WORLD DAY OF CONSECRATED LIFE
Fifty years ago the Second Vatican Council completed its work with the promulgation of sixteen documents. St John XXIII had called the Council to be a pastoral updating of the Church by a return to the sources in Church life. In no area of the Church was that undertaken with such enthusiasm and conviction than among Congregations of Consecrated Life as they reflected through the years on the Council document Perfectae Caritatis.
THE source of the Churchís life is Jesus Christ. His teaching and all of Sacred Scripture that guides and forms the Churchís teaching to which every Catholic is called to adhere. For consecrated women and men, the Council added an invitation to return to their own sources, the inspirations of their founders and foundresses and the charisms that have shaped their lives as communities of prayer, life and witness.
The subsequent years we all have lived together. It has been a time of lights and shadows, challenges and opportunities, some stresses and strains but, on the whole, a time of renewal and renewed strength so long as we have been faithful to the Lord, to the Spirit and to the Church. In no area of the Churchís life and witness has this been more evident than in the lives of women and men religious. The Church today is richer as a result. I believe I echo Pope Francis when I say that these have been years in which light has conquered over darkness and that overwhelming result is a blessing for the Church to have in her midst women and men whose lives witness the Kingdom of God by prayer, by personal and community commitment and by a richness of apostolic works that have challenged us and the world to live as God calls us to live.
From the very beginning of his public ministry Jesus comes to the people as a new kind of prophet. He speaks with authority! What is this? They ask. A new teaching with authority! But then as now there are the unclean spirits present. St Augustine tells us that in todayís Gospel the unclean sprits expected Jesusí coming. They knew from the prophets and so were not surprised even if they realized that Jesus coming would mean they would be defeated.
But the promise God made to Moses is always valid and true, I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin and will put my words into his mouth. This promise is fulfilled by the coming of Jesus who teaches us with authority and who guides us and all his Church into the ways of truth and of love. And this year our Holy Father has rightly called us all to celebrate the many expressions of the witness to truth and love that form the vast richness of gifts and charisms of consecrated life in the Church of today.
Today, with great joy, I welcome here to this Cathedral leaders of the congregations of consecrated life, women and men who enrich the life of this local Church by their lives of poverty, chastity and obedience, lives that direct the attention of the Church to her highest calling and most fulfilling goal: life of Christ here on earth as a witness that this life leads beyond this world to the Kingdom of heaven where we will be all in all.
Religious life is a powerful message to the Church and the world of what makes human living truly worthwhile. Religious life calls us out of ourselves and our own selfish preoccupations. Religious life shows us that the reason why we love this world and love one another finds its source in Godís creative love and His Sonís redemptive love. That embraces not just some but all. Religious life reminds us that human dignity comes from God and is inherent in everyone, especially those we are most inclined to overlook or even marginalize, the poor, the weak, the vulnerable, the abandoned. Religious life raises our eyes to see not just the communities of faith where we rejoice in our communion with one another. Religious life tells us that our eyes must open our hearts to embrace peoples we do not know, ways of living that may not be ours, and see strangers as neighbors and neighbors as brothers and sisters thanks to Jesus Christ who has made us all one in Him.
What a noble vocation! What a wonderful charge! What a daunting challenge! What a beautiful opportunity! To you, my dear sisters and brothers in consecrated life, to you today we offer our thanks. Today we offer our prayers. Today we offer our support. The road is not always an easy one but you are part of the Church and we all walk together. Sometimes there can be discouragement. Sometimes there can be disagreement. But, if we constantly bring our hopes and our commitments to the Lord in His Church, we will always together continue on the path Jesus has already marked out for us.
May I close with making my own the words of Pope Francis to you consecrated women and men this past November 30 when this Year of Consecrated Life officially opened? He said to you and I say to you as well:
Be Joyful. Show everyone you follow Christ and put his Gospel into practice!
Be Brave! With the guidance of the Holy Spirit go out into the streets of the world and proclaim his message.
Be women and men of communion! Communion in the Church is the key to demonstrate that universal fraternity is not a utopia but Jesusí dream for the whole of humanity.
And May God bless your coming and going with the gifts of the Spirit and the love in Christ Jesus that we all share as His Body here on earth! AMEN