We have spent the last forty days of Lent preparing for the Church’s great feast of Easter. We set out in the first Sunday with the prayer, “Through our observance of Lent, help us to understand the meaning of your Son’s death and resurrection, and teach us to reflect it in our lives.” It is our tradition each year to prepare for this through prayer and good works – a tradition that, in one way, is the same each year and yet, at the same time, different. This year’s Lent was certainly very different as the world united in concern over the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and then in joy and hope over the election of Pope Francis I. As Macrina Weiderkehr asserts, “Joy and sorrow are sisters; they live in the same house.”
I have also experienced these two sisters of joy and sorrow very tangibly this Lent which I have spent visiting our Sisters in the Philippines, Myanmar and Korea – countries which are struggling with the challenges of poverty, ethnic violence and nuclear threats, to mention but a few. In situations such as these, it is indeed very difficult to respond to the words of the prophet Isaiah, “No need to recall the past, no need to think about what was done before. See, I am doing a new deed, even now it comes to light; can you not see it?” Reaching out in compassion and love, I see Columban Sisters striving “to be with” people in their struggles and sufferings as well as their joys; “to do for” them what needs to be done in order to assist in the building of a better life and also “to receive graciously” the love which the people in return bestow upon the Sisters. And in reaching out to the suffering Christ through service to those in need, we experience what the poet Rumi tells us that “Anyone who gives anything to the Divine will find that it comes back to them turned to gold.”
“Sent in the name of the Church to spread the Good News of the Kingdom of God, especially among those who have not yet received it”, mission for Columban Sisters, as with Lent, can appear to be the same over the years – but also different. It has been inspiring and moving for me to see our elderly Sisters still so enthusiastic about serving those in need and to see our younger Sisters on their first mission assignment as equally enthusiastic and inserted in the countries to which they have been sent. My hope is that in our missionary endeavours, we Columban Sisters can put into practice the three words around which Pope Francis structured his homily in his first Mass –
“Camminare” – to walk – with the poor, the despised and the needy of our world.
“Edificare” – to build – a world and a Church where all will be equal.
“Confessare” – to confess or bear witness to the glory of Christ and his cross – through lives of prayer and service.
These days, my prayer is that we Columban Sisters and all of us in the Church will indeed be able to respond to Pope Francis’ exhortation to “have the courage, truly the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the cross of the Lord; to build up the Church upon the blood of the Lord that was shed upon the cross; and to confess the only glory: Christ crucified. And in this way the Church will move forward.” In this way, too, we will bear witness to the Resurrection of Christ and reflect it in our lives.