Oct. 15, 2014
Homily for Religious Jubilee, Opening of Year of Consecrated Life
“Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the Lord.” (Jer. 29:13) The prophet Jeremiah insists that our search for the living God will bear fruit if we invest everything in the search—all our hearts.
As we inaugurate the Year of Consecrated Life here in our Diocese and this afternoon acknowledge our jubilarians, we honor individuals whose investment of self has inspired us, built up the local Church in so very many ways and, thereby, given praise and glory to our God, bearing the fruit about which Jesus speaks in today’s Gospel according to John.
Indeed, these persons have invested everything of themselves. From as far back as 1939, these jubilarians publicly professed a life of chastity, obedience and poverty for the sake of God’s Kingdom. Just think of all the changes that have transpired in our world, in our Church, during these decades. Yet, there has been one constant: their tremendous love of God evidenced in their living out--each and every day--those evangelical counsels in a truly heroic countercultural way.
“Every vocation…always requires an exodus from oneself in order to center one’s life on Christ and on His Gospel. This is an exodus that leads us on a journey of adoration of the Lord and of service to Him in our sisters and brothers. No vocation is born of itself or lives for itself. A vocation flows from the heart of God and blossoms in the good soil of faithful people.” These words penned in the circular letter in preparation for the Year of Consecrated Life speak of an intimately personal pilgrimage that encompasses the totality of one’s being. It’s never been about “ME” for these religious, these women of the Church. The lives of our jubilarians, indeed of all our consecrated women and men inspire you and me to live such a journey of selflessness for love of God. You see, a genuine vocation is born of God, tended to by each person with attentive ears and a tender, generous heart and nurtured by a family of faith.
As you know, one of our diocesan priorities is to create a culture of vocations here in the North Country. These Sisters can tell you that our Catholic faith is no refuge for the faint-hearted. The virtues of courage, trust and sacrifice cannot be in short supply. That being the case, the Holy Father has challenged Consecrated Religious to “wake up the world.” Religious life ought to promote growth in the Church by way of attraction. The Church must be attractive. “Wake up the world,” Francis tells you and me! Be witnesses of a different way of doing things, of acting, of living! It is possible to live differently in this world—leaving everything to follow the Lord.” (Pope Francis, Nov. 29, 2013) The charism of religious people is like yeast. These religious whom we proudly claim as our own, have spread the Good News in our diocese with a passion and energy fueled by their love of Jesus. Let you and me tap into that love relationship, too!
Vocations do not come from a commitment to a what, but to a Whom. Every one of us, myself included, is challenged to renew our vocation and fill it with joy and passion, to bring to women and men of our time the consolation of God, bearing witness to His mercy. You see, it is simply not enough to preach about Christ and tell people about the joy that the Gospel brings. We, Catholic Christians in the North Country need to demonstrate that joy and fullness of life by the way we live.
Look redeemed. This is possible only if I am deeply convinced that the heart of the Gospel is the good news of a loving, tender and merciful God who can transform humankind and all of creation. Catholicism must be a joyful way of being: If the Church isn’t attractive, it just won’t attract. This doesn’t mean that Christians have to cave in to all the dis-values of contemporary society. But it does mean that we must demonstrate clearly by our lives that the values of the Gospel are actually life-giving, even though they may not be easy to live. Living under the sign of the Cross is not always a fun run in the park.
Meeting the Lord gets us moving, urges us beyond self-absorption. At every age, we are invited to revisit the deep center of our personal life, where the motivation of our life with Jesus, as disciples of the Lord, finds its meaning. This interior pilgrimage begins with prayer. The first thing for a disciple is to be with the Master, to listen to Him and to learn from Him. This is true at every moment of our lives. If the warmth of God, of His love, of His tenderness is not in our own hearts, then how can we, who are poor sinners, warm the hearts of others?
People today certainly need words, but most of all they need us to bear witness to the mercy and tenderness of the Lord which warms the heart, rekindles hope, and attracts people towards the good. Clearly these jubilarians are powerful disciples because they are women of profound prayer. Their service in the Church has arisen out of the joy of meeting the Lord and from His call. Their mission and our mission is to bring to the women and men of our time the consolation of God, to bear witness to His mercy.
Pope Francis said that “An authentic faith is never comfortable or completely personal. It always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it.” That is the heritage that these jubilarians, indeed all our consecrated religious in the Diocese bequeath to us. We are eternally grateful. The Holy Father tells us that “Wherever consecrated persons are, there must always be joy. Within the limits of our human condition and amid everyday concerns, when consecrated persons live with fidelity and express their joy, they offer luminous testimony, an effective message of accompaniment and closeness for women and men of our time looking to the Church as their proper home.” This local Church yearns to find our home in Christ. Thank you, consecrated Religious, you chosen ones who have put on love and continue to help us all find our way home in Christ. May God be praised…forever may God be praised!