Lisa Buscher, RSCJ, professed her first vows in the Society of the Sacred Heart during a ceremony March 28 in the chapel of Schools of the Sacred Heart, Chicago. Barbara Bowe, RSCJ, professor at Chicago Theological Union, delivered a reflection in a Mass celebrated by Fr. Gil Ostdiek, OFM, and attended by Religious of the Sacred Heart from many parts of the United States. Sister Bowe's reflection appears below.
Lisa Buscher’s First Vows
March 28, 2005
First reading, 2Corinthians 5:14-18
Second reading: Constitutions, Society of the Sacred Heart, 18-20 & 62;
Gospel reading, John 20:1-2, 11-18
Barbara E. Bowe, RSCJ
Today is a wonderful day, a glorious day. As a Church we are still basking in the afterglow of the solemn Triduum, in the light of the new paschal candle, and in the extraordinary mystery of Jesus’ resurrection to New Life. The readings we have just heard invite us into that mystery in many different ways. They speak of life and death, the “love of Christ” that urges us on, human and divine perspectives, movement and rest, holding on and letting go. All these seemingly contradictory perspectives appear in our Scripture readings and they are brought together and embodied for us tonight in what we celebrate here: Lisa’s saying “Yes” with her whole being – her whole life given in love to God for the sake of God’s people.
Image of the Trapeze Act
Over the last month or so, as I have prayed with these readings that Lisa has so carefully chosen, a vivid image came to my mind and it would not leave me. Imagine with me for a moment that we are at a circus: Ringling Bros. or Cirque du Soleil. It is time for the High-Wire trapeze act. There is a hush in the crowd as the acrobats enter. They scamper up the rope ladders and take their places on the small platforms 10, 15, 20 yds. apart from each other. Then they grasp the swinging bars and begin to fly effortlessly through the air. They hold on for dear life with hands or knees, swinging higher and higher – trusting that the bar will support and protect them. But at a crucial moment, when the arc is just right, one acrobat opens her hands and lets go — and the gasp in the audience below reflects the danger of the moment. For one frightening moment the acrobat has nothing to hold on to; she has nothing going for her except radical trust — and her own well trained momentum that propels her toward the hands of her partner — a partner who, with consummate skill, grasps her hands and the two swing again in free abandon. The roar of applause from the crowd below conveys our admiration that she has risked totally the unsupported moment. We marvel that she was able to let go so that she could hold on again in a new way in partnership with another.
Religious Life Today
To choose to enter Religious Life today is a bit like signing on to a high-wire act: the choice holds excitement, danger, exhilaration, challenge, possibility, and sometimes even admiration from those who behold it. At the same time, like the artistry of the acrobat, it demands discipline, commitment, hard work, intense focus, daily practice, and for those in Religious Life, radical trust in God, deep and constant prayer, and the cooperation of the many other “partners” who are part of the act.
First and Second Reading
For anyone who would choose such a life, as Paul says in our first reading, it must be the “love of Christ” that grounds all that we are and do. The “love of Christ” must be the energy that urges us on—day after day—leading us to that “new creation” that is finally the Reign of God in our midst. In mysterious ways that we can never fully understand, God invited Lisa to share this vision for the world and then drew her to the Society of the Sacred Heart. And here she is tonight ready to let go so that she can hold on to God again in a new way.
In the second reading from our Sacred Heart Constitutions we heard the vision of our Foundress, Sophie Barat, who was convinced that only a deeply contemplative “personal encounter with Jesus” can sustain our lives. She invites us to come to His heart – this center of love poured out and to learn there the “strength and tenderness of Jesus’ love for each one.” It is that same love that we RSCJs want to share with others for the life of the world. Both the words of Paul and the words of our Constitutions challenge us and invite us into this mystery of God’s love.
Mary in the Garden
But it is today’s gospel that most captured my attention and it was that scene of Mary in the garden that triggered especially for me the image of the trapeze artists. Mary of Magdala, friend and faithful follower of Jesus, had been with him through his whole public ministry from Galilee to Jerusalem. She had been with him, too, there at the cross. She had watched his excruciating death and seen the water and blood flow from his side. Now she comes to the tomb to weep her despair; she comes just to sit by the body of her beloved friend. Nothing, then, could adequately express her astonishment when she found the tomb empty and the body gone!
Then suddenly the stranger, the one she mistook for the gardener, speaks her name and instantly she recognizes the familiar voice that had said to her “Mary” so many times before. At that moment she wants to hang on for dear life – making sure that nothing can take him away again. Then we hear those strange, perplexing, and challenging words: “Stop clinging to me” – “Let go” and “Go tell the others that I am ascending to the Father.” In that fearful moment Mary, like the trapeze artist, must let go. She must let go of the past. She must let go of the human Jesus she has known and loved. She must let go of the familiar ways – so that she can embrace the newness of the Risen Jesus who will be with her forever. Clinging to the past is futile and forever finished –– “everything [now] has become new” as Paul had said so well. So she races to tell the others: “I have seen the Lord!” she cries. Her letting go propels her outward, to tell the others, to gather her friends, to build the community so that they can begin to live out together this mystery of Risen Life.
Now, as we surround Lisa tonight with our love and our prayer and our support we recognize that this is a moment for her both of letting go and of reaching out to embrace a new life. Jesus, the One she has come to know and love has spoken her name and invited her to take another step into the future. It is a moment pregnant with possibility, promise, and hope. It is also a moment of radical trust. So she too, like Mary in the garden and like the trapeze artist, opens her hands and lets go, so that she can grasp all the more firmly the strong, faithful, loving hands awaiting hers – hands that will be with her forever.
This life is a great High Wire act, Lisa. It is an act the world desperately needs: the witness of women who freely let go of the seductions of wealth, manipulative love, and power in order to embrace instead the gospel values of poverty, chastity, and obedience. This is a High-Wire act well worth giving your whole life for. We thank you now for your generous gift of self – to God and to us – and we say together: “Go for it!”