Saturday, Seventh Week of Easter, Cycle II

Published: June 7, 2014

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during the Mass to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Benedictine Sisters Stephanie Schroeder, Madeline Bariola and Rosalie Ruesewald at St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith on Saturday, June 7, 2014.

Bishop Taylor

In his recent apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis calls for a missionary transformation of the Church characterized by inner renewal and social engagement. He calls for an inclusive, approachable church marked by a collegial spirit whose doors are always open.

A church whose members are warm, patient, ready for dialogue and offer non-judgmental welcome for all. A church that puts itself fully at the service of the poor. A church that opens itself up fearlessly to the working of the Holy Spirit and proclaims the newness of the Gospel with boldness, even when we meet with opposition. A church that starts out be giving the reason for our hope, seeking first of all the happiness and good of others, rather than starting out with criticism, correction and condemnation.

All of these traits characterize your community. But the point he makes that I would most like to leave with you today is the confidence Pope Francis says we should have in the fruitfulness of our efforts, and the trust we should have in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness.

All three of these sisters are warm, inclusive, approachable and welcoming — persons whose doors are always open, persons who trust in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness.

From the Scriptures themselves we see how often the short-term results of God's servants' efforts were invisible, elusive and unquantifiable. But we also see how the long-term results continued after those servants had left the scene. 

In today's first reading — which we also read on the feast of the birth of John the Baptist — we see how God has called Isaiah and equipped him to fulfill that calling, but though he had done his best, the short-term results of his efforts were elusive.  

He says, "Though I thought I had toiled in vain, for nothing and naught spent my strength, yet my right is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God." And nowhere do we find the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness expressed more eloquently than in the Gospel reading you just heard, where Jesus gives us the commandment of loving one another "as he has loved us," meaning totally, sacrificially, to the death. And he goes on to insist that it is in this way that we will "bear fruit that will remain" long-term.

Today we are gathered to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Sisters Madeline Bariola, Stephanie Schroeder and Rosalie Ruesewald, all of whom committed themselves to a life of sacrificial love on the day of their religious profession, with which they then touched the lives of the hundreds (thousands?) of children they taught and the parishes in which they served.

In many ways they were already living lives characterized by the inner renewal and social engagement that Pope Francis is calling for today. Their witness is one of service to the poor — years ago at St. Joseph Orphanage in North Little Rock and now more recently in Hispanic ministry locally and in Esquipulas, Guatemala. All three of these sisters are warm, inclusive, approachable and welcoming — persons whose doors are always open, persons who trust in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness.

So as we celebrate our jubilarians and pray for them, let us also take a moment to thank the Lord for the privileged role each one of us has in his plan of salvation, confident that — regardless of all the often unpredictable twists and turns that lie ahead — if we are faithful, the Lord will continue to work powerfully through us.