Encouragement for the Road Ahead

By Mary Flick, CSJ

I recently read a Jesuit theologian who said that Jesus’ life mission was the conquest of death. Today’s readings give us hope in that victory. As we begin our Lenten journey, today’s gospel is already providing encouragement for the road ahead. First though, we look back to Abraham, our ancestor in faith, to see what is required. Abraham is asked by God to sacrifice his only son, and with him, the promise of his future. Even God’s greatest gift is subject to death. Abraham has nothing to go on but his trust that God will keep God’s promise, and somehow, God will provide. And God does.

In the second reading, Paul confirms God is trustworthy. God walks with us on this life journey filled with loss and letting go. God knows the cost of human life; God did not spare his only son from death. But God provides something far more wonderful than the human life lost to death. God has raised Jesus to even greater life. And Jesus, who knows what life will ask of us, intercedes for us that we too, might conquer death.

But don’t take it on Paul’s word. As you listen to the gospel, put yourself in the disciples’ place. Follow Jesus up the high mountain and see how God provides the promise, the assurance, and a glimpse of what Jesus’ conquest of death looks like. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. But first, he and his trusted three have a detour to make. On the mountain, Jesus’ clothes became dazzling. Transfigured, he becomes translucent, radiating God’s presence and glory. And God’s presence is affirmed in the voice from the cloud which speaks familiar words, the same message Jesus had heard at his baptism: “This is my beloved.” Moses and Elijah are there, too – the Jews’ greatest law-giver and the greatest of the prophets. Their presence confirms that all of Jewish tradition has brought Jesus to this journey to Jerusalem.

The sounds and sights of this transformed, transfigured moment leave the disciples terrified, bewildered, speechless. “Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.” So, too, as we begin our annual trek to Jerusalem with Jesus, may we see “only Jesus.” As we question the death around us, the loss within our own lives, may we disciples turn to our ancestors in the faith. May we, with Abraham, trust that God will provide; believe that we share in Jesus’ mission. Together, we are all conquerors of death through our lives of faith.

Embracing Lent: time to get our houses in order!

Our Lenten liturgical season just began. In my childhood I dreaded Lent because it seemed so depressing to me! Now that I have a better understanding and am a bit more mature I embrace Lent. Embrace Lent? Why? I now view Lent as at time to get ‘my house’ (me) in order! Just like you might actually get your physical living space in order (which I do need to do too!) it’s a time to get your “self” in order. In order—what does that mean? Well I’m not going to specifically tell you that, all I can say that each of us knows how we can be our best selves. Therefore each of us know what ‘in order’ means as it relates to our own self. And frankly it’s between you and God!  It’s not a time about guilt and shame—far from it! Instead it’s about taking time to reflect on life in the present moment and become aware of my actions and behaviors and God’s love moving through my life at the moment.

We as Sisters of St. Joseph have an Ignatian-Salesian spirituality. One way you could do this type of reflection is through the use of the Ignatian daily Examen. I’ve learned about this helpful practice while in community since I did not attend a Jesuit high school or university or know any Jesuits. You might already be aware of this practice if you’ve been in contact with a Jesuit priest or any institution associated with the Jesuits! What is the daily Examen? Well straight from the Jesuits webpage:  www.jesuits.org on spirituality they share this:

  1. Place yourself in the presence of God. Give thanks for God’s great love for you.
  2. Pray for the grace to understand how God is acting in your life.
  3. Review the day—recall specific moments and note your feelings at the time.
  4. Reflect on what you did, said, or thought at the time in those specific instances. Were you drawing closer to God or further away from God?
  5. Look forward in Hope toward tomorrow. Think of how you might collaborate more effectively with God in the new day.

Lent is not only about the stuff/items you’re giving up. In addition to a personal sacrifice that you might be doing I’m suggesting to do the Ignatian daily Examen this Lent and even continue it past Lent! It’s a great spiritual practice for any liturgical season of the year i.e. all year long! It helps us stay aware of our actions and it helps us get or keep ‘our Spiritual houses’ in order. We take our days to God and review in a loving light all that might have happened—the good, the not so good, the downright terrible, the uplifting joyful parts—don’t try to hide anything here—God already knows! And we end it with Hope—“I will try again tomorrow God! I learned today what I can do better tomorrow!” “Thank you for a new day to try again!”

If you are discerning Religious Life or the priesthood this practice will also be of use to you for all the exact same reasons as noted above!

Does this make it easier to embrace Lent? I hope so! Here’s to getting our ‘houses in order’ over these forty days and beyond!!!

Blessings on the Journey fellow Pilgrim ~Sister Clare

Phantom Words from Laudato Si’

Tphantomhere have been a lot of chaos in the air lately.

  • Our political situation is in turmoil
  • The earth seems to be groaning in travail, with extreme weather
  • I’m dealing with aging parents and family challenges
  • My community is trying to navigate diverse perspectives on some major issues.

While weathering all the challenges of this season of my life, I’m also working on a new book further exploring the future of religious life. It will delve into several areas of religious life, beyond those I explored in “Religious Life at the Crossroads” which is already over 5 years old.

The part I’m currently writing is on Laudato Si’. The document brings me in many directions. It came out after my last book and it represents the coalescing of many developments in social and environmental justice. I also find it to be something of a parable of religious life and of the challenges we are facing at this stage of our journey. so it ties to some of the chaos in my own life. And finally, I think there are some gender issues with the document that should be addressed, namely the lack of women’s voices and women’s issues in the document. Laudato Si’ is probably unique in this regard. Many are seeing that justice and environmentalism are inherently gender issues. Yet this perspective is absent from the document. So I’m taking the opportunity to spell out what might have been. I’m writing the unwritten lines; I’m sure the Pope will be pleased!

In Our Own Words

A few years ago, 20-25 young sisters in our 20s and 30s were gathered in Arizona for our yearly retreat with Giving Voice.  Giving Voice is an organization that networks young sisters as a way of being support to one another and living into the future of religious life.  That year, we were talking about what we were reading about the vows and religious life.  Most of us were reading most of the same things.  What became evident was that most of what was out there was written years ago and/or by people who had entered years ago.  There was nothing out there that really reflected our current lived experience.  So, it was decided that a new book should be written.

That book is now out!  In Our Own Words:  Religious Life in a Changing World was written by 13 sisters under the age of 50 from 13 different communities.  The sisters worked to get as much diversity as they could–sisters with habit and without; sisters from different racial and ethnic groups; sisters from different generations (yet under 50); sisters in formation and those with final vows; sisters with different ministries.  The sisters came together and spent a week writing.  They met every morning to begin together with prayer, then off they went to write.  They came together to read each other’s thoughts and share reflections.  I alternated between tears and chills in the introduction alone; it was so reflective of how we are together.



In Our Own Words: Religious Life in a Changing World

Honestly, I haven’t read much of the book yet, but I’m so excited to have something that reflects religious life today and what it is becoming.  If you are interested in religious life in any way, I recommend the investment.  I’d love to share thoughts with anyone who reads it.  It’s a great life!  I’m glad to share it with so many awesome women.

–S. Sarah