Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for the 60th Jubilee Celebration

Today, Sisters Mildred, Bernardine and Juanita celebrate 60 years of Monastic Profession! The following is Fr. Matthias' homily. What a terrific celebration! Thank you Sisters for being so faithful to the Monastic Way of Life!

When we think of a Jubilee, we usually think of a time of celebration, of remembering years of achievement. That is certainly true for Sisters Mildred, Bernadine and Juanita. Today in a very special way they are remembered for their many contributions to the community and the church over a span of six decades. That’s remarkable. I’ve only gotten to know these sisters over the last little less than ten years. In that time they have certainly been significant contributors to the life of the community here at Our Lady of Grace monastery. If the first fifty were like the last ten, that is pretty impressive.

But I think there’s more to a jubilee than remembering achievements. We can also learn something by looking at the original meaning of Jubilee and see its significance for our jubilarians. The very notion of a jubilee comes from the bible, from the 25th chapter of the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament. There it is mandated that every 50th year is to be a year of Jubilee for all of Israel. It begins with the blowing of the Jubal, the ram’s horn. It is to be a very special year. There are three particular aspects to the Jubilee year. First, the land is supposed to lie fallow; there is to be no special cultivating of the land, no work. For our jubilarians, that means that it’s OK to take a break, to not always be doing something for someone else. (I know that’s hard to hear, but it’s what a Jubilee is all about.) Second, land that has gotten transferred is to be returned to its original owners or their descendants. For our jubilarians that means "get back in touch with yourself." Spend some time on yourself and the things that you have always wanted to do, like that extra lectio that you never quite got around to. And thirdly, all Israelite slaves are to be automatically freed. For our jubilarians, that means a time to cast off some of the restraints of the past and give yourselves some new found freedom. Free yourselves of some of those things that you have always felt you "had to do." Those three points offer some very different perspectives on "celebrating a jubilee."

Still a Jubilee is a time to look back over past successes and feel some pride in them. And we all know that there are many achievements with all three of our jubilarians. But I would suspect that at the same time there have also been those moments when you each felt like the disciples in the boat with Jesus and you said: "Lord, don’t you care that I am sinking." The only reason they got through those moments is because they took to heart the words of St. Paul in today’s second reading: "The love of Christ impels us." A jubilee is a time to reaffirm those words in your lives: "the love of Christ impels us."

But on a day of Jubilee the overriding emotion has to be one of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving to God for the gift, the grace of such long and productive lives. At one of these past weekday masses I quoted the medieval mystic, Meister Eckhart, as saying: "If the only prayer we ever make is ‘Thank you’ it is enough" Today we all want to say "Thank you" in a special way to God for the gift of these lives and this Jubilee day.

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