These are words parents might say when children depart for overseas studies. They might be what lovers say when committing to each other for life. You and I know these are really Jesus’s words to you and me as lover or parent, as friend and saviour. Today, they are especially meant for you, Sr Xiaowei.
Jesus expresses his love in deeds, not words. He himself is Love alive and Love in action. This is why He is God – because God is love.
For you, Sr Xiaowei, Jesus expresses His love to you in the most intimate of ways. It began when he gathered you to Himself to discern and live the vowed life. Today he gives you a deeper love to profess your perpetual vows.
Indeed, your years of religious formation and life have been a time of cleansing you to be his completely. He has given you a new heart and a new spirit as a religious of the Cenacle. He has removed that heart of stone and led you to the new land of religious life. He has given himself to you who he calls, “My beloved.” In turn, you learned to love Him more intimately as “my God.” We also hear these truths from the Prophet Ezekiel who reminds us that God has always loved you as his own since ancient times.
At the heart of all this is God’s desire for relationship with everyone. This is also God’s desire for you. So, root yourself in His love and enflesh your trust in God. Entrust yourself completely to him as you make your perpetual vows. With these vows, you express to all of us your total self-giving to God in deeds, not words. Yes, every word of the vow you will make come together as your sacrifice of love to God. Your vows then are really your self-sacrificing deed of love; it speaks louder than all the words said. Indeed, your ‘yes’ to remaining in Jesus’s love with perpetual vows are total, faithful and free. They are made in the hope of becoming Christ to all.
Your ’yes,’ Sr Xiaowei is that very selfless sacrifice of love Jesus commands us to live – to lay down our lives for your friends that include you RC sisters, your family and friends and for the many God will place into your care.
This is why we gather here. We want to tell you that we will remain with you in friendship. We do to support you as you deepen your ‘yes’ to live fully this love you and God share all the days of your life as a fully professed religious of the Sisters of the Cenacle.
Today we celebrate with you. However, we recognize a dying to ourselves we must make. To a lesser degree, we too are laying down our lives for you. We know we must die to our wants of hoping you will have more time for us, of you staying with us in Singapore when God may call you on mission elsewhere, of our relationship as family and friends because now God has chosen you as his beloved.
Yet, we rejoice as you surrender yourself to Jesus with your vows to follow Him wherever He leads you. We rejoice because we know this is possible because you and Sisters have co- discern over many years of your formation, growing and maturing in your vocation to be ready for today. Now, your Sisters affirm you are ready. Now, we witness your readiness for God and his mission. Today, all of us want to assure you that we will pray and support you as you readily and forever surrender yourself to the Lord.
These vows are not an end in themselves. A member of Courage, the ministry I work for, wrote that “love is a process, not an outcome.” So, it is too with these vows. They invite you and God to continue sharing love. This is why the Lord pours his Spirit into you. This Spirit that will continue to convert you more and more into the image of Jesus for the world. We pray we will witness how you will become more Christ-like over time, and others seeing Christ in you, will sing out loud, “See how Sr Xiaowei lives; she is indeed a Christian!”
Each time this happens, we will know, as many will too, the joyful truth we sang in today’s Psalm – God indeed “sends forth his Spirit and the face of the earth is renewed.” This is the mission ahead for you. You can only give what you have. So, share God’s Spirit with all.
Sr Xiaowei, today you have every right to delight and sing that song of joy, “O bless the Lord my soul, bless your name for gentle is the love of the Lord.” Make this your daily song of praise – praising God for all that has been, for all that is happening today but more so for all that will come to be. We will sing this praise too. Indeed, it is right and good that delight and praise are the feelings we have today.
They must be for as St Therese Couderc, your Foundress, once wrote, “The love of God desires to delight in all of us always.” And God’s delights in you, Sr Xiaowei, because today you enflesh what Mother Therese also wrote: “that surrendering oneself to God is more than to devote oneself, more than to give oneself, it is even something more than to abandon oneself to God. In a word, to surrender oneself is to die to everything and to self, to be no longer concern with self, except to keep continually turned toward God.”
Thank you for your “yes” to Jesus, Sr Xiaowei. You witness to us how the love of God leads us ultimately to love God one and to love all in God. Your witness calls us to go forth and do likewise in our lives and the world. Thanks be to God, indeed!
Preached by Fr Adrian Danker, SJ
At St Patrick’s School Chapel, Singapore 10 September 2022
These words make so much sense as we gather this morning. We hear in Jesus’s words the wondrous love of God labouring in our lives to make possible the impossible. And we do believe what we hear. Thanks be to God!
God who makes possible the dreams of old men come alive and true. Makes possible the visions of young men taking on flesh and form in the world. Make possible the prophecies of our sons and daughters embodied in words we hear and deeds we experience.
These are not words of Scripture to hear and know. Today, we witness the truth of these words in Sr Kriz making her perpetual vows and the Cenacle mission celebrating 25 years in Singapore. Truly these express God’s good, faithful and generous labour bearing fruit.
Individually and together, these two celebrations are the one story of God making possible the impossible. We gather to witness this. We give thanks and celebrate with you, dear Sisters. More than this, we are here to pray that God “who gas began this good work in you may bring it to fulfilment before the day of Christ Jesus.”
A perpetual profession Sr Kriz makes. This 25th anniversary the Sisters of the Cenacle celebrate. These are not just outcomes of formation and mission. Rather, they are milestones in God’s long walk with each of these good, generous, and holy women. God has set them apart for us and the Church. Their work is not done yet. It continues for the promise of God’s glory is still unfolding through their loving words, their generous hands, and their big-hearted lives offered for everyone.
Today God makes possible Sr Kriz’s perpetual vows. God has prepared her for this over many years of formation. It began when she encountered God in a Cenacle retreat in Chiangmai many years ago. This is how, you, Sr Kriz, described this encounter in your vocation story: “God met me in my brokenness, healed me and drew me into the life and community of the Cenacle.” You added: “My vocation is a response to the healing love and gentle touch of God, and because of personally meeting Jesus, I desire to give myself fully to his mission: to go and tell everyone this is Good News.”
Sr Kriz, we marvel how God has taken the hope-filled desire of a young woman and today brings it to fruition as you make your perpetual vows. How good God is to you!
But Sr Kriz can only do this because of the greater good God has made possible – the establishment and unfolding of the Cenacle mission in Singapore. Her story is woven into the richer, larger and more colourful tapestry of the Cenacle presence here. It began humbly 25 years ago when two Cenacle Sisters joined 2 Jesuits to begin spiritual direction training at the Singapore Pastoral Institute. On 2 July 1997, the then Regional Superior of the Cenacle Sisters established the first Cenacle community in Singapore. Today that superior, Sr Linda, with Sr Mel serve us so selflessly and so well. Many Sisters came and went, everyone of them serving so generously to build the Mission. Over the years, God has even made possible 3 Singaporean vocations – Sr Fran, Sr Xiaowei and Sr Kriz. The works of the Cenacle today are varied and rich, all of them focussed on the care and salvation of the souls in the Ignatian tradition.
How could God have made all this possible?
Peter’s example in today’s Gospel passage helps us understand. He, with the other disciples, have given up everything to follow Jesus. “What will there be for us?” He asks Jesus.
No one follows Jesus without first encountering him, then surrendering all to follow, and as they follow, to find themselves challenged repeatedly to ask – in the most human, humbled and graced manner – “What will there be?” This is the necessary question facing every disciple. It demands more listening, more surrendering, more trust, even more faith, especially, when the possible no longer seems possible.
Such must have been your journey, Sr Kriz as you yearned to make these perpetual vows. Such must also have been the trials and tensions of the Cenacle Sisters as they began and grew in Singapore. Sheltered at their first home with the Good Shepherd Sisters at Marymount. Then, sharing space with the Daughters of St Paul at Jurong West. Now at their new home at Jalan Angin Laut in the East.
What helped? Not what but who – God.
Paul writing to the Philippians reminds us of this. In choosing Christ, Paul proclaimed the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus as Lord; everything else pales in comparison. And they should because to know Christ Jesus is to know that has made us his own, This truth helps Paul to press on because God alone was perfecting him for mission. You and I are called to let Jesus do the same for us. Do we? Will we?
Sr Kriz and the Cenacle Sisters heard and still hear this same invitation from Jesus. It moved them to say “yes, Lord!” I believe they did then and do now to know Jesus more intimately, love him more intensely and follow him more closely. Their “yes” makes possible today’s celebrations. This is why Sr Kriz writes, “This passage describes my formation and growth journey. Difficult as it may have been, like all religious communities and life, there were abundant graces… At the start of my juniorate, I begged the Lord to show me that his grace is ever present.”
The grace Sr Kriz asked for is the same grace her Sisters echo, I believe. Not for themselves but for everyone they serve. After all, isn’t the Cenacle mission about awakening and deepening God who is with us?
Saying “yes” is never easy. One knows just enough to utter “yes.” Everything else is a matter of trusting and believing, and letting God lead. Like Mary whose “yes” led her from the Annunciation to that Upper Room at Pentecost, from Jesus’s birth to his dying to the gift of his Spirit, the “yes-es” made by Sr Kriz and her fellow Sisters express trusting, believing and letting God lead them and their mission. This is the way of surrendering that their co-founder St Therese Courderc writes so passionately and single-mindedly about: “that dying to everything and self, to no longer be concern about self except to keep continually tuned toward God. And yes, this surrendering, turning to God delights him.”
Their surrender expresses much more. Wise are we to note this. In the words of their co-founder, Fr Stephen Terme, to say “yes” is to understand that “The way or route to God is the interior disposition of the soul to God…in order to be perfectly possessed by God.”
I believe Sr Kriz desires this today. God invites her to make possible the almost impossible act of surrendering all with a “yes” to be perfectly one with God. Her Cenacle sisters who’ve said “yes” know that their “yes” makes possible what Jesus says in the gospel acclamation, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” If we dare say “yes” we will understand the joy – not happiness or satisfaction or contentment that are all temporary – that all of these Sisters of the Cenacle relish.
Theirs is the joy of being blessed with a new heart, a new spirit, a new life – all possible because of God who daily chooses to enter into intimacy with them, so intimate they are his own and he is their God. This is why God gathers us here today: to see in Sr Kriz and the Cenacle Sisters that all things are possible in God. Nothing is impossible.
To you, Sr Kriz and dear Sisters of the Cenacle, we must say “thank you.” Your lives of selfless service reveals God in our midst. You invite us to recognise God’s desire that we let him make of our lives the possibility of living lives like yours – loving God totally, serving all selflessly.
In you we have come to understand what Fr Terme once wrote to Mother Therese and which we must learn today. “That as we journey across life, including it deserts, we must do with courage and be sure of one things: that God gives us graces…and even where the graces are no longer felt, God is always with us, and he gives us others, which are worth more.” You are these others God has blessed us with.
Now let us humbly ask the Lord to always give us that spirit of thanksgiving for you and your mission, dear good Sisters. We ask this because in you see God’s goodness that the psalmist so rightly sings “his love endures forever.”
Indeed what more do we need to praise God for on this happy day?
Preached by Fr Adrian Danker, SJ
at Holy Family Church
Saturday, 15 October 2022