Rather, when you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind;
blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you (Luke 14:13,14).”
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
I hope you immediately identify the banquet for which Jesus speaks, the Eucharistic banquet. Jesus outrightly explains the gift of God’s love; it is not something which is repayable. He offers us His love freely, knowing of our own weaknesses, our sinfulness, and our pride. He tells us that He doesn’t invite just the righteous to His banquet; He invites everyone, without rancor and even those who may not understand His divine love. He loves us fully so that we are able to receive His love. Then, He asks us to do the same. He tells us that our invitation to God’s love should be without payment. We are called to “do this in remembrance” – to do for people without any expectation. Whatever we do, do because we have God’s love to share. He offers that the Eucharistic banquet is one of service. Just as Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, so Jesus tells us when we come to the banquet to arrive expecting to serve, not to be served. He asks us to sit in the lowest place and be satisfied. He asks us to arrive humbly and we will not be disappointed.
Our religious sisters who serve in the Diocese of Orlando embody the invitation of Christ by their solemn vow to serve through consecrated life. Their living is a Eucharistic banquet showing us time and time again how to live through, with and in God’s love. They do not assume a place of esteem in any gathering; rather, you will find them serving at all times. They do not expect anything in return; however, they invite each one of us, in their own special way, to come to the Eucharistic banquet.
The state of consecrated life is one way of experiencing a “more intimate” consecration, rooted in Baptism and dedicated totally to God. In the consecrated life, Christ’s faithful, moved by the Holy Spirit, propose to follow Christ more nearly, to give themselves to God who is loved above all and, pursuing the perfection of charity in the service of the Kingdom, to signify and proclaim in the Church the glory of the world to come (CCC 916). These women of consecrated life have spurred and enriched our pilgrimage to heaven. We pray with joy and gratitude for them and particularly our jubilarians.
Sister Maureen Cannon, OP
Sister Elizabeth Marie Stoup, SSJ
Sister Jessica Zwarra, OSF
Sister Loretta Morgan, SCFF
Sister Virginia West, SNDdeN
Sister Margaret Franzese, MPF
Each one of these religious sisters, by their charism, brings God’s Eucharistic banquet to our daily living. While they do not expect our gratitude, they teach us the gift of thanksgiving, the fruit of the Eucharistic banquet. While they offer themselves as instruments of the Lord, their labor fills our spirit with a sweet aroma leading us to magnify the Lord by our very being. The Eucharistic banquet is served wherever they appear for they do not discern to whom to feed God’s matchless love.
You will notice that some of these jubilarians may be considered “retired”; yet they continue to serve God as best as they are able. I’d also like to call attention to some other religious sisters who recently “retired.” One is Sister Rosemary Finnegan, OP who served for 35 years as director of faith formation for the parishioners of St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church, Winter Park. In 2015 she celebrated her 50th jubilee as a religious sister. During a recent celebration of Mass at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church, I presented a plaque to her upon her retirement. I was able to offer a personal thank you to her. So many people of the parish know her because they had been spiritually fed by her for generations. Asked what she will do in retirement, her response is, “to serve God, what else?” She continues to assist with the parish Haitian mission, lead retreats, and offers reflections so that others will come to know God.
Sister Bernie Mackay, OSU has served as director of the Diocesan Mission Office for more than 31 years. Sister Bernie has, through God’s intervention, led many volunteers and diocesan employees to build a community of faith within our Sister Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic. She brought God’s love to many people without expectation and dressed the table of a wondrous Eucharistic feast for all to partake. While she may no longer be making ‘mission trips’, she will be serving young people in the Diocese of Orlando, offering them God’s love that they may come to have His heart.
Pope Francis has declared September 1 World Day of Prayer which begins a Season of Creation.
He quotes from Psalm 150:6, “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!” Our religious sisters live these humble words and help us to know the Eucharistic banquet is an eternal feast which we breathe 24/7/365. May we be blessed in our humble participation.