Sunday, June 6, 2010

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for Sr. Theresine Will's 60th Jubilee Celebration

Corpus Christi - June 6, 2010 (OLG + 60th Jubilee of Sr. Theresine)

Readings: Gen 14:18-20; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Luke 9:11-17

Sr. Theresine, congratulations! Sixty years of monastic life is quite an achievement. In particular, to have lived so many years through all the changes in the Church and religious life after the Second Vatican Council, the most significant Catholic event of the last four hundred years. Let’s all give her a round of applause! You will receive many words and signs of congratulations today. Receive them happily and humbly.

One can’t make it through sixty years of monastic life without a lot of support and assistance—from family, from your monastic community, from friends. And most certainly, assistance from God! That’s why it is so very appropriate that Sr. Theresine has chosen to celebrate her jubilee on the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. There is no better life-support that any of us can have than the regular, daily nourishment of spiritual food that we receive in the Eucharist. I’m sure Sr. Theresine would agree that holy communion has been a most powerful support throughout her sixty years of monastic living.

This theme of spiritual nourishment shows up again and again in the prayers we pray at the Eucharist. Last Sunday the prayer after communion said: "May the sacrament we receive bring us health of mind and body." On Tuesday the prayer after communion had this: "Hear the prayer of those you renew with spiritual food." On Thursday: " may this Eucharist keep us steadfast in faith and love." Again and again the Church’s liturgy reminds us of the spiritual strength that is given in the Eucharist. But it’s a strength that we must avail ourselves of and remind ourselves over and over that it is there.

But the Eucharist is more than spiritual strength to deal with the challenges of life. Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, The Eucharist in its Relationship to the Church (2003), brings out another aspect very clearly. He writes:

"Certainly the Christian vision leads to the expectation of new heavens and a new earth, but this increases, rather than lessens, our sense of responsibility for the world today. I wish to reaffirm this forcefully at the beginning of the new millennium, so that Christians will feel more obliged than ever not to neglect their duties as citizens in this world. Theirs is the task of contributing with the light of the Gospel to the building of a more human world, a world fully in harmony with God’s plan." (#20)

Here appears a new emphasis of Eucharistic theology introduced by the Holy Father: the Eucharist should point us to our responsibilities in the world, and not remove us from them. The Eucharist calls for a commitment to a betterment of this fragile and often brutal world. We need a better awareness of how to link our Eucharistic celebrations to the real needs of the larger world, to be more in solidarity with our brothers and sisters whose lives are sometimes so different from ours. The Eucharist itself should be the beginning of a communal act of compassion. There are surely many themes for theology and spirituality to be developed in this convergence of the Eucharistic celebration and the betterment of the world. How often the closing prayer at mass directs us to "go out and live our faith in the world." It invites us to explore: what am I taking from this celebration as nourishment for my life during this day? How is this particular Eucharist serving to shape the style of my ministry today? The old, "Ite, missa est" said it well: Go out and live your faith. Make a difference in the world.

Sr. Theresine, you have done that well in your many ministries through the years. May the Holy Eucharist continue to support and inspire you as you continue your monastic journey!

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