By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis on Saturday urged the Sisters of the Religious of Jesus and Mary (RJM) to discern, evaluate and choose their response to the signs of the time of what God wants of them today, by joyfully witnessing to His mercy through fraternity and solidarity.
Saint Claudine Thévenet, who experienced the horrors of the French Revolution, founded the congregation in 1818, in Lyon.
The Pope said that through the past 200 years, their presence in 28 countries today is a sign of their fruitfulness. Always on the road, like Mary on Visitation, they are attentive to the needs of others, communicating God’s goodness and love to all.
Commenting on the theme of their General Chapter, "Journeying in Hope as One Apostolic Family", the Pope offered them three paths to follow.
God’s mercy and goodness
The first path is to be witnesses of God's merciful goodness". Two of the brothers of Claudine, who were brutally executed during the French Revolution, had urged her to forgive as they forgave. In recognition of the goodness of God, "a merciful God who forgives", the Pope said, she responded to her brothers and founded the congregation.
“God looks at us and we experience his mercy,” the Pope said, urging the sisters to review and remember their life, vocation and mission in the light of this gaze of God, in order to continue being touched by Him, who is present in the miseries of our time.
“It is only with this gaze that all things become new,” the Pope said. “Only by allowing ourselves to be looked at by the Lord, like the Virgin Mary, will we be able to look at reality with God's eyes and be His witnesses, for God's gaze changes, changes us, and educates, educates our gaze,” the Pope said.
Fraternity and solidarity
By living fraternal life in solidarity in their communities, the Pope continued, they encourage one another in joyfully following Jesus and fostering new vocations. He stressed the need to deepen community life with increasing evangelical relationships so that they become ever more apostolic fraternities, sisters in mission, capable of infecting other young in following this form of consecration. For this, one needs to be open to encounters with the young.
The Pope encouraged them to continue building networks of communion and solidarity by loving and serving unconditionally. By living the joy of following Christ in fraternal life in community, he said, they will open themselves up to solidarity with their brothers.
Discernment and courage to go beyond
Stressing that the Church is missionary, the Pope urged the nuns never to tire of witnessing to God goodness through apostolic works. Today’s new scenarios call on the Religious of Jesus and Mary to find new and creative ways of evangelizing and being missionaries in making Jesus and Mary known.
For this, they need discernment to know how to move forward and to find out whether their apostolate, work, presence and ministry respond to what the Holy Spirit asked of St. Claudine and the Congregation throughout their history. Pope Francis concluded, encouraging the Sisters of the Religious of Jesus and Mary to discern, evaluate and choose in order to be able to respond better to what God wants of them today.