Archbishop Michaels at profession of Sr. Wafaa Shehata NDS

A final vows homily, Ecce Homo 2018

Readings of the Bible:

  • Psalm 139
  • Exodus 33-12-23
  • Luke 5:1-11

We are celebrating this solemn profession of Sr Wafaa on the eve of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. This gives our celebration even greater solemnity, as it sets it within the context of the Church. The step that you are taking today, Wafaa, confirming your original commitment made some years ago, giving it a definitive character, is not for yourself alone, but for the benefit of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, and ultimately for the benefit of the Universal Church.

The passages of Scripture that you have chosen for this celebration are very interesting and it is good for us to meditate on them.

In the Book of Exodus we meet with Moses just at the time when God is entrusting to him the task of leading the People of Israel out of the land of Egypt. Moses asks for reassurance before setting out, and he receives a consoling response from God: “I know you by name, and you have won my favour”.

In choosing this passage, you are showing, Wafaa, that you feel that God does truly know you, and that you have found God’s favour. God knows your Egyptianness which will be a source of enrichment for your mission, just as Moses’ upbringing in Egyptian culture must have been a help to him in negotiating with Pharaoh. Between God and yourself, Wafaa, there is a pact of fidelity: your fidelity (which is what your name means), but rooted in God’s fidelity.

Yet there is a stubborn streak in Moses, and he needs to be convinced. “Please show me your ways”, pleads Moses. “I myself will go with you”, God promises, as if to say: What more do you want? Yet Moses still seems to be doubtful, and he insists: “If you are not going with us yourself, do not make us leave this place.” So God repeats the reassurance already given: “Again I will do what you have asked.”

Are you stubborn, Wafaa? You are setting out on a new phase in your life as a Sister of Sion. Do you feel that you need reassurance? You have actually given the answer to this question through the Psalm that you have chosen. You are convinced that God knows you through and through. Even if you wanted to, you could not escape, because you have been called and you have answered this call. You are certain that wherever you are sent, wherever you will go, the hand of God will be holding you, guiding you.

This remains a mystery. God’s knowledge of us is beyond our understanding, because our mind cannot reach this height. It was the same for Moses. He wanted to see God, something which is impossible. But as you know, God does in fact reveal the divine name to Moses: “Lord, Lord, a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness.” It is in this God that you are putting your hope.

I have just said that it is impossible to see God, but God the Father has been revealed in Jesus, the Son of God become man for our sake. This brings us to the Gospel where Jesus is teaching by the Sea of Galilee. To get a little distance between himself and the crowd he gets into a boat and asks Simon to take it out a little from the shore. This request is not so strange when we remember that Simon had already met Jesus at the Jordan where John was baptizing. What do you think Simon was doing while Jesus was teaching? Was he interested? Was he listening? He was perhaps simply concentrating on keeping the boat steady, in the same place. After the teaching Jesus tells Simon to go out into the deep and cast the nets. There is a surprising catch of a large number of fish. Simon, astonished by this, humbled perhaps, says to Jesus: “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man”, but I am sure he really meant quite the opposite, that he did not want the Lord to leave him. It is at that moment, precisely when Simon acknowledges his sinfulness, that Jesus calls him to leave everything and follow him, which is what Simon does joyfully.

I am sure that in choosing this text you are echoing your own experience, Wafaa. You have come to know the Lord Jesus; you have experienced something of the kindness of Jesus, towards yourself and to others. Then, when you yourself discovered that you were unworthy of the Lord’s loving attention, you heard his call to come and serve him in the particular vocation of a Sister of Sion. You responded generously; you followed all the steps of the necessary formation; you committed yourself; and now you are saying to the Lord: This commitment is forever; I give my whole life to you.

Let me come back to what I said at the beginning. We are celebrating your commitment in the context of the Church. You are not alone, Wafaa. God is with you, as we have said, but also you have all the Sisters of Sion who are here today and who represent the whole Congregation. There are also all of us who are present, your friends, who are praying for you and who promise to continue to pray for you.

May the Lord bless you today and every day so that your life may truly be offered for others, for the glory of God and the good of the whole Church.

Amen.

Archbishop Michael Louis Fitzgerald M. Afr., St. Anna – Jerusalem
Ecce Homo, Jerusalem, 28 June 2018