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Sister Hilary Mary, CT

The Challenge
of the Religious Life Today

And all of this is from God who has reconciled us to himself through Christ, and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.  We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. II Cor. 5:18-20 NAB

In a world disrupted by war, terrorism, and oppression, the call and challenge comes to Religious Communities to become instruments of peace, to partake in the ministry of reconciliation by prayer and service, both in the Church and throughout the world.  The vowed life of poverty/simplicity, chastity/celibacy, and obedience frees us from the strictures of our culture:  love of money and wealth, status, and power.  Through our vowed life in Community we are led to reach out to the poor, the sick, the hungry, and those in prison, whether materially or spiritually speaking, the fringe people who are our brothers and sisters.  It enables us to stand in the breach between races, nations, and faiths, by prayer and/or action.  Through prayer, worship, and the nourishment we receive through the Sacraments, we are strengthened "to go forth to every part of the world and proclaim the Good News to the whole creation." Mark 16:15 NEB How great is the need in our world today.

Life in community is not always easy.  That too is part of the challenge.  God sends a variety of individuals with different backgrounds and personalities which often rub up against each other in trying to live together and form community.  Each person, however, who God sends, despite our wants and weaknesses, is a gift to the Community.  Each of us is meant to grow into what God would have us be, that unique person made in His image, but we do not do this alone but in the company of those with whom we live.  As we live in Community, we find our common unity in Christ.  Our common bond is the love of Christ, and by the gift of the Holy Spirit we become one in Him.

In the world, and even in the Church, we find division between the rich and the poor, the haves and have nots, between men and women, heterosexual and homosexual persons, between clergy and laity, between races, and between the first world and the two-thirds world.  We struggle with institutionalize, legalisms, individualism, and the depressing pile of papers which keep us buried and not free to respond to the needs of our fellow men and women.  As Religious we are called to break those barriers of fear that paralyze us, to live as free men and women in Christ, to conquer by the power of the Holy Spirit the evils and temptations that constrict us, and this we do both as individuals, men and women of faith, and in Community.

And lastly, the Religious Life is a call to commitment to God in the unstable life that often surrounds us. Can we give ourselves to God, become carriers of the love of Jesus who died on the cross for us and all we meet, even in the midst of those who reject us? The call to live in Community, the call to commitment to God, to live the life of the Gospel is a challenge to all who receive a vocation to Religious Life today, and always has been. To answer that call may take us many places we never dreamed of going, to do things we never imagined we could do, and to live each day, often in an unexpected way. It is an adventure.

The discipline may sometimes prune us. As the gardener prunes the plants so that they may grow more fully, God trains us in the way we are meant to grow. We may be sent where we would rather not go. As we share in His ministry, we may experience disappointments and failures, but his Spirit is there to guide us despite whatever obstacles we meet. They may indeed be stepping stones across the river and currents that we need to cross to strengthen us for the adventure.

When we as Religious in Community share in his ministry, whatever form it takes, we too will share in his passion and grace. The way of the world often will be against us. We will be rejected, and rejection hurts. It may, indeed, break us, but through the breaking, as the bread of his Body is broken in the Eucharist, we will become instruments of reconciliation, of healing, and particle of his Body that leads to the transfiguration of the world.


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