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Reflections, CSJ Associates Commitment Renewal, May 1, 2022
Before I begin my reflection, I have to tell you about a surprise I found while seeking inspiration for today’s reflection. To prepare, first, I read today’s readings and all the material Sr. Mary Ellen sent me. Next, I sat silently with Jesus, and then I read over all the loving messages from Sisters, Associates, and Friends that I had received five years ago for my initial Commitment. Look what I found – a gift certificate from the “Dear Neighbor Gifts” store – with NO expiration date!
Now, here’s the reflection:
Thresholds, thresholds, and more thresholds! Life is full of thresholds, and in the Community of St. Joseph this year, we’ve focused on crossing thresholds a lot. Where do our threshold crossings take us? Because they often take us “to ventures of which we cannot see the ending,” it can be difficult to cross thresholds. But, crossing thresholds as partners with Jesus in his loving mission, as partners with the lace-makers of Le Puy, and as partners with all the CSJ Family of Joseph, we have courage to cross thresholds!
371 years ago, in Le Puy, France, six women crossed a threshold to form the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Only one of them could read or write, but with a deep contemplative vision, they set out to cross what was more like a swinging bridge between the mountainous divisions and alienations of their time. (Sound Familiar?) They felt the sufferings of the orphaned, the sick, the starving, and those unjustly imprisoned. Did they partner with the richest and most powerful people in the world? No, they partnered with Jesus and with each other to minister to the poorest of the poor and the outcasts of society. There were many tumultuous times and risks to their own safety. Some even faced death by guillotine! With the grace of God and a strong bond with each other, they kept the dream alive, and it lives on almost four centuries later.
35 years ago the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston crossed a threshold to welcome lay people to share their faith journey – to realize Christ’s prayer that all may be one with God and with one another. The Family of Joseph added the CSJ Associate Relationship. The first 17 Associates made initial commitments in 1990, here in Brighton, where we today, in that same partnership, gather to celebrate our commitments as Associates.
Did all of us really know what lay ahead of us when we made our initial commitments? I know I didn’t. Even after the two “Come and See” years with mentors who lived the CSJ Charism, “to move always toward profound love of God, God’s great love, and love of the Dear Neighbor without distinction,” we had only a partial idea of what lay ahead as Associates. But, we did know we would always be in partnership with Jesus, the Sisters, and other Associates.
As partners, we had some shared experiences and some individual experiences. In today’s 2nd reading, Paul says to the Romans, “though many are one body in Christ…..we have gifts that differ according to the favor bestowed on each of us.” Some Sisters and Associates cross thresholds to visit prisoners, minister to the mentally and physically ill, to teach immigrants and children, to march against abuse and injustice, to feed and clothe the homeless, to fight against climate change and protect our Mother Earth.
There are other thresholds we cross with our words or our faces. As the saying goes, one kind word can warm 3 winter months! One greeting card or note lets the receiver know he/she is not alone. Prayers offered for the needs of others bring love, hope and healing. A smile connects to another’s heart with a spark of joy. We cross thresholds to connect with others through music, artwork, and gardens that express the contents of our souls. Infusing knitted or crocheted prayer shawls, baby blankets, afghans, and lace with God’s love, we bring comfort to others.
By the entrance to this chapel there is a beautiful framed representation of the statue of St. Joseph located in front of the Mother House. Just as each of the 76,800 tiny beads creates the representation of the statue, each of our loving threshold crossings creates the Kingdom of God.
When we closed our eyes this year for a guided meditation that took us, from a courtyard, over a threshold, and into the house of Simon, the leper, we accompanied Mary of Bethany who broke tradition and anointed the living Jesus with precious oils. Now, we Sisters and Associates face similar thresholds as we look at the challenges of being the loving presence of Jesus in today’s world.
In St. John’s gospel today, Jesus advised his disciples who caught nothing during their entire night of fishing, “Throw your net on the other side of the boat.” When they followed Jesus’ directions their net overflowed with large fish! In all creation, change is part of living. When we stop changing, we stop living. Change is a scary threshold to cross as we move forward each day in this radically changing world. But in partnership with God and God’s love in us each of us, we will find the way to cross the present and future thresholds.
Like my gift certificate from the “Dear Neighbor Gifts” shop, there is no expiration date or limit to God’s Loving Presence with us!