As we celebrate the year of consecrated life, Pope Francis challenges us as consecrated women to be joy-filled disciples, to be compassionate, bold and creative – to be bridge builders and witnesses to the love of God (The Joy of the Gospel). The pope exhorts us to have the courage to transform not only our personal lives but also the systems and structures that have supported our communities (32). Our formation document, Life Unfolding, supports this invitation as it says, “our life together is a gift and a process that invites us to constant transformation and, for that reason, always involves a challenge for us.” (15)
Indeed, our coming together for reflection, prayer, sharing and discernment is a gift. We are a gift to each other. Regardless of our differences and uniqueness, at the core we are one. Our being here right now is a wonderful moment to be refreshed to the beauty of our consecration. Likewise, the Charism and spirituality of the Society is a gift that we are constantly invited to share. The essential grounding of our lives and spirituality as RSCJs is that of sharing the spirituality of Madeleine Sophie and Rose Philippine, which is a profound and deeply personal relationship with God.
I’d like to speak about the Samaritan woman, who is unnamed but considered to be among the first Christian preachers (John 4). May we learn from her and her deep engagement with Jesus. She has an encounter with Jesus and immediately goes forth with passion and conviction to share her living encounter with others. The Samaritan woman lived on the margins of her society, and she encountered Jesus not in a synagogue or in another holy place, but at a well. She came to the well to perform her ordinary, mundane, assigned task of fetching water from the well for domestic needs. She must have wondered and at first was not very happy that Jesus was there waiting for her. Much to her surprise, Jesus engaged her in conversation, and as the conversation went deeper her heart slowly softened until she allowed Jesus’ compassionate presence to reveal God to her in a new and life-changing way.
The Samaritan woman was truthful with Jesus. She had no false image of herself. Like her, we also desire to be truthful in front of God and to continue to “discover” God, pleading God to reveal God’s Self anew, in ways which may be inviting yet challenging and unsettling. God might ask us to let go of old ways of being, which will draw us into the depths of God and of ourselves, transforming us even more to be women who radiate God’s love in our world, to be women of joy, to be women of Easter faith. This will happen only if we live a life of transparency before God, free from false self-image.
Moreover, with this deep engagement with Jesus, the Samaritan woman came to know him as the Christ. After the conversation, she left her jar and went to her fellow Samaritans to witness to the “one who told me everything that I ever did” (4:29). Her life was transformed, and she went forth empowered to preach the joy of the gospel to the rest of the town. She became a disciple of Jesus, the first evangelizer to the Samaritans. Because of her testimony, the Samaritans themselves believed that Jesus is the Savior of the world (4:42). Like the Samaritan woman we are also invited in this same engagement as we welcome new life for the emerging future, grounded in contemplation and prayer. We, too, are called to be evangelizers who preach the gospel with joy – with the whole of our being.
Madeleine Sophie received the gift of responding to the needs of her time, and if today we live that union and conformity as consistently as she did, our response will receive fresh vigour. Our formation document challenges us that “at this crucial point of history, Jesus is still calling us to be “Women of the Heart,” giving us the possibility of listening once more to God’s dream for humanity, which moves us to make each action of our lives brim over with love.” (17)
How do we do this? In the Gospel we see that the Kingdom of God has a human face---the prostitute, the leper, the hemorrhagic woman, the blind, the poor. These were the marginalized of society during the time of Jesus. The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life show that he fully comprehended the difficulties of the poor and showed compassion on all his people. Just as Jesus sought to transform by responding to the needs of his time, so too did Madeleine Sophie: education was a means to transform the wounded and unjust society in which she lived, and we are called as educators to do the same in our present reality.
We bear witness to the interplay of new life and diminishment. Our witness perhaps may be the grace necessary for our time. Thus, our prophetic identity is not only in doing but also in being, seeing and in proclaiming what we come to know. We can’t do this on our own. We need one another, we have to dream together, we have to strengthen our networks and our collaboration. The formation document captures it best when it affirms that “in community we wish to give each other mutual support in the certainty that the dream can be fulfilled.” This is what Cor Unum is all about and this is what will enliven us, give us hope, vitality and joy to “glorify the heart of Jesus in the world” and with “passion to proclaim the gospel.”
Sol Navidad rscj
This was a presentation made by Sol Navidad rscj (PHI) on 18 April 2015 during the Cor Unum 65 Cohort Meeting (USC Province). Below is a photo of the group.
Cor Unum 65 Cohort (USC Province)
Photo by Annette Schmeling rscj