The following is a reflection that Sister Sue Scharfenberger, OSU, gave at the Jubilee Mass on Sunday, August 29, 2021 in the Motherhouse Chapel, celebrating the 2020 and the 2021 jubilarians.
Who of us was not in awe of that young girl with the yellow coat and red hat who stood before the country, before President Biden and Vice President Harris and recited The Hill We Climb.
Since then, I have read and reread especially the last part of the poem: “For there is always light if only we are brave enough to see it, if only we are brave enough to be it.”
And more recently I have substituted love for light. Yes, there is always love if only we are brave enough to see it, if only we are brave enough to be it. And in 2021 we need to be brave enough to both see and be the love we profess.
Our readings today tell how us this is so.
Hosea, prophet of the Northern Kingdom, contemporary of Amos, relied on his own experience to understand and then reflect the experience of God with Israel. While many of us have used passages from Hosea for retreats, reflections, and more, feeling the call of a loving God to go into the desert where we might hear God’s message, we need to be reminded that Hosea’s words came from a painful love relationship with his spouse. And his message is one of fidelity in spite of, forgiveness even while knowing, healing relationships over and over again.
“We will not march back to what was but move to what shall be.” Says Amanda Gorman, in The Hill We Climb.
When the countless and unending wars in all parts of the world hit the news; when racial prejudice shows its ugly face over and over in our cities, our grocery stores, and on our streets; when we too often hear he/she is not an American because of the color of her skin or the accent in her voice; when our prison system is used to punish and discriminate rather than look for equitable solutions to economic disparities, we need to be reminded of Hosea’s message.
“I will wed you to myself forever, I will wed you with integrity and justice, with tenderness and love, I will wed you with fidelity and you will know Yahweh, you will know God. “
Because of that experience, of betrayal, deception, rejection, you will know the possibilities of love. Acts of love, yes, but also the cosmic reality of love that is, love that is God.
And so, we can better understand what John tells us in the Gospel, we can “remain in”—breathe in, live in, abound in, stay in forever … LOVE. Because it is not just an accumulation of acts of love, but a way of being. It reflects a way of understanding who God is and who we are. Love, it is that simple. It is a being rather than a doing, but it is doing so that we can be.
It is being caught up in that first love affair that we heard as novices being called into the desert. And it is the embracing of the different, reaching out to the men and women who stand on the exits of the interstate saying they are homeless, loveless, hungry, and without family.
It is in the recycling, and the planting of trees, using less hot water and fewer plastics that we are taken from the acts of love to the being of love itself. It is in buying from the local farmer, rather than paying for the transportation of huge quantities of food, that we love the earth and remain in love.
And so, we read and reread from the Gospel of John: Remain in my love. Joy to be complete. “No greater love.” We remain in love when we are conscious of love as being.
I sometimes wonder if it isn’t time that we changed some of our vocabulary when dealing with the enormous divides within our country and world. Naming the political affiliation does not identify you.
Bipartisan does not describe the multiple positions on an issue. “On the other side of the aisle,” is not your geographical identity.
We are never too old nor too few nor too limited to Be in the love of God, to be in the God of love, to embrace that way of being that is love’s communion.
When John said “God is love,” he was speaking from the experience of the foot of the cross, finding the empty tomb, sitting at Jesus’ side. Love was a way of being and being with.
It was because Jesus had experienced in his lifetime communion with the poor, the stranger, the outcast, the men, the women, the children, that Jesus knew what “remain in love” meant.
It was because Jesus had fed thousands, healed lepers, learned carpentry, sat at Mary’s side that he knew what it meant to “remain in love.”
So, when Jesus invites us to “remain in love,” he is talking about a way of being: collective, communal, attached, one to another. In jubilee we discover this. Over and over again. Remain in this global, suffering, non-partisan, multi-lingual, intercultural way of being.
And I return to Amanda Gorman: If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change, our children’s birthright.
For there is always love, if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.
When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.
We braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.
And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.
We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.
And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption.
We feared at its inception.
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour.
But within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So, while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.
We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, become the future.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain.
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.
So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the golden hills of the West.
We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked South.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.
And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.
The new dawn balloons as we free it.
For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history