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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: August 15, 2019
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during a Mass to celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Holy Angels Convent in Jonesboro on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019. It is based on the second reading from 1 Corinthians 15:20-27.
As we grow up and mature, we come to learn more about the meaning of life and understand better what is really important. And reflecting on the past, we see that much of our present understanding comes from things that happened when we were children. Our family was where we first learned something about life and the first thing we learned was that we belonged to the family.
We were really part of it, an important and loved member. And as a member, whatever happened to the family happened also to us. If something good happened to a member of the family, we all shared his joy. In difficult times we all made sacrifices. When one member suffered, we all shared his pain. By sharing in the life of the family, we learned to appreciate what it means “to belong.”
The same thing applies to being a member of the religious family of the Olivetan Benedictine Sisters, in which Sister Catherine Luttmer and Sister Maria Rose Carter make their perpetual monastic profession today. The title itself, “sister,” is a constant reminder that you are family.
Sisters Catherine and María Rose will be wearing rings that two of their faithful predecessors in this community wore throughout their monastic life. You Benedictine sisters are a multi-generational family; sisters united in faithfulness across multiple generations.
And so, whatever happens to your family of sisters affects you, happens to you. You rejoice together in the good things that happen to any member of your community and you share the pain when one member suffers — supporting each other especially when faced with problems for which there really are no good solutions. That’s what it means to belong to this religious family.
In our second reading today St. Paul speaks about what it means to belong. We have all experienced what it is to belong to a family. Well here St. Paul tells us that in an even deeper way, we belong to Christ — especially you who wear the ring by which you were betrothed to Christ on the day you made perpetual vows.
And beautifully, Sisters Catherine and María Rose will be wearing rings that two of their faithful predecessors in this community wore throughout their monastic life. You Benedictine sisters are a multi-generational family; sisters united in faithfulness across multiple generations.
And I can relate to this because my episcopal ring was worn throughout his life by my grandfather who was a very faithful Catholic and given to me by my father, once again faithfulness across multiple generations. In any event, Jesus calls us to share life with him. We matter to him and he loves us very much.
Since we belong to him, we also feel his suffering. And we share in his victories, and especially the joy of his resurrection. We too will arise to new life in and through Christ, and so St. Paul writes very clearly: “Just as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will come to life again, but each one in proper order: Christ the first fruits and then at his coming, all those who belong to him.”
When we were children — and then later you as novices, we first learned that we belonged to our family and then we learned how to act as an involved family member. We first learned it by watching and imitating our parents and perhaps our brothers and sisters, and then by watching and imitating our novice mistress and fellow sisters in this community.
Also by learning from the saints about whom we have studied — and in the case of Sister Catherine, this included St. Elizabeth of the Trinty whose inspiring biography she read, “He is My Heaven.” And in the case of Sister María Rose, this included St. Therese of Lisieux, whose book “Last Conversations” she read. And for this reason, they will receive sacred images of these saints at the end of this Mass.
But even more than with these saints, this sense of belonging is part of what Mary means for us. No other human being shared life more totally with Christ than Mary. She belonged to him in the fullest sense of the word. She was with him in his moments of joy (for instance, his birth) and was with him in his agony (at the foot of the cross). Today on the feast of her assumption into heaven, we celebrate her special participation also in Christ’s resurrection.
Thus, we can learn a lot from Mary about how actively to share life with Jesus. By watching her and imitating her, we can discover and understand Christ more and more like she knew and understood him. We can come to appreciate more fully that we do belong to him. And inasmuch as we belong to him, we come to trust in his promise that we will live eternally with and through him.
Today as we celebrate the Assumption of Mary, the first person to share fully in Jesus’ victory, we also recall that Mary is our model of faithfulness, especially for those of you in religious life. If we are faithful to Jesus like Mary was, we too will rise to share in Jesus’ victory with Mary forever in heaven.