One of my favorite biblical concepts comes from the Book of Leviticus where the practice of “Jubilee” is defined. It speaks of a time – every 50 years – when slaves are freed, land that has been taken is given back to the rightful owners and all remember the kindness and mercy of God. Even the land is given consideration as the fields are allowed to lie fallow, so that they can rest and be restored. All of this was done not only in reparation on a human level but to heal relationship with God. The resulting celebration was one of great rejoicing.
Adaptations of this ancient custom are many depending on culture and religious practice, the most common of which being wedding anniversaries of 25, 50 and nowadays occasionally 75-year celebrations of marriage. In my religious community, we celebrate on the Saturday closest to the feast of St. Joseph, our patron saint whose feast is March 19th. Thus, today there are 25 Sisters celebrating anniversaries in increments spanning from 50 to 80 (yes, 80) years in religious life. In an amazing burst of longevity, we have 3 Sisters who are 98 years old who will be present with us in our chapel this morning in Latham, New York.
I am one of five on the younger end of the celebratory group, celebrating 50 years of God’s grace. It is, as was mentioned above, not just a day but a whole year of recognition, of reflection on how we have lived our lives so far, and a time to make a determination of how we want to proceed in the adventure of growing older physically and stronger spiritually. It is a time of great gratitude for the blessings of our lives and a recommitment to God and the community that has enabled our growth to maturity.
I invite everyone who has come to a milestone moment of any kind in life to join us today in remembering what brought you to that moment and to give thanks. And if, in this year, you celebrate a special birthday or anniversary of some kind, please remember us and join us in our prayer of gratitude today.