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Pope's Homily for World Day of Consecrated Life

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Pope
Francis

Vatican City (ZENIT) -- Here is a translation of the text of the Pope’s homily given today in St. Peter's Basilica at a Mass for the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, marking the World Day of Consecrated Life.

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We have before our mind’s eye the icon of Mother Mary walking with the Child Jesus in her arms. She takes him to the Temple, introduces him to the people, carries him to encounter his people. The Mother’s arms are like the stairs the Son of God comes down to us, the stairs of God’s condescension. We heard this in the First Reading of the Letter to the Hebrews: Christ “had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest “ (2:17). It is the twofold way of Jesus: He came down, made himself like us, to ascend to the Father together with us, making us like himself. We can contemplate this movement in our heart imagining the Gospel scene of Mary, who enters the Temple with the Child in her arms. Our Lady walks, but it is the Son who walks before her. She carries him, but it is He who carries her in this way of God, who comes to us so that we can go to Him. Jesus has followed our same path, and has indicated to us the new path, a “new and living way” (Hebrews 10:20), which He Himself is. He has also opened a way for us, the consecrated. The Gospel emphasizes a good five times Mary’s and Joseph’s obedience to the Law of the Lord” (Cf. Luke 2: 22.23.24.27.39).

Jesus did not come to do his will, but the will of the Father: and this, he said, was his “food” (Cf. John 4:34). Thus he who follows Jesus puts himself in the way of obedience, as if imitating the “condescension of the Lord, who humbled himself and made the Father’s will his own, even to the annihilation and humiliation of himself” (Cf. Philippians 2:7-8). For a Religious, to progress is to lower himself in service. A way like that of Jesus, “who did not count equality with God” (Philippians 2:6). To lower oneself, making oneself servant to serve.  And this way takes the form of the Rule, marked by the Founder’s charism. The irreplaceable Rule for all is always the Gospel, this abasement of Christ, but in his infinite creativity, the Holy Spirit expresses it also in different rules of consecrated life, however, they are all born of the following of Christ, of this way of abasing oneself to serve.

Through this “Law” the consecrated can attain wisdom, which is not an abstract attitude but work and gift of the Holy Spirit, and its evident sign is joy. Yes, the joy of the Religious is the consequence of this way of abasement with Jesus … And when we are sad, it will do us good to ask ourselves how we are living this kenotic dimension. In the account of the Presentation of Jesus, wisdom is represented by two elderly: Simeon and Anna: persons docile to the Holy Spirit (this is mentioned three times), guided by Him, animated by Him. The Lord gave them wisdom through a long journey in the way of obedience to his law, obedience that, on one hand, humiliates and annihilates, but on the other hand, obedience that guards and guarantees hope, and so they are creative because full of the Holy Spirit. They also create a sort of liturgy around the Child who enters the Temple: Simeon praises the Lord and Anna “preaches” salvation ( Cf. Luke 2:28-32.38). As in Mary’s case, the elderly man carries the Child but, in reality, it is the Child who leads the elderly one. The liturgy of the First Vespers of today’s feast expresses it in a clear and beautiful way: “senex puerum portabat, puer autem senem regebat.”

Both Mary, young Mother, as well as Simeon, elderly “grandfather,” carry the Child in their arms, but it is the Child himself that leads them both. It is curious, it is not the young, here, who are creative: the young, like Mary ands Joseph, follow the Lord’s law, the way of obedience. And the Lord transforms obedience into wisdom, with the action of his Holy Spirit. Sometimes God can give the gift of wisdom to a youth, but always through the way of obedience and docility to the Spirit. This obedience and docility is not something theoretic, it is also under the regime of the Incarnation of the Word: docility and obedience to a founder, docility and obedience to a concrete Rule, docility and obedience to a Superior, docility and obedience to the Church. It is about concrete docility and obedience. Personal and community wisdom matures through perseverant way of obedience, and thus it becomes possible also to adapt the rules to the times: true “modernization” in fact is the work of wisdom, forged in docility and obedience. The reinvigoration and renewal of consecrated life occur through great love of the Rule, and also through the capacity to contemplate and to listen to the elderly of the Congregation. Thus the “deposit”, the charism of every Religious family is guarded by obedience and wisdom together. And, through this way, we are preserved from living our consecration in a light and disincarnated way, as if it were a gnosis, which would be reduced to a “caricature” of religious life, in which one engages in a following without renunciation, a prayer without encounter, a fraternal life without communion, obedience without trust, charity without transcendence.

Today, as Mary and Simeon, we want to take Jesus in our arms so that he encounters his people, and we will certainly succeed if we enter in the mystery where it is Jesus himself who leads us. We take Jesus but we let ourselves be guided. Through the intercession of our Mother, of Saint Joseph and of Saints Simeon and Anna, may the Lord grant us what we asked him in the Collect Prayer: to “be presented [to Him] fully renewed in the spirit.” So be it.

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

Pope Francis is Pope of the Catholic Church since March 13, 2013.

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