“Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.” These words that we have heard in the first reading were addressed not just to Abraham, nor just to Sr. Angela, but to all of us at the beginning of our religious life. We were all asked to turn our backs on people and places that were familiar to us and to go forward to meet the Lord in the place that he would show us. For all of us here, that place was the Dominican Order and, eventually, the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary, Summit, New Jersey.
What did Abraham find, when he had made the sacrifice and the journey? In place of his father, mother and kinsfolk, he found progeny of his own, becoming in his turn the father, not just of Isaac, but of a multitude of nations. In place of the land that was not his own but that of his kinsfolk, he found a land that was his own, east and west, north and south, as far as his eye could see. Above all, he found the Lord, waiting there to meet him, constantly renewing his promise to him.
What did we find when we made the sacrifice and the journey? In place of the family and home and career we left behind, we found Jesus and the hundredfold promised by him. We found all our sisters in the monastery; we found our brothers in the Order and our sisters and brothers in the Dominican family. We found, in faith, a spiritual progeny consisting of all the people who have asked us to pray for them and who count on our prayers, as well as all those we pray for without being asked. We found, in the universal Order, a homeland that is truly ours. We even found a house, large, drafty and not always convenient, but beautiful all the same, and truly ours.
What are we to do with this hundredfold which Jesus has given us? The Gospel passage which we just read tells us quite succinctly: “love one another as I love you.” Each one of us has experienced the overwhelming love of Jesus and his Father just for her. Jesus now commands us to extend that same love to one another, even to the laying down of our lives. We are to give one another the same patience, the same compassion, the same forgiveness, the same generous service that Jesus has given us. If we do so for all of this life, we will enter into the joy of the Lord in the next life.
Sister Angela is just beginning the adventure of Dominican contemplative life. She has left her kinsfolk and her father’s house and is a newcomer in that land that God has shown her. Today we will clothe her in the habit of the Order and set her on the way of her first steps toward profession. She has asked us for mercy; let us show her that generous mercy and pray for her, now and always.