By S. Peggy Bonnot
What a joy to be gathered in this sacred space! What a blessed day!
The readings we have just heard from Isaiah and Luke ring out with praise, joy, humble acceptance, and courage. Isaiah, Elizabeth and Mary are anointed with the Spirit of the Lord. What does this anointing mean? For the prophet Isaiah it is an anointing to proclaim – a call that Jesus will embrace as his central mission. It is a mission to announce good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom from bondage, release from Darkness, to comfort all who mourn in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty, the oil of joy and a garment of praise. It is a mission to rebuild, restore, renew. Isaiah’s vision is for us to acknowledge and proclaim “Great in our midst is the holy One of Israel!”
Centuries after Isaiah comes Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting she is filled with the Holy Spirit. She cries out: “Of all women you are the most blessed – the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy! Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
And Mary, pregnant with the Word of God, filled with the Holy Spirit, responds in humility, joy and courage: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my savior. “
Mary’s Magnificat is both a song of joy and a manifesto of hope. It is filled to the brim with sentiments of thanksgiving and sharing. Mary humbly acknowledges God’s physical presence within her with words of praise, thanksgiving, trust and prophesy. She shares her personal and intimate experience, and at the same time a sharp insight into God’s own policy toward humanity.
Miriam June Bannon, sealed with the Hebrew name of Mary at Baptism, acknowledges today, by perpetual profession of vows “what the Holy one has done for her”. She gives public witness to the seeds of faith planted long ago in another country, Ireland, by her parents, family, and significant mentors.
In a recent witness that Miriam gave to women discerning religious life Miriam gave an insight into the spirit-filled woman she is. In her own words: “I am a CCVI about to make final vows. Mary is my model and my prayer is as Mary’s ‘let what you want be done in me’”. She continued: “I experience religious life as being rooted in Christ and rooted in ecclesial community in a life-long commitment. How we get to where we want to go is shaped by the vibrancy and mutuality of our lives together (being one heart and one mind.) We ground ourselves in community and from there live out our ministries – A Life for God, a heart for others.”
From childhood Miriam’s faith was focused on the person of Jesus and values of community, love, justice, mutuality and truth. When introduced to the Magnificat during the preparation for her Confirmation she made it a part of her daily prayer. It rooted her.
Not surprisingly, Miriam answered a call to Lay Missionary life Reaching out, beyond country and cultural and social boundaries Miriam served in Mexico and the United States – through teaching, pastoral work, and leadership formation. She worked on teams with CCVI’s, Jesuits, IHM’s and others; at times sharing a common living space, praying together and breaking bread at the kitchen table. A desire for a permanent commitment led her to discern religious life as a vowed CCVI. Her decision to become a woman religious was strongly influenced by the Sisters she lived with in community and a nagging inner voice inviting her to give all to serve God through making the Love of God visible to a suffering world.
To further quote Miriam – “Vows are a public commitment, a surrendering of oneself to ‘let it be done to me’ and to communion within a community for life. We realize, we understand, we come to appreciate that Jesus lives in us – that we are called by LOVE to be love – that is to be evangelizers, bearing the Christ light and Christ life to those who seek relief at our hands.”
The world situation at the time of Mary, the mother of God, was very difficult. The circumstances in which she lived are not so different from those of our world today. She experienced the need to flee her home for safety. She lived in an occupied country. She witnessed the oppression of her people. Her courage in answering the call of God opened her to a whole new manifestation of the Spirit borne out of her absolute belief that the Messiah would fulfill the prophecies of Isaiah. She witnessed to her hope and courage even as she stood at the foot of the cross.
Today, Miriam, you proclaim your own Magnificat: “How Great is God in our midst!” Continue to work for the furtherance of Jesus’ mission, but most of all – remain in God’s love. God’s unconditional love will support you as you seek an ever deeper identification with Jesus. You will find courage and hope to face all the challenges that religious life brings. You will balance your deep hunger for justice with a true longing to seek God first and above all else.
May you always draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation. May praise be always on your lips and a song of thanksgiving in your heart. May others discover Jesus incarnated in you. May you open yourself fully to the word of God, as Mary did, as the woman “who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Thank you for your public commitment today. We embrace you with love, joy and gratitude. We give praise to the God who began, long ago, and continues, this good work in you. Praised be the Incarnate Word!