On February 1, I celebrated Mass at the chapel of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities on the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life. Our diocese has been and continues to be blessed by the presence and ministry of members of the Consecrated Life. Their witness to Christ is a treasure for our diocese and the universal Church. Please join me in prayer for members of the Consecrated Life and ask the Lord that a new generation of men and women will be open to the Lord’s invitation to follow Him in the consecrated life. The homily I preached on that occasion is printed below.
Today is a beautiful feast, with multiple meanings: the Presentation of the Lord in the temple forty days after His birth in fulfillment of the custom and the law; Candlemas Day, the day on which candles are blessed symbolizing Christ, the light of the world. The symbolism of light brings us back to Christmas and Epiphany when darkness is overcome by Christ, the eternal light of the Father’s glory.
In 1997, Blessed John Paul II instituted a day of prayer for men and women in consecrated life and attached it to the Feast of the Presentation. How fitting on this feast that draws our attention to the light of the world that we should pray for members of the consecrated life called as you are to reflect the light of Christ to all peoples.
It is a pleasure to be with you and to gather at the table of the Lord to hear His Word, to participate in His self-offering and to be nourished by His sacred Body and Blood. In a spirit of gratitude and communion I would like to offer three invitations for your consideration.
First, nourish your faith. During the Year of Faith we were invited to rediscover our journey of faith. Although the designated year ended this past November we know this journey lasts for a lifetime. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus we walk with the Lord, listen to His words and gather at His table where we recognize Him in the breaking of the bread. And like them, may our hearts burn within us.
Treasure this journey, this inner pilgrimage, and hold close to your heart “the memory of the ‘first love’ with which the Lord warmed your hearts, not out of nostalgia but in order to feed the flame” (Benedict XVI, Homily, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, 2013). I think this inner pilgrimage calls us to silence and adoration. It is essential to our growth in faith and the interior life to be still, to wait in silence so that we can hear the Lord.
As in so many areas of our life, Mary is our model of faith and silence. How many times she remained silent in order to guard the mystery of the relationship with her Son and allow this mystery to grow and blossom in her. How often she treasured and cherished what was revealed to her even though she could not fully understand what she was being told or all that would be expected of her. But, she spoke her “yes” in faith. Nourish your faith by cherishing God’s word in silent adoration.
Second, strengthen your hope. We are pilgrims bound for the future. Like the Samaritan Woman we seek to draw near to the One who can quench our thirst and fill the desires of our heart. Hope is the virtue by which we yearn for eternal life in the kingdom of heaven, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of divine grace.
Pope Francis has spoken about pessimism which drains our confidence and leads to a spirit of defeatism (Cf. The Joy of the Gospel, 86). Admittedly, there may be personal trials in your own lives, and certainly there are issues in our society that have little or no regard for the teachings of Christ, that can contribute to discouragement and pessimism. Do not join the prophets of doom who are devoid of all hope. People of faith are needed who, by the example of their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive. Strengthen your hope. You are called to be living sources of water from which others can drink.
Third, rekindle your love. The consecrated life is all about love, isn’t it? In love God spoke to you. He invited you to come and follow Him in a very special manner by imitating His Son. Your specific contribution as consecrated persons to the mission of the Church is the witness of a life given totally to God and to your brothers and sisters in imitation of the Savior. You are called to mirror Christ’s life. You make visible His loving and saving presence.
The New Evangelization “will be effective if it proclaims from the rooftops what it has first lived in intimacy with the Lord” (The Consecrated Life, Blessed John Paul, II, 81). We cannot pass on to others what we do not have. Every consecrated life is a love story. In love, God called you; in love, you responded. But love cannot remain stagnant. It must grow. Rekindle your love by a renewed personal encounter with Christ. “The Lord does not disappoint those who take the risk; whenever we take a step toward Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms” (The Joy of the Gospel, 1).
Like Abraham and Moses, all the Old Testament prophets, the holy women of the Bible and the disciples of Jesus you are sent forth. The gift of faith, hope and love which you have received is a treasure to be shared with others. Rekindle your love and share it with others.
In today’s Gospel we meet Simeon and Anna. We know that Anna was up in years and we suspect that Simeon was also. Both had been waiting for the promised Messiah for a long time. They lived in hope. They believed, they waited and when the infant Jesus appeared they recognized Him as the long-awaited Messiah. I think their lives are a beautiful example of your consecrated lives. You are men and women of faith who daily speak your “yes” to whatever the Lord asks; men and women of hope who keep your eyes fixed on Christ knowing that one day you will be with Him in eternity; men and women in love with Christ who recognize Him as He comes to you through the members of His Body.
In closing, let me express my heartfelt gratitude to you for your living witness to the truth and beauty of the Gospel. Please join me in praying that new generations of men and women will be open to the Lord’s invitation to follow Him in the consecrated life.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.