‘We’re all grateful for your CONNECTION’
The readings chosen for this Eucharistic Liturgy for the Rite of Commitment are certainly resplendent with images of nature. Planting and reaping, seeds and vine branches.
Resplendent — I love that word. Resplendent is the kind of word our Saint Mother Theodore likes to use. Mother Theodore who always, it seems to me, is effusive in her descriptions of many things. But none more so than in her descriptions found in today’s reading:
How magnificent; how beautiful and majestic; valleys that defy the imagination as they spread their lush greenness; the eye is lost in the ravishing spectacle.
However, one word that came to me through all these readings. (And additionally, through the letters of commitment offered by our associates elect gathered here today.) That one word is CONNECTION.
CONNECTION: The state of being related to someone or something else. We are resplendent in our connections.
Mother Theodore’s words reveal much. She so connects to nature, is so in the moment, that truly her soul elevates towards, connects to, the Author of all things.
In the letter from the Corinthians, we are reminded that because of our very connection to God, God will make sure we will always have enough of everything. There are no limits to God’s grace. Therefore, should we not be generous (and cheerful) ourselves in lavishing that grace upon others?
And then there is the powerful message from the Gospel of Luke. Jesus and Luke want us to know that nothing stands alone. We are branches who cannot stand apart from the vine. Jesus calls himself the true vine connecting all of us, continuously nourishing our spirit. If we stay connected, if we remain faithful to the call of the Holy One, our life will prosper and bear much fruit.
I believe that is our call as Sisters of Providence, and your call as Providence Associates. To be so connected to God and God’s grace that we make visible the love of God. Or, in the language of this faith community — we become God’s Providence, God’s face for our world. You and I need only stay connected to the vine, to the source of life and love, and to each other, to accomplish this.
CONNECTION. That is the essence of this rite today. Whether it is the rite of your first connection as an associate or a re-connection as a Providence Associate today, you are pledging to be an instrument of Providence, a branch that will bear the fruit of the Holy One’s loving care.
And you will live out this commitment connected to us, the Sisters of Providence, and to the entire Providence Community.
Many of you have already recognized this. One of you even used the word connection to express it in your letter of request:
“This connection to the Sisters of Providence has renewed my soul, strengthened my faith life and given me hope for the future.”
“I know there is a reason we are coming together. God is wanting us to connect with each other and is calling Associates along with the Sisters of Providence to be instruments of peace and give hope.”
Responding to your call
You are not joining a club today or becoming a card-carrying member of an organization. You are responding to a call to deepen your connection to the Holy One. And the conduit of this connection is the mission entrusted to us by a Provident God.
So many of you are already cheerful givers, mission-minded. You are already living full and generous lives, sowing the seeds, sharing the talents you’ve been given, building up the kindom of God.
We have educators, librarians, a lawyer and a CPA in this group. Among us is a retired college vice president; quite a number serving in the medical field as technicians, nurses, an EMS. We have artists and a news producer; at least one master gardener and a grandmother of 20 great-grandchildren! And one whose proudest claim to fame is being a good parent.
Many of you are serving as liturgical ministers. One of you is studying to be a monk. One of you is already ordained. Several of you are working on master’s degrees. Many of you are in volunteer work, one to special needs children. Others serve in food pantries. One of you has been volunteering in Kenya.
What does it ask?
What does this new relationship, this new connection ask of you?
Greater, deeper CONNECTION, of course, with a world in need of love, mercy and justice.
Do those factors that separate us from one another — nationality, religion, ethnicity, economics, language, sexual orientation — really need to separate us? South African Bishop Desmond Tutu posed that question and answered it this way:
“We are each a God-carrier, a tabernacle of the Holy Spirit, indwelt by God the holy and most blessed Trinity. To treat one such as less than this is not just wrong. It is as if we were to spit in the face of God.”
Jesus proclaimed, “I am the vine and you are the branches” in a deeply divided and polarized society (sound familiar?). Within Judaism there were different religious groupings, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Zealots. There was the divide between the Jew, the Gentile and the Samaritan. And then, men were segregated from women. There were free persons and there were slaves. There were the rich; there were the poor. (Again, sound familiar?).
In that milieu, he formed a community and challenged them to love one another as sisters and brothers, members of one family, God’s family, a place of radical grace and acceptance!
No doubt, they needed some pruning in the process, and so do we. I’m not exactly sure that pruning was included in your spiritual integration units. But I suspect that more than once this year you and your companion talked about the challenge of living a whole and holy life. I loved the response from one associate elect:
“I feel like a different person since I began my journey last fall — hopefully, a better version of myself who sees the work of Providence in every aspect of my life.”
And from another, “I desire to lead a better life and be transformed.”
Becoming that community
We, too, can be a community of radical grace and acceptance. In fact, given the events of just this past week, I would daresay we must work together to become that community. The world needs us for this — to be the seeds, to be the sowers of a harvest of justice.
We Sisters of Providence joined our voices with those of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in response to the situation in Gaza. We committed ourselves and the members of our Providence Community to:
“choose the peaceful path of Jesus and exercise all of our rights and duties as citizens to urge our leaders to act as responsible members of the world community.“
We promised to join our prayer with religious people of all faiths who recognize that war is not the solution. And we committed ourselves to be those who believe that peace is possible.
Love makes peace possible
So, as you return to the people and the places from whence you came, do this one thing in your sphere of influence — your workplace, school, house of worship or home. Stand in love. Stand CONNECTED in love. Love makes peace possible.
Tomorrow, we will celebrate the 183rd anniversary of the arrival of our foundresses in the forests of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. I will close with what I believe is Mother Theodore’s greatest prayer of connection and her fondest hope for all of us who walk in her footsteps:
“Grant, oh my God, that all who dwell in this house will love thee much, will love one another, and may never forget why they came here.“
Thank you, Providence Associates. We’re all grateful for your connection. Please don’t ever forget that.