July 28, 2018
Joyce Ann Zimmerman, CPPS
[Gen 12:1-4a/Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9/Eph 1:3-14/John 15:1-8]
God said to Abram, “Go.” And he went. He listened to an as yet unknown God, for whom he had been searching. He went. He left his homeland, wealth, heritage, prestige, security. He went, taking with him only his immediate family and enough possessions for a journey to an unknown land. By any standard of society, Abram was a little bit crazy!
God said to him, “Go.” And he went. He faithfully obeyed his Father’s will, leaving aside even his very divinity. He went, emptying himself of all that was his from before the foundation of the world, to become one with us humans in all things, even suffering and death, all things except being unfaithful to his Father’s will. He went. By any standard of society, he was a little bit crazy, too!
God said to her, “Go.” And she went. She listened to a God whom she knew, but desired to know and serve more deeply. She went, leaving her own homeland, tribe, family, culture, security. She went, taking with her only a few personal items to discern God’s call among a Congregation of women as yet largely unknown to her. By any standard of society, Mumbi, you’re just a little bit crazy, as well!
In fact, hearing God’s call and leaving all that is familiar and comfortable is the easy part! The hard part lies in unwavering fidelity. But we are never alone on our faith-journey. Through baptism we are branches grafted onto Christ the vine. Through baptism we become one with him in his suffering and death, and by espousing his self-emptying, we become one with him in risen Life. This is the demand of fidelity: letting go of self, allowing God to prune us of anything that puts distance between the divine will and us, so that we remain attached to the true Vine that is Christ. And by that attachment his sap of Life, that is, his Precious Blood, courses through us, enabling us to bear the fruit of love and hope, compassion and mercy, forgiveness and fullness of redeemed Life.
Herein lies the mystery we celebrate today: Mumbi’s First Profession of vowing her life to God as a Sister of the Precious Blood doesn’t change her baptismal covenant with God, doesn’t make her life any easier, certainly doesn’t show her any clearer the new landscape to which God is calling her and that God will show her more and more each day. No, her First Profession makes of her — like all of us Sisters of the Precious Blood — a living, ecclesial, public icon of being redeemed by Christ’s Precious Blood. By this Precious Blood we are bought back from the slavery of self-importance, self-satisfaction, self-indulgence; we are bought back from clinging to that which is familiar, comfortable, and home to us, bought back for the inviolable freedom to empty ourselves of anything that takes us away from God, to be filled with the courage to embrace the wisdom tradition of the Church, to live our consecrated life as disciples unveiling for others God’s goodness, blessings, and life-giving promises.
To be consecrated means to be dedicated to God, to be set apart to be sacred, to be God-like. We are faithful to this consecration only when we are faithful to the listening for God’s voice that is obedience, the self-emptying kenosis that is poverty, the expansiveness of self loving all others that is celibacy. Our religious vow to God, interpreted by our Way of Life, specifies how we live being God-like. And by our faithful, consecrated living, we invite others to pursue being God-like in their own ways.
Our unique expression of Precious Blood Spirituality, grounded in Eucharistic celebration and adoration, defines our very being as Sisters of the Precious Blood. We eat his Body and drink his Blood so that the Life of the true Vine is our Life as the many branches. While Mumbi is entering into a special period of discernment of God’s call to be a Sister of the Precious Blood, the Eucharist reminds us that all our lives are a discernment of how we are daily to be given over for spiritual food and poured out for Life-drink. The Eucharist is the risen Christ’s continual Self-giving calling us to embrace that same self-giving. The mystery of Christ’s Life-giving Blood is no less than a complete surrender of self for others, is no less than pouring forth divine love by the grace of the Holy Spirit given us, is no less than remaining in Christ in all we are and do so that our fruit is richly plenteous. Eucharist is the source and summit of our consecrated life. It is the sure promise that our true home, the one from which we need never go forth, is in Christ Jesus for the glory and praise of God. Our fidelity, our self-giving, our embrace of the Gospel promise are themselves the journey toward fullness of Life God promises those who are faithful.
We sang a moment ago “Taste and see the goodness of the LORD.” We taste the goodness, the sweetness of the risen Christ’s gift of Self in the Eucharist. We see the blessings of community and ministry, of prayer and resting in the Lord, of being chosen and sent. The goodness of the Lord consists in the call to be grafted onto Christ, to remain in him, to be pruned so abundant fruit might blossom forth. The goodness of the Lord is tasted and seen in the blessing of being destined to be the Presence of the risen Christ in the ordinary circumstances of our lives. We rejoice and are glad in Mumbi’s three-year commitment to hear God’s call as a Sister of the Precious Blood. All of us — Sisters, family, friends — are bid to support her, pray for her, love her, appreciate her, walk with her so her journey of discernment is honest and true and ends where only God can lead her. May her commitment today challenge each of us to be open to whatever pruning we still need to listen faithfully for God’s voice, to follow where he calls, to bless God for the divine goodness bestowed on each of us.
By any standard of society, living the Gospel is a bit crazy. Living a consecrated, ecclesial life is even crazier! But as St. Paul reminds us, we are all fools for Christ (cf. 1 Cor 4:10). Our blessing of wisdom does not come from this world, but from the goodness of God’s Spirit poured forth so abundantly upon us. We choose values and a way of life that does not have as its core making money, controlling others, exalting self. All of us who are baptized into Christ are called to live, suffer, die like he did — for the sake of others. And we know when we do that, when our life is lived in and as his Presence, then we rise with him to new Life — now and in the fullness of Life to come. The demands of hearing God’s call and allowing God to lead us and show us where we are to be is never easy. But when we hear, answer, and are faithful to God’s call, the fruits taste ever so sweet, the wine brings such inebriating joy, the journey is so satisfying. In this privilege of living total self-emptying, our cry can only be “Praised be the most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.”
Sisters Ann Clark, Joyce Lehman and Mumbi Kigutha listen to Sister Joyce Ann’s Gospel reflection; Michelle Bodine photo.