Let’s recall the words in the chant sung by Chris Ludwig:
Beginning with the first flaring forth of the original fireball 13.7 billion years ago to the awakening of homo sapiens, the wise ones, 40 thousand years ago there was continuity, evolution, and ongoing emergence of new forms of life. No matter how many wise ones awakened in the beginning, we all, all of us, had our beginnings in the first flaring forth. Our origins are the same. So, to say we are sisters and brothers is not just figurative language; it is literally true. Everyone you saw as you looked around, whether you know them or not, has the same origin story as you have. Everyone! What might we learn from this? That our common origins call us to respect one another and honor our diversity, as members of a family are called to do? That we are all more alike than different? That our charge and challenge of loving the Divine Creator and all neighbors without distinction grew among the wise ones as they began to relate to one another in new ways?
Let’s sit with these questions and move forward to the time when Holy Wisdom found a home to dwell among us 2000 years ago. Joseph, an upright man, took Mary into his home after listening to the angel who came to him in a dream. And Mary birthed a son whom Joseph named Jesus. Joseph must have seen his dream as a call from the Holy One in whom he believed to risk saying yes despite his doubt, despite his fear of what might be ahead. I cannot imagine that one visit by an angel relieved all of Joseph’s doubts and fears. But he was willing to take a risk, and, as reflected on the cover of your worship booklet, Joseph met deep losses with deepest care, perhaps not immediately, but day by day. What losses? Loss of certainty, loss of control, loss of confidence in Mary? Whatever they were, he met his losses with deepest care, perhaps not immediately, but day by day. What might we learn from this? What losses are we called to meet with deepest care?
370 years ago, six women in LePuy France rolled up their sleeves to serve the dear neighbor; 184 years ago, six women arrived in a new land where there were needs beyond what they might have imagined; and 172 years ago, four Sisters came upriver to St. Paul. What losses did these women endure? Loss of time they may have had for themselves, loss of privacy, loss of their familiar language and culture, loss of closeness to family and community, loss of predictability in daily life? We are here today because they met their losses with deepest care, perhaps not immediately, but day by day. What might we learn from this? What do we do when we experience loss?
That brings us to tonight when we celebrate the commitment of 21 Sister Jubilarians. Together they have lived 1,355 years as Sisters of St. Joseph. And we celebrate the commitment of 11 Consociate Jubilarians who have lived a total of 355 years as Consociates. We would not be here if those who have gone before us had not said yes, despite fears, despite hardships, despite lack of certainty, despite deep losses.
Like the first flaring forth and the call into mindfulness, like the angel’s call to Joseph, like the call heard by six women in LePuy, like the call from Bishop Rosati to the St. Joseph Sisters in France, like the call experienced by the four Sisters who came to St. Paul, like the call each one of us heard that prompted us to become Sisters or Consociates, like the call many of you have experienced to being married, partnered or single, all of these are calls from the Spirit. They are God-calls.
Tonight, all of us, each within the context of our own lives, Sisters, Consociates, Partners in Mission and Ministry, Staff, Agregee, St. Joseph Workers, Friends of St. Joseph, family and friends, all enlivened by a spirit-gift which we call the charism of unifying love, will ask the Holy One to inspire and enliven us as we work together for the healing of the world. We will pray that each step we take be life-giving for one another. So, I would say that this celebration is not really about those of us celebrating anniversaries. It is not about the past. We honor our past and learn from it. We are standing on the threshold of a future that is calling us to step forward, to take risks, to join hands, and with deepest love and care for one another, to embrace what is ahead of us. And we will do this as Joseph did – day by day.
So I leave with you this question: As I go about my day to day life, how will I embrace what is ahead with deepest love and care?
April 17th, 2023