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by Sister Mary Lange

At Nelson Mandela’s funeral, President Obama said: “But let me say to the young people of Africa, and young people around the world – you can make his life’s work your own.”

For all of us, Jesus’ life work has been entrusted to us through our baptism. For us who are Sisters, it is also through our vowed life.

What changes is the lived journey throughout time. We age with changes in health, energy, mobility and capacity. The landscape around us changes over time, as well as, the issues and particular needs.

The struggle for the Matthean community was in welcoming Gentiles, those who were not like them. Thus in the final words of the risen Christ in Matthew’s gospel is an instruction “to go and make disciples of all nations”. It was something new to welcome people coming in from the outside. Yet, this is the call at the end of Matthew’s gospel.

All are welcome…

Who were the immigrants in the 60’s, the 80’s, and the early 2000’s? Who are the immigrants today? The banner we put on our front fence in October said “I was an immigrant and you welcomed me” signed Jesus. We continue to welcome immigrants into our midst.

Today we recognize the magi coming to see the new born king and offering him their precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. We, too, come bearing our gifts for the continuation of Jesus’ life work. We bring our strengths and talents; we bring our attitudes and all that lies deep within us. All is for the ongoing mission of Jesus the Christ.

I recently read an article that some pre-school children through 5th grade in Wisconsin were asked what gifts they would have brought to the baby Jesus at the manger. Their first gifts were blankets, followed by food and water, with clothes – especially pajamas coming in third. Aren’t these the things needed by people today who are without adequate shelter?

Our readings today speak of people from all nations bringing gifts and proclaiming God’s praises. They speak of the Gentiles as coheirs and members of the same body. We are called copartners in the promise of God. There are no second class members; all are equal members.

All are welcome…

In his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis says “…those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others….life is attained and matures in the measure that it is offered up in order to give life to others.”

Today we continue to deal with immigration and its effects on individuals and families. We look at gun violence and its effects on the lives of individuals and families. We look at the sale of human beings through human trafficking and its effects on individuals and on families. We look at insurance and adequate health care for all. Pope Francis says “The Church’s closeness to Jesus is part of a common journey; “communion and mission are profoundly connected”. How are we connected with others? How are we connected with all others?

Our CONSTITUTIONS speak also of this “common journey”: “John Prendergast and Lizzie Armer, acutely aware of the Church’s dedication to the manifold needs of humankind, responded to Christ’s call to service in their time. Inspired by the Founders to answer that same call to serve today, this congregation continues to undertake works serving those not adequately reached by others” (CONSTITUTIONS of the Sisters of the Holy Family, number. 4).

While many of us are no longer out there full-time, we continue to live the mission of Jesus in smaller ways as we age and our energy declines. We continue, all of us, both religious and lay, to embrace Jesus’ life work that has been entrusted to us.

Epiphany is about manifesting God entering humanity as one of us. It is also the entrance day of some of our sisters. I invite those who entered in January to please stand as you are able and be recognized. We recognize two special anniversaries today: Sister Joanna who is celebrating 80 years and Sister Stephen who is celebrating 70 years.

As we move from the Table of the Word to the Table of the Eucharist, we rejoice and give thanks for God’s presence in our lives.

All are welcome…