‘The Lord is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds’ (Ps 145:13). And sometimes this comes home to us with force. What a good providence it is that the Daughters of Divine Love should be beginning their mission in Scotland, in this diocese, in this parish today! We are keeping the memoria of the Presentation of our Lady. We are on the threshold of Advent and Christmas. We are still in the Year of Consecrated Life. The Highlands have even just had their first dusting of snow. And, dear Sisters, you arrive!
Isn’t today’s feast apt? If anyone was and is a ‘daughter of divine love’, surely it is Mary:
- she was the daughter of two among the pure of heart in Israel, Ss. Joachim and Anne.
- she is the daughter of Israel or of Zion. She is Israel in person. And what was Israel if not God’s beloved child, the apple of his eye, the creation of his love?
- most of all she is a daughter of divine love because predestined from all eternity by God the Father to be the mother of his incarnate Son and therefore preserved by the power of the Holy Spirit from all stain of original sin.
The Second Vatican Council called Mary, ‘the beloved daughter of the Father’ (Lumen Gentium 53). And so it’s in her wake, as her companions, as her younger sisters, that you, dear Sisters, have come to us.
What are we celebrating today? The Liturgy says, “we celebrate that dedication of herself which Mary made to God from her very childhood under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.” We celebrate the first green shoots in her, as it were, of the grace of her Immaculate Conception, unfolding in her conscious mind and will, in the movements of her heart, in her first prayers. This is something very precious and delicate: her simple, whole-hearted response to the presence of God she felt in and around her and in the life and worship of her family and people. How much she wanted to be present to that Presence who filled her!
And in all this, unknown to her, she was on the way to her meeting with the angel. Burgeoning in her was the capacity to say those words, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word’. A space was opening up within her, a temple was being built for the Incarnation. The daughter of Zion was being readied to be Mother of God.
Today, surely, is the presentation of the Daughters of Divine Love. Their presence enacts today’s feast. They have already, Mary-like, made a dedication of themselves to God by their profession of chastity, poverty and obedience. And now they bring their commitment to Scotland, Inverness, the diocese of Aberdeen. They are here, Mary-like, to bring Christ to birth among us. At the centre of their spirituality is the Incarnation. They see themselves at the service of this mystery. This is their charism. And the Incarnation is the centre and summary of all we believe and hope for. It’s the form divine love has chosen to take in human history. It’s the pattern of everything God intends. As the Fathers of the Church love to say: ‘the Son of God became the Son of man, so that the sons and daughters of men might become the sons and daughters of God. And therefore brothers and sisters of each other.
Many of us are old enough to remember the Nigerian Civil War, the Biafran War, of 1967 to 1970. It was a terrible thing. Two million civilians died of starvation and disease. And it was at that dark time that the Spiritan bishop, Godfrey Paul Okoye, founded the Daughters of Divine Love. Only divine love could heal wounds like these. Only the mystery of the Incarnation, lived out in the flesh of the consecrated, could overcome this shattering of relationships with God and others. And now there are some 900 Daughters of Divine Love, active in 15 countries – 16 from today!
‘Sing, rejoice, daughter of Zion…for I am coming to dwell in the midst of you!’ And what happens next? ‘Many nations will join the Lord on that day; they will become his people.’ This is the mystery of the Catholic Church, that house of prayer for all nations. How wonderful that the new life of the Church in Nigeria can come to enliven us! We are already a diocese of many nations. But I hope, Sisters, that your presence here will help both build up the Church from within and expand its scope without. We want the Church to live, not die! The Church is alive here. You will make it more so! May the family of God grow! May Christ stretch out his hands towards us and say, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’
Sisters, we welcome you in our midst.
We welcome you because, through your consecrated life, you help the Church here be fully, integrally herself.
We welcome you because we want what happened in the heart and womb of Mary to happen here. We want the mystery of the Incarnation to extend to us and Christ be born again and again.
We welcome you because, most of all, we need divine love.