The following homily was given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on May 10, during the annual Diocesan Sisters' Jubilee Mass at Marymount University in Arlington.
The language of the prophet Hosea in today's first reading surely expresses intimacy: "I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart." Moreover, the prophet's words speak about a spousal relationship: "I will espouse you to me forever; …in right and in justice, in love and in mercy, …in fidelity." In a similar manner, Jesus' words in today's gospel account from St. John express closeness, union, intimacy: "Remain in my love," or as another translation puts it, "abide in my love."
Yes, every baptized person is called to live in deep union with the Lord Jesus, and through Him, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Certainly, those in the consecrated life are called to do this in a heightened manner through the profession of the evangelical vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Dear jubilarians, with you, we give thanks to the Lord Jesus for His call and choice of each of you to live this intimate and spousal relationship as a religious sister. We give thanks to each of you for saying that first "yes" to His call and choice, and for repeating that "yes" countless times since then, in good times and in not-so-good times, these past 60 or 50 or 25 years! Today, we rejoice with each of you as you celebrate a significant jubilee! We pledge to each of you as well our continuing prayers, asking the Lord, your Spouse, to continue drawing you more deeply into intimate union with Him as a Benedictine, a Sister Servant of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, an Oblate Sisters of Saint Francis de Sales, a Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, a Sister of Our Lady of LaSalette.
This deepening union in love with the Lord Jesus takes place in a variety of ways. Certainly, a fundamental way in which this union grows and deepens is through Eucharistic prayer — the prayer of the Mass and prayer before the Real Presence of Jesus Himself in the tabernacle. Our gathering this afternoon to celebrate these jubilees, rejoicing for our sisters, and praying with and for them, gives each one of us a grace-filled opportunity to renew our desire to pray daily in the Eucharistic celebration and before the Blessed Sacrament.
The prayer of the Mass enables us to experience deepening union with the Lord Jesus! In the Liturgy of the Word, does He not speak to us, in a variety of ways, words of love? His Word is living and fruitful. If we would truly listen, we would hear His word of encouragement and hope, of mercy and love, of challenge and perseverance! In the Liturgy of the Eucharist itself, not only does the Lord Jesus renew in our midst His dying and rising whereby we are redeemed, He also changes bread and wine into His very Body and Blood and then nourishes us with His very Self in Holy Communion! Truly, in Communion, we become one with Him, and He with each of us! In this moment, we experience such intimacy with Jesus! The repetition of our participation in the Mass must not dull the wonder of this Eucharistic encounter!
Praying before Jesus, really and truly present in the tabernacle, also enables us to experience deepening union with Him. He is there, awaiting our visit, eager to listen to our concerns and to speak to our hearts! How beautifully and unforgettably Pope John Paul II expresses the presence of Jesus in the tabernacle: "The presence of Jesus in the tabernacle must be a kind of magnetic pole attracting an ever greater number of souls enamored of him, ready to wait patiently to hear his voice and, as it were, to sense the beating of his heart" (Mane Nobiscum, Domine, No. 18). In prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, we experience such intimacy with Jesus!
Moreover, we find in Eucharistic prayer the strength we need to continue living with inner joy and persevering fidelity the specific vocation which the Lord has given to us. In his recent Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI speaks of the Eucharist and the consecrated life. Consecrated men and women, he says, "find in the celebration of the Eucharist and in Eucharistic adoration the strength necessary for the radical following of Christ, obedient, poor and chaste" (No. 81).
Dear jubilarians and friends, the Lord Jesus stands at the door of our hearts, desiring to enter in, so that we can remain — abide — in His love. At this Mass of Thanksgiving, let us open wide the door of our hearts. Let us say to Jesus: "Come, Lord Jesus, enter in! Take possession of my heart — indeed, of my entire being! Let me remain — abide — in You, so that more and more our union in love will deepen, and more and more I can be, through the living out of my individual vocation, a visible sign of Your love to everyone I meet! O Lord, unite our hearts in love now and forever!