Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, especially our much loved and esteemed Jubilarians:
What a joy it is for me to be here this afternoon to celebrate the Eucharist with you! By your religious consecration, each of you responded in love to Jesus’ invitation to come and follow Him. Many of you have given your entire lives to service of the Church here in the Diocese of Syracuse. What a blessing to the Church all of you have been, are and will continue to be.
It is fitting that the Eucharist is the focal point of our celebration. In the Eucharist, a prayer of praise and thanksgiving, we participate in Jesus’ offering of Himself to the Father. From the Eucharist, you have received the grace to devote your lives to the pursuit of holiness, the spread of the Gospel and the building up of the Church. When we gather as Church we know that we are not alone. The community of the Church is with us. All of us present at this Eucharist join willingly in joyful celebration for the years you have lived your faith consecration to God, following Christ and serving the mission of His Church. Spiritually present with us are all those religious who are not able to be here physically because of distance or health, including our dear Dominican Nuns on Court Street, to whom we send our affectionate greetings.
This Jubilee is, above all, a time for thanksgiving. First, we thank God for the gift of consecrated life in His Church and then, of course, we express our gratitude to you who have lived this consecration faithfully for many years. The Jubilee is also the occasion for the Church to encourage and challenge you to ever greater heights of consecrated love and spiritual service. And finally, it is an opportunity for the Church to proclaim once more the great value of consecrated life. We must never forget that the Second Vatican Council taught definitively that the evangelical counsels are a “divine gift to the Church’ (Lumen Gentium, 43) that “belong inseparably to the life and holiness of the Church” (Lumen Gentium, 44). Like all expressions of the Christian life, however, religious consecration is embraced by fragile human beings, vessels of clay. And so the Church gathers today to pray for you, that you may be faithful to the end.
In St. John’s Gospel this afternoon, Jesus speaks clearly, reminding us that He is the vine and we are the branches. None of us have life apart from Him. But if we remain in Him and His words remain in us, we may ask for what we will, and we will get it. It is a simple directive but it is not always easy. Remaining in the Lord and permitting His words to remain with us require daily attention. We are profoundly grateful for all of the years you have consistently and faithfully remained in the Lord.
In His prayer for unity, Jesus asks His Father to consecrate the apostles in truth. Then Jesus tells us that He consecrates Himself for His apostles so that they, in turn, may be consecrated in truth. In this we see that Jesus is the supreme consecrated one, the one who is “set apart” and sent as the supreme missionary of the Father for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
The call of Jesus to His first apostles set the pattern for consecrated life. Two elements are present. Jesus calls the apostles to be with Him and then He sends them to preach the Good News (Mark 3:14). Intimacy with Christ is essential to consecration. It must precede and accompany all of our evangelizing activity and human resources.
An attraction to consecrated life is, as we all know, a personal attraction to Christ and His way of life. It is similar to the call the apostles received to be companions of Jesus, to be with Him and to share in His mission.
You have been set like a seal on the heart of Christ. You have lived out that commitment with fidelity to His grace. Your prayer, your love, your union with God has been the secret of your fruitfulness in all your endeavors and your consolation in times of disappointment and failure.
The journey of life is ongoing. We must continue each day to give careful attention to perseverance in faithfulness. When our Holy Father spoke to religious during his apostolic visit to our country, he noted the challenge of fidelity. “You who have devoted your lives to bearing witness to the love of Christ and the building up of His body know from your daily contact with the world around us how tempting it is at times to give way to frustration, disappointment and even pessimism about the future. In a word it is not always easy to see the light of the Spirit all about us, the splendor of the risen Lord illuminating our lives and instilling renewed hope in his victory over the world.” (Homily at St. Patrick’s Cathedral)
Thank you, dear brothers and sisters, for all that you have done to build up the family of God in Central New York. Thank you for being visible witnesses, like Mary, of the Church’s holiness manifested by your love for God and for all whom He embraces. Thank you, for helping us “to see the light of the Spirit all about us, the splendor of the risen Lord illuminating our lives and instilling renewed hope in His victory over the world.”
We remember in this Mass all who have gone before us, women and men religious who from the beginning have labored in this local Church. The value of your activity is great, but the value of who you are is greater still! It is a privilege, a grace, to be set as a seal upon the heart of Christ, to live in Christ, and to bear fruit in Him. This grace you received many years ago. And through grace, given over and over again, you have remained faithful. Let this day, therefore, be one of renewed love for Christ and His Church, as well as a day of thanksgiving and joy.
Most Rev. Robert J. Cunningham
Bishop of Syracuse
(If you have an intention for Bishop Cunningham’s prayer list, please
forward it to him at:
240 E. Onondaga Street
PO Box 511
Syracuse, N.Y. 13201)