In a Holy Eucharistic Celebration on the occasion of the CRI Northern Region’s annual gathering of major superiors Rt. Rev. Ivan Pereira, the Bishop of Jammu-Srinagar inspired the congregation with a well meditated homily. He delved through various aspects of consecrated life substantiating with the magisterial teaching.
Here is the full text of the sermon preached on 25th July 2015 to CRI, North India which had the special theme, “Celebrating the Year of Religious Life”
“I have called you by your name; you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
EACH one in the consecrated life, recalls a word, an event, a priest or religious who inspired them; something as simple as a word of Scripture or the kindness of a dedicated religious. Yet it was not any founder of any particular congregation who has extended a call to anyone. It’s the Lord who invites us: to be with him and, to bear witness to him, and while doing so to die to self, to live for others, to instill confidence, to show a ray of hope, to tell people who are overburden and are and are crushed under the weight of their sins that God pardons that He loves each one of us in spite of our unworthiness and the state of life.
With a simple and humble “yes”, each one began a journey by which the Lord drew each one into a deeper relationship with himself, so that His word was deeply understood and cherished and so He claims: ‘I have called you by name; you are mine.’
Do you think we have grown in union with the Lord? Can I relive each day that simple YES of mine given years back?
Pope Francis, who identifies himself as a religious, shares with us his hopes for this year of consecrated life. He says, “May this year be an occasion for bearing vigorous and joyful witness before the world to the holiness and vitality present in so many of those called to follow Jesus in the consecrated life.” He reminds us that “evangelical radicalness is not only for religious, it is demanded of all,” he also explains: “Religious follow the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way. Religious should be men and women able to wake the world up!”
In his apostolic letter to all consecrated people he has outlined his three-fold aims for the year of consecrated life: 1) to look at the past with gratitude; 2) to live the present with passion, and 3) to embrace the future with hope.
In keeping with his theme of “Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis speaks in his signature simplicity about the importance of the Gospel in the lives of the consecrated. He writes more about the gratitude we continue to owe to all the founders…
“For the various founders, the Gospel was the absolute rule, whereas every other rule was meant merely to be an expression of the Gospel and a means of living the Gospel to the full,”
“The question before us is: if and how we too are open to being challenged by the Gospel? Whether the Gospel is truly the ‘manual’ for our daily living and the decisions we are called to make?”
Founders of religious communities: who translated the Gospel into a particular way of life, reading the signs of the times with eyes of faith and creatively responding to the needs of the Church, with joy & prayer, rendering educational, medicinal and charitable works for generations, have substantially shaped the landscape of the Church today.
One of the greatest dangers encountered by the modern consecrated people and the shepherds is their overloaded occupation with various activities. Apostleship devoid of discipleship will be a sure disaster. To have rest in the company of Jesus is to realize the meaning of our apostleship.
We must avoid the danger of too much of withdrawal. Devotion that does not translate itself into action is not real devotion. We must never seek the fellowship of God to avoid the fellowship of human beings. We must become consecrated people and shepherds who listen to the voice of the chief Shepherd and engage ourselves in righteousness, joy and peace.
Consecrated people and Shepherds are required to act in conformity with the nature of their prophetic work while overcoming their respective weaknesses which can destabilize the communities and the mission.
That is where we have been called to recreate the whole world of human behavior, for God’s greater glory.
In this year of Consecrated Life Pope Francis challenges each of us to Wake up the world!; Be witnesses of a different way of acting and of living!; Show that it is possible to live differently in this world.
It is this witness he expects from us.
Pope St. John Paul II, in his apostolic exhortation Novo Millennio Ineunte 43, issued to usher in the new millennium, explains this spirituality of communion this way: it means “to know how to “make room” for our brothers and sisters, bearing “each other’s burdens” (Gal 6:2) and resisting the selfish temptations which constantly beset us and provoke competition, careerism, distrust and jealousy.”
The priests and religious are called to be true signs of God’s presence in the world, particularly in the world of the needy young, as well as being the catalysts for positive transformation in society and the leaven for heightened awareness of true human values in the world of today.
This can be achieve by witnessing to the following “holistic” character-Strengths that were certainly present in Jesus.
Allow yourself to be led by the Holy Spirit who gives these Character Strengths: Wisdom, Courage, Love of Humanity, Justice, Temperance and Transcendence.
“May the Holy Spirit ‘fall afresh on us’ during this Year of Consecrated Life, blowing where God wills through our parishes, convents, monasteries and religious houses. Let the winds of the Holy Spirit inspire consecrated women and men to ‘wake up the world’.
I am confident that this renewal will be nourished and multiplied by the prayers and witness of consecrated women and men.
Religious congregations – will continue to quietly inspire the people by selfless lives of poverty, chastity and obedience, offering a humble, yet powerful, counter-witness to the emptiness that so often surrounds us.
If we are to ‘wake up the world’, there is much work to be done, “With God all things are possible”. With joy and love in our hearts we will find ways of singing a new song to the Lord and “bringing the newness of the Gospel” to all our people.”
Therefore religious are called to constant renewal. Renewal in religious life will emerge when that sense of generous compassion without boundaries is rediscovered and where generosity and compassion dominate every aspect of our lives.
That was the characteristic of your founders who were prepared to find new ways of witnessing to the love of God where society in general – and indeed the Church itself – failed to identify human suffering and exclusion.”
“….living the consecrated life is never a career, a job or a role, but a call, a way of life and an identity.”
Hence Pope Francis through this Year of Consecrated Life, is encouraging consecrated women and men to: Rejoice in and recommit themselves to their vocation, calling the whole church to thanksgiving for the witness and ministry of consecrated men and women, and inviting young Catholics to consider a religious vocation.
In short: It’s a call to Celebrate the Past, Serve in the Present and Embrace the Future.” Let us therefore take note of the Objectives Set before us: to Increase visibility of the consecrated life; To Express Appreciation; To Highlight the joy experienced in one’s vocational choice and to education on the consecrated life. For “the Consecrated life is at the very heart of the Church as a decisive element for her mission, since it ‘manifests the inner nature of the Christian calling’ and the striving of the whole Church as Bride towards union with her one Spouse”. (Vita Consecrata 3)
My dear Brothers and Sisters, We know that despite the various expressions of the consecrated life, our religious Women & Men are united in pointing us to God; by the way they dedicate their whole lives to the Lord. We thank God for their incalculable contributions as they witness amongst us.
Pope Francis reminds all the faithful that the Consecrated persons are: a sign of God in the different areas of life, they are leaven for the growth of a more just and fraternal society, they are the prophecy of sharing with the least and the poor.
Thus understood and lived, consecrated life appears as what it really is a gift from God, a gift of God to the Church, a gift of God to his People! Every consecrated person is a gift for the People of God on its journey.
He exhorts all the faithful “ to be increasingly aware of the gift which is, the presence of our many consecrated men and women, heirs of the great saints who have written the history of Christianity.”
He urges us all to draw close to these men and women, who have consecrated themselves so as to rejoice with them, to share their difficulties and to assist them, to whatever degree possible in their ministries and works, for the latter are, in the end, those of the entire Church.
“Let them know the affection and the warmth which the entire Christian people feels for them.” In this Year of Consecrated Life, can the faithful, the followers of Christ, allow the witness of consecrated men and women to “wake us up” to a richer life in Christ?
It is as Pope Francis says: “The creativity of charity is boundless; it is able to find countless new ways of bringing the newness of the Gospel to every culture and every corner of society.”
Therefore my dear brother Priests and Religious, Let us be alert and guard our every step. Let not our ambitions, ignorance, inabilities, selfishness & shortsightedness prevent us from practicing our Vows and Promise OR obstruct the spread of Kingdom of God in and around us or block the creativity of the Holy Spirit.
Marveling at how God the Father always provides the Church with the testimony of the consecrated life: I thank each religious institute and apostolic society in our country, and All of you who are their members, for your generosity and faithfulness. I pray that the Lord Jesus will continue to call men and women to be his evangelical witnesses.”
God Bless You.
Image Courtesy: In, tribuneindia.com