Jubilee Reflection 2011


My name is Sister Gladys Guenther, and I have been asked by the Jubilarians to share some reflections on the occasion of their celebration.


One of the gifts each of the Sisters brings to this day is a sense of family.  I am especially aware that one of the family gifts I have received from my Father is an appreciation for live theatre.  Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the world premiere of the stage production, “Tales of the City.”  You may recall a daily column by Armistead Maupin in the San Francisco Chronicle from the late 1970s with that same name which, in fact, inspired the musical.

The playbill states that:  “On the bustling streets of the 1970s in San Francisco, neon lights pierce through the fog-drenched skies, disco music explodes from crowded nightclubs, and a wide-eyed Midwestern girl finds a new home—and creates a new kind of family—with the characters at 28 Barbary Lane.  [The musical] unleashes an exuberant celebration of the irrepressible spirit that continues to define our City by the Bay.”

Now I am sure you were not expecting a theatre review, but it occurs to me that when we look at the lives of the women whom we are celebrating we are attesting to the fact that they have experienced and witnessed some high drama!  As with any play there are separate acts, scenes, and, of course, the set!  The current musical is set in a kind of high rise Victorian apartment house.  From a variety of paths the actors randomly arrive at the complex which they are beginning to call home.  When they leave for work the lower portion of the “house” becomes their office, and sometimes the inside of the apartments, or the location of an outdoor party.

When our Sisters began their journey 25, 50, 60 or 70 years ago they came to the “house” we might have called890 Hayes St.or159 Washington Blvd.  They were drawn together with “random” groups of other women they would soon call Sisters and created a new kind of family with the cast of characters at those convents.  It became the place of their going in and out, the place where they shared excitement, ordinary commentaries, or disheartening news; a place where ministry stories were shared and relationships were shaped.  It came to be their new family home.  In that home certain values were held; actions and words formed them into being that new family.

Today’s Jubilarians tell us that the prophet Micah inspired them:  As we heard in the first reading, the Hebrew people asked how they should worship the Lord, proposing various forms of sacrifice.  The prophet replies that sacrifice avails nothing without the true spirit of religion.  This passage is one of the best expressions of the prophetic teaching on religion:  “You have been told what is good, and what the Lord requires of you:  Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”  Those words formed a basis for their initial going out into the streets ofSan Franciscoor Mission San Jose.  And those same “household values” journeyed with them, inspired them, sustained them, as they left the family house for San Diego, Sacramento, the Islands, Concord, Reno, Fresno, Las Vegas, Sonora and a myriad of other destinations.

This marks the end of our first Act and the beginning of the second.

In Tales of the City, Michael, one of the residents of Barbary Place, writes home one day.  He is sharing some of his self discoveries with his parents.  He says:  “There’s not much else I can say, except that I’m the same Michael you’ve always known.  You just know me better now.  I have never consciously done anything to hurt you.  I never will.

Please don’t feel you have to answer this right away.  It’s enough for me to know that I no longer have to lie to the people who taught me to value the truth.”

So I have some questions for the Jubilarians’ friends and relatives – and don’t worry you won’t have to answer out loud!

Did you ever receive some of our Sisters’ letters in your homes?

Did you share in their joys and their adventures?

Did you hear of their trials and tribulations?

Could you recognize some of the characters in their lives?

Did you recognize some changes taking place?  Could you envision the women they were becoming?

In the gospel, which was proclaimed this morning, we were told that Jesus had returned home, and, as was his custom, wherever he went, he found his way to the local synagogue.  One might have expected his entrance to be cheered, the red carpet rolled out; after all since being tempted in the desert for 40 days and nights, news of him had spread throughout the whole region.  He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.  Here he is back home inNazareth.

He stands to read, someone gives him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  By a stroke of great luck or great planning, the reading he is given describes his ministry.  He says out loud:

I am anointed by the Spirit.

I am the prophet who declares good news; in fact, the hope God promised is fulfilled in me.

I am bringing release:  from blindness, deafness, poverty, from whatever you label sin.

In so doing he proclaims a jubilee year:  Take it or leave it.

Ready or not, it is happening.

Make a choice, believe me or don’t.

Either Jesus brings God’s promise or he does not.

The crowd takes some time to reflect upon his claims.

Who is this young man? Who does he think he is?

Well, he read it well.

Could he be the promised one of God – someone fromNazareth?

They think about it, they reject the possibility, and Jesus moves on, moves forward ultimately toJerusalem.

Have you ever said, “I did not ask for this, it’s not part of my plan, why is this happening to me?”  Have you ever been rejected and just had to move on?  Well, you’re in good company!

This marks the end of the second and the beginning of the final Act.

Whenever I read the scriptures, I find myself surfacing several questions.

What was it like in those days?

What were the disciples feeling?

What did it look like from the crowd’s point of view? What does that word mean?

One of the questions I almost always ask is:  “where are the women,” especially since they are seldom named.  It feels like they need to be written into the verse.   I don’t always obtain answers to my questions, but on this occasion, when I hear Jesus say:  “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing,

” I hear the response:  “The women are here, and are witnessing with their lives.”

The curtain falls, but the journey persists and the drama continues to unfold.