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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: July 11, 2015
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at Holy Angels Convent in Jonesboro on Saturday, July 11, 2015. It is based on the following readings: Isaiah 42:1-6; Psalm 27; Philippians 4:4-9; and John 15:9-17.
"I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain ..." In promoting vocations to religious life, we often focus on the fact that God calls and waits for our response. The Gospel chosen for this jubilee fleshes this out a bit more clearly. God doesn't just call us, he chooses us. He didn't just call Sister Josita, he chose her, wanted her for himself. And she has been his bride for 25 years now. And he has chosen the rest of you sisters as well.
1.) Jesus has chosen you for joy: "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete." This means that however hard the path you might be on at the moment, you should make it a path of joy because the path of Christ is a path of joy: It leads beyond Calvary to victory. Some of you gathered here today to honor Sister Josita are dealing with the inescapable reality of old age and infirmity. Well, don't just shoulder that cross bravely, embrace it with love and a smile on your face, and quickly you'll discover that Jesus is there bearing all of that cross but a tiny sliver for you.
2.) Jesus has chosen you for love: "This is my commandment: Love one another as I love you." And how has he loved us? Completely, totally, to the death. As Benedictine sisters your motto may be Ora et Labora, but what gives life to your "ora," your "prayers," is the love that you invest in the Lord, and what gives meaning to your "labora," your "work," is the love with which you do your work, especially when it involves serving others.
Jesus has chosen you for love: "This is my commandment: Love one another as I love you." And how has he loved us? Completely, totally, to the death.
3.) He has chosen you to be his friend and partner: "I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father." The Hebrew word for "believer" is the same word used for "slave". The Exodus did not set the Hebrews free in our sense of the term. Rather, it was a transfer of ownership from Pharaoh to God, from an evil master to the best master imaginable.
But now Jesus offers us something far greater yet: friendship. He offers us an intimacy with God that was not available even to the greatest figures of the Old Testament, and partnership with him in the building of the Kingdom of God. He has opened his heart to you — "I have told you everything I have heard from my Father" — and you responded by accepting partnership with Jesus, accepting in this Benedictine community your role in his great work of salvation. Jesus chose you to "go and bear fruit that will remain" and this you have done; fruit produced that will stand the test of time.
4.) Jesus has chosen you to be his bride, so closely united to him that he promises "whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you." Prayer in Jesus' name is prayer in conformity with the mind of Jesus, to which you as his bride have privileged access. The Benedictine vocation is to take everything to prayer and then to accept whatever answer God gives because of your confidence in his perfect wisdom and love regarding what is best — even when what is best is difficult. And the deeper your love for God grows, the easier it becomes to place full confidence in his will for you, for your community, for the Church and for the world.
Sister Josita, God has truly chosen you and you have been his faithful bride for 25 years and counting. May your life be filled with joy and love, may you grow ever closer to your divine friend and partner, may the fruit you have produced in this life endure and when the day comes, may the Lord give you the full reward of your goodness and faithfulness.