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RSHM of Eastern America enjoyed a splendid Festival of Learning July 11-17 at Cormaria Retreat House in Sag Harbor, NY. For more than two decades, this annual event is an opportunity for communal learning on various aspects of theology/spirituality in the surrounding beauty of earth, sea and sky.

This year’s expansive theme, “Let’s Talk About God,” was brought into abiding nearness by the inspiring presentations and presence of Mary Maher, SSND.

Sr. Mary’s premise was that authentic talk about God is always more than talk. A central image to which she returned periodically was that of the little fish searching for water, wanting to find and grasp the water, unaware that the water is all around and inside it. Everything in creation is revelatory of God. In the imagination of faith we come to see the deeply sacramental nature of all reality.

Examining classical, modern and post-modern worldviews led us to an understanding of the collapse of the modernist myth of progress: “Things are getting better and better.” We recognize that racial, ethnic, sexual, religious and economic oppression, all interrelated, stem from dealing with otherness through violence and exclusion. Not only we humans, but God can no longer stand the suffering of the universe. The God of compassion, the God of Abraham and Sarah, is doing a new thing. This is the God of Jesus, bringing the Good News to the doorstep of the poor. If the ministry of our consecrated lives means anything today, it means that we must be caught up in this “new thing,” mediating to the world this vision of justice.

What does work for the new justice look like in our world marked by radical pluralism and inability to deal with the different? Like many today, we have doubts. Where is it all going? But the answer to doubt is not certitude. It is the imagination of faith – profound belief that God is leading, creating the future out of our ordinary lives: our risk, our weakness, and our fidelity to daily responsibilities.

Two final chapters in a glorious week were centered on the Spirit and on Mary. The Spirit is the Living God present in us and always at play in the world. When we find our own voice, when we listen to a prophetic word, when we discern a right decision, make peace with limits, hope against hope, the Spirit of God is at work within us. And in our communities, when laws are put in place preventing racism, reducing poverty and violence, the Spirit is the ground of the good that we do, however fragmented and partial. Images of the Spirit – wind, fire, water, cloud – have no concrete shape. They surround and pervade and are known by their effects.

The reflection on Mary, type of the Church, presented her as one of the most beautifully rich figures of God’s relationship to the world. We were invited to revere Mary as Jesus did, as a model of faith. She walked the road we walk. She said YES at the Annunciation to God who makes a way where there is no way. She secures our faith that the unseen Spirit overshadows us, and that no obstacle can prevent the coming of Christ into the world if we say YES.

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