Dear sisters, dear friends,
What we have just seen and heard has moved us. You have stood up. You are on the way. You are launched. You are proclaiming before us all your response to a call: “Here I am, Lord!”
What is the strength that energises you? What is the love that leads you? What is the secret of your joy?
The readings you have chosen for this celebration will help us to enter into the mystery of your hearts and the mystery of our vocation as Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The desert, the vine, and the marriage: three images, three symbols to guide our search.
The desert. You experienced it deeply during your 30-day retreat. You heard God speaking to you heart-to-heart. He told you: “I will give you back your vineyards and the valley of Achor as a door of Hope”. This retreat and the whole probation time have allowed you to find again the joy of your first call, now enhanced by your several years of experience as Religious of the Sacred Heart. In the desert, a path opened up to lead you to the promised land, to “the door of Hope”. You heard Jesus telling you secretly: “On that day, you shall call me ‘my husband’ and you shall never again call me my ‘Master’.... I will betroth you to me forever, I will betroth you to me with justice and with integrity, with loyalty and with compassion”. The desert led you to the wedding, to the intimate covenant, in a heart-to-heart of shared love. Within you lies a joy so deep and so great that it reaches the whole creation: “I will respond to the heavens and they will respond to the earth; the earth will respond to the grain, and wine, and oil”. Your heart-to-heart dialogue with God leads not only to a close and personal relationship; it transforms humanity; it engenders new relationships. By the grace of prayer and interior life, the wine of the wedding flows freely for everyone, justice and integrity are restored: “Bow and sword and warfare I will destroy from the land, and I will give its inhabitants rest”.
And God said to you: “I will give you back your vineyards”. These vineyards and this vine are Jesus himself. In the desert, the whole experience of your years of religious life allowed you to rediscover even more deeply what unites you to Jesus. As true daughters and sisters of Madeleine Sophie, you contemplated the vines she harvested in her youth. At the top of Joigny’s hills, you saw the broad horizon open to the world... You may have been sitting at the foot of a vine. And, looking afar, your heart reached the immensity of the world: men and women who courageously decide to cross a desert to escape poverty; young people seeking meaning in life; crowds getting lost in consumerism and noise; terrorists; men and women of peace and compassion who assist the poorest... You saw Jesus, Tree of Life, new Vine put into the press of the Cross in order to give life to everyone. You contemplated his pierced side, the water and the blood pouring forth in a superabundant love. Jesus, wounded, killed, who took upon himself all injustices and all sufferings. Through the open side, you reached the Heart of Jesus, the depths of God. You received the mission of opening for everyone the doors of the encounter with Jesus, the doors of hope, through our service of education, so that the blood from the press becomes the wine of the feast, the wine of the resurrection for all. Jesus said: “So that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.... Love one another as I have loved you”. Your covenant, the day of your wedding, draws us all to become Jesus’ disciples and friends.
Each one of your sisters, Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is with you today, as are your family and friends. Together, like shoots of the same vine, we form one body. With desire, we have desired – believers or not, Christians or not, religious or lay – to live more humanly, to love one another; with desire we have desired the wine of the feast, the joy of love.
With you, through the vow of poverty, we learn how to remain in the desert, to be silent for prayer or meditation, to give up our activism, to disconnect ourselves from so many chains, in order to live more humanly and to distinguish the true God from the false ones... With you, the vow of chastity opens us to the new wine of the vine, to relationships of respect, justice and peace, allowing each one to become himself or herself. Chastity frees us from comparison and jealousy. It enables us to live a simple and joyful friendship, in order to be and act as members of the same body, members of the same humanity... With you, the vow of obedience makes us attentive to God’s calls in order to serve him where we are sent, attentive to the sources of life and growth, in order to dare to reach new frontiers, new geographic and existential peripheries, as our sister Philippine Duchesne knew so well and lived so well.
Like Philippine, when she boarded the Rebecca one day in May 1818, you are setting sail today with all your sisters, Religious of the Sacred Heart, and with all humanity, moving into the emerging future. Move into the deep! Be confident! You can count on our love and our friendship! We are setting sail with you! The Lord has done great things for you. Magnificat!