heart, this is a great grace. For those who love him all things turn to good, something you are tasting this Jubilee Day. The starlight in your eyes comes from a deep place, comes from a share in the mystery of Mary’s pondering, she who kept all these things in her heart, receiving them, holding them, treasuring them, allowing them to grow and to have their way in her.
Finally we come to Sr. Alice Responsibility (with a decided dash of Ingenuity). The David story that comes to me immediately is that of Abigail whose insensitive and stubborn husband, Nabal, repaid David’s kindness with total meanness. Quickly Abigail intuited what she must do and with gifts and graciousness averted the impending disaster by going out to meet David, apologizing for her husband. David blessed her for meeting him and for her good sense, and after Nabal died he married her. When speaking of the dispositions most needed in our times, Pope John Paul placed responsibility for others at the top of the list. This is such a marked characteristic in you, Sr. Alice; your care for the whole community and for each one in it---and the often hidden and ingenious ways you go about putting things right. Your star is a share in the mystery of Mary’s care for others whether it be a matter of their growth in Christ or a matter of having enough wine for the party.
Put these four stars together and what do we have? One huge star! Look up, here it is in them, shining over and around our house, the place where Jesus is born anew every day in our hearts. Happy Jubilee to our four Stars and to all of us!
Jubilee Celebration, August 22nd, 2015
Diamond—Sr. Hazel Meskell
Golden—Sr. Mary Ellen McCormack
Silver—Sr. Monica Burt
Silver—Sr. Alice Chau