It is our custom the all the memebers of our community vote on accepting each sister for postulancy, novitiate and for profession. The following is a homily given by the prioress on the 24th March when the community accepted Sr Mary Teresa for solemn profession. Sr Mary Teresa will make her solemn profession on the 29th June
Sr Mary Teresa, it is significant and providential that the community accepts you for Solemn Profession on the eve of this great feast of the Annunciation of the Lord when we commemorate the moment when the Eternal Word took flesh in Mary’s womb - when Mary responded with her ‘yes’ to God the Father’s invitation.
At that moment the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary. While Mary’s ‘yes’ is important she is pure capacity for the working of the Holy Spirit in her – it is all His doing and Mary said: “Let it be done unto me”. Pope John Paul II in Vita Consecrata emphasises the role of the Holy Spirit in the vocation to consecrated life. The following is adapted from Nos 19 and 39 of that document.
It is the Spirit who enables us to recognise the appeal of such a demanding choice. Through His power, we relive, in a way, the experience of the Prophet Jeremiah: ‘You have seduced me, Lord and I have let myself be seduced.’ (Jer 20:7). It is the Spirit who awakens the desire to respond fully; it is He who guides the growth of this desire, helping it to mature into a positive response and sustaining it as it is faithfully translated into action; it is He who shapes and moulds our hearts, configuring us to Christ, the chaste, poor and obedient One, and prompting us to make his mission their own. By allowing ourselves to be guided by the Spirit on an endless journey of purification we become, day after day, conformed to Christ, the prolongation in history of a special presence of the Risen Lord.
With penetrating insight, the Fathers of the Church have called this spiritual path philokalia or love of the divine beauty, which is the reflection of the divine goodness. Those who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, are led progressively into full configuration to Christ reflect in themselves a ray of the unapproachable light. During their earthly pilgrimage, they press on towards the inexhaustible Source of light. The consecrated life thus becomes a particularly profound expression of the Church as the Bride who, prompted by the Spirit to imitate her Spouse, stands before Him in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Eph 5:27).
The same Spirit, far from removing us from the life of humanity, inserts us more deeply into the life of the Church – as Dominican nuns we are called to intercede unceasingly for the needs of the whole human family. At the deepest level of our being we are caught up in the dynamism of the Church’s life, which is thirsty for the divine Absolute and called to holiness – it is to this holiness that we are called to bear witness.
The vocation to the consecrated life is, despite its renunciations and trials, and indeed because of them, a path of light over which the Redeemer keeps constant watch: ‘Rise and have no fear’. Sr Mary Teresa, as you begin your preparation for making this total gift of yourself to the Lord in Solemn Profession, you can count on the support of our prayer during the coming weeks. A solemn profession is a time for renewal for all of us when we fan into flame the gift of vocation which God has given us.
All three readings today have rich baptismal overtones. From earliest times they have been used, especially the Gospel of the Samaritan woman, in the catechesis during Lent of adult candidates for Baptism, which took place during the Easter Vigil. So now the Church prays and exhorts us through the Word of God to be renewed in spirit so that we can renew our Baptismal promises with renewed dedication during the Easter Vigil.
In today’s first reading, the Israelites ‘tormented by thirst’ in the wilderness were crying out for water. God told Moses to strike the rock at Horeb and water gushed forth. In the second reading St Paul reminds us that ‘it is by faith and through Jesus that we have entered this state of grace in which we can boast about looking forward to God’s glory. This hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.’ We receive this surpassing grace at our Baptism.
In the Gospel we have the marvellous account of Jesus, the Word made flesh, with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. Jesus was tired and thirsty from His journey and asked her for a drink. But as St Augustine says His real thirst was for this woman’s faith and salvation. We are all present in this woman - enslaved by her natural desires or perhaps somebody else’s; estranged from God, ourselves and others because of the sin of our first parents. To quote St Paul again ‘we were still helpless when at the appointed moment Christ died for sinful humankind'. (cf Rom 5:6). Jesus revealed to this woman His intimate knowledge of her. By doing so in such a non-judgmental and accepting way He liberated her from her past. He aroused her thirst for the living waters of the Spirit which He was offering her. He revealed to her in the most personal and moving way that He was the Christ. He used the words ‘I am He’ which recall God’s Name to Moses ‘I am who I am’ and thus that He is God.
The Good Shepherd has found His lost sheep and carries it home rejoicing. The immediate response of the Samaritan woman was to hurry back to the town and she could say ‘rejoice with me I am found! Come and see a man who has told me everything I ever did. I wonder is he the Christ?’ Like St Mary Magdalene who after the Lord’s Resurrection became ‘the apostle to the apostles’ this woman became an apostle to her own townspeople and was the means of bringing many of them to believe in Jesus. Unlike some of the towns in Galilee Jesus could not resist their desire for Him, the openness and faith of these Samaritans and stayed for two days preaching the word to them. Many more came to believe and hailed Jesus not only as the Messiah but as the Saviour of the world. Do we hear Jesus say “go and do likewise”?
Today’s Gospel reading at Mass gave us a lovely account of the transfiguration of the Lord according to Matthew - an event in the Lord’s life of light, life, radiance, beauty, majesty, silence and awe as the writer Michael Hewlett put it: “Once on a mountain top there stood three startled men and watched the wheels of nature stop and heaven break in.”
Just before the account of the Transfiguration which we read to-day from chapter 17 we find the first prophecy of the Passion at the end of chapter 16: “From that time on Jesus began to make it clear to the disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes and be put to death and to be raised up on the third day.” Immediately after that – the condition of our following Christ is given: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine”, Jesus says “he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”
It seems quite obvious why Jesus leads Peter, James and John – the three chosen witnesses who accompanied Him to Gethsemanie and on other special occasions, up the mountain to experience this extraordinary event in His life, was to help them accept the revelation He had just made regarding His forthcoming Passion and death or to avoid them being scandalised in their hearts by the Cross. We know that Peter in no uncertain terms, up to now refused to accept that fact “Heaven preserve you Lord, this must not happen to you.” But Jesus replies: “get behind me Satan”.
Here on the mountain we are very familiar with the account of the Transfiguration Jesus is transfigured His face shines like the sun His garments become white as light Then they see Moses and Elijah who represent the Law and the Prophets. St john Chrysostom explains why it is these two men who appeared – Jesus was always being accused of breaking the Law and blaspheming so it is important by Moses’ presence here that Jesus prove himself guiltless and then Elijah because the multitudes thought Jesus was Elijah or one of the prophets. He brings with Him the chief of the Prophets that hence at least may be seen the difference between the servants and their Lord.
It is in Luke’s account that the answer to our curious minds’ question is answered. What were Moses, Elijah and Jesus talking about? Luke says: “They spoke of His departure/ His Passing – in other words His death which He was to accomplish in Jerusalem (Lk 9:30). Passover through Death to Life.
Then Peter says: “Lord it is wonderful for us to be here – if you wish I will make three tabernacles – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah. St John Chrysostom says: “Peter yet fears for Christ going up to Jerusalem and thought this place of quietude and solitude would be a fit place to take up their abode and concluded that if Jesus did this He would not go up to Jerusalem and therefore He would not die”. But St Jerome says: “Thou art wrong Peter – think not of three tabernacles when there is but one tabernacle of the Gospel in which both Law and Prophets are to be repeated – just make one tabernacle in thy bosom for Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
Then the bright cloud overshadowed them and a voice from the cloud said: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased – listen to Him.” The Father makes it quite clear to the apostles that Jesus is the One to whom they must listen – to obey and follow.
The three Apostles are filled with fear but Jesus gently touches them and speaks words of comfort: “Stand up and do not be afraid” - they raised their eyes and saw no one only Jesus – the Law and prophets are now found in the Gospel.
We all have our Mount Tabor experiences and we too have to stand and descend the mountain with Jesus to the plain – holding His hand at all times knowing that in the words of the hymn: “Christ leads me through no darker rooms than He went through before.” I cannot forget, as Peter was tempted, that I am mortal and cannot come to eternal happiness without the taste of death and only then reach eternal life. Today’s Prayer sums up the mystery very well: God our Father, You bid us listen to your Son, the well-beloved. Nourish our hearts on your work, Purify the eyes of our mind And fill us with joy at the vision of your glory.
“Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil”
The Church in her liturgy presents Lent as a time of ‘grace’; a ‘springtime’ – a time of conversion when we open our eyes or rather let our eyes be opened to all the Lord wants to give us instead of being content to live an impoverished life with eyes half closed.
At every stage of our lives we are always in need of radical conversion, of a change of heart, whereby we turn away from all that alienates us from God - from all that blinds us to His Presence – and open ourselves to receive the Holy Spirit and all His gifts of love, peace and joy so that we become more truly the people He created us to be, always doing the will of our Father. This ‘doing’ of the Father’s will is not so much about our great effort at our doing and achieving – it is rather a ‘let it be done unto me’.
When we look at the example of Jesus and Mary in the Gospel their doing of the Father’s will was more a surrender than the taking of any initiative on their part. Mary’s response to the Angel was ‘be it done unto me according to thy word’. Jesus’ prayer in the garden was ‘Father not my will but Thine be done’. They simply surrendered to what the present moment presented, believing that they were in Someone’s grip. This Someone had a plan which would be revealed moment by moment and they were being invited to surrender, to let go of their own cherished plans.
In today’s Gospel we see Jesus being led by the Spirit into the desert. This abandonment to the Father does not guarantee a life free from suffering (as we see in the lives of Jesus and Mary); neither does it mean that we will necessarily suffer more but when we embrace each moment, with whatever suffering or difficulty it brings, as coming from the hand of One who loves us, then we are held in the embrace of the One who alone can fill us deep peace and joy even in the midst of suffering and hardship.
At times this abandonment may appear like falling off a cliff and into an abyss and yet when we have the courage to let go we can discover that we are standing on a foundation of solid rock – held in the arms of a loving Father.
Because Jesus lived continually in the Presence of His Father, content with whatever each moment brought, He was able to overcome all the temptations of the devil. May He teach us this Lent to live in the present – without regrets about the past or worry for the future. May He grant us the grace to joyfully accept what each moment may bring and so to live in the Presence of Him who loves us so much that He died to restore us to His friendship.
Young women interested in attending this informative event are very welcome to contact me at email@example.com as soon as possible.Participants will have an opportunity to hear vocation stories from a member of each of the four branches - a friar, lay Dominican, apostolic sister and contemplative nun.As prayer is central to this day, we will pray Lauds/Morning Prayer together shortly after arriving and we will have the celebration of the Eucharist before we leave.
More information about this day is available from the Friars Vocations Blog here
We seek God, Who alone gives meaning to our lives. Communion with Christ and with one another in love, through a life of prayer centred on Jesus, the Word of God and on the Eucharist, is the focus of our community life.
Single young women attracted to this way of life are welcome to contact us and we will arrange for a visit or some days in our retreat house - either at weekend or during the week. If a few are interested at same time, and if agreeable to all, we can also arrange for a group to spend a few days together.