Dear brothers and sisters, I also thank each one of you for having wished to participate in this Liturgy, which, also thanks to your presence, is distinguished by a special atmosphere of devotion and recollection. I wish you every good on the journey of your religious Families, as well as for your formation and your apostolate. May the Virgin Mary, disciple, servant and Mother of the Lord, obtain from the Lord Jesus that “all who have received the gift of following him in the consecrated life may be enabled to bear witness to that gift by their transfigured lives, as they joyfully make their way with all their brothers and sisters towards our heavenly homeland and the light which will never grow dim” (John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, n. 112). Amen.
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Pope Benedict XVI, so that it could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.
9 February 2014
Saint Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. This day is also the Day for Consecrated Life, which recalls the importance for the Church of those who have welcomed their vocation to follow Jesus closely on the path of the evangelical counsels. Today’s Gospel recounts that 40 days after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph took the Child to the Temple to offer and consecrate him to God, as was prescribed by Hebrew Law. This Gospel narrative also constitutes an icon of the gift of one’s own life on the part of those who, as a gift of God, take on the characteristic traits of Jesus: virgin, poor and obedient.
This offering of self to God regards every Christian, because we are all consecrated to him in Baptism. We are all called to offer ourselves to the Father with Jesus and like Jesus, making a generous gift of our life, in the family, at work, in service to the Church, in works of mercy. However, this consecration is lived in a special way by religious, by monks and nuns and by consecrated lay people, who by the profession of their vows belong to God in a full and exclusive way. This belonging to the Lord allows those who live it authentically to offer a special kind of witness to the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Totally consecrated to God, they are totally given to their brothers, to bring the light of Christ wherever the shadows are darkest in order to spread his hope to discouraged hearts.
The consecrated 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 it’s journey. There is a great need for their presence, which strengthens and renews commitment to: spreading the Gospel, Christian education, love for the needy, contemplative prayer; commitment to human formation, the spiritual formation of young people, and families; commitment to justice and peace in the human family. But let us think a little about what would happen if there were no sisters in hospitals, no sisters in missions, no sisters in schools. Think about a Church without sisters! It is unthinkable: they are this gift, this leaven that carries forward the People of God. These women who consecrate their life to God, who carry forward Jesus’ message, are great.
The Church and the world need this testimony of the love and mercy of God. The consecrated, men and women religious, are the testimony that God is good and merciful. Thus it is necessary to appreciate with gratitude the experiences of consecrated life and to deepen our understanding of the different charisms and spiritualities. Prayer is needed so that many young people may answer “yes” to the Lord who is calling them to consecrate themselves totally to him for selfless service to their brothers and sisters; to consecrate one’s life in order to serve God and the brethren.
For all these reasons, as was already announced, next year will be dedicated in a special way to consecrated life. Let us entrust as of now this initiative to the intercession of the Virgin Mary and St Joseph, who, as the parents of Jesus, were the first to be consecrated by him and to consecrate their life to him.
After the Angelus:
Today Italy celebrates the Day for Life with the theme “Generate the future”. My greetings and encouragement go to the associations, movements and cultural centres working to defend and promote life. I join the Italian Bishops in emphasizing that “every son is the face of the Lord, lover of life, gift to the family and to society” (Message for the 36th National Day for Life). May each of us, in our own role and in our own field, feel called to love and serve life, to receive it, respect it and foster it, especially when it is fragile and in need of attention and care, from the womb to its end on this earth.
An affectionate thought goes to the dear people of Rome and Tuscany, struck by the rains which have caused flooding. These brothers, who are facing trials, are not without our concrete solidarity and our prayers. Dear brothers and sisters, I am very close to you!
I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good lunch. Goodbye!
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple is also known as the Feast of the Encounter: the Liturgy says at the beginning that Jesus goes to meet his people. Thus, this is the encounter between Jesus and his people, when Mary and Joseph brought their child to the Temple in Jerusalem; the first encounter between Jesus and his people, represented by Simeon and Anna, took place.
It was also the first encounter within the history of the people, a meeting between the young and the old: the young were Mary and Joseph with their infant son and the old were Simeon and Anna, two people who often went to the Temple.
Let’s observe what the evangelist Luke tells us of them, as he describes them. He says four times that Our Lady and St Joseph wanted to do what was required by the Law of the Lord (cf. Luke 2:22, 23, 24, 27). One almost feels and perceives that Jesus’ parents have the joy of observing the precepts of God, yes, the joy of walking according to the Law of the Lord! They are two newlyweds, they have just had their baby, and they are motivated by the desire to do what is prescribed. This is not an external fact; it is not just to feel right, no! It’s a strong desire, a deep desire, full of joy. That’s what the Psalm says: “In the way of thy testimonies I delight…. For thy law is my delight” (119 :14, 77).
And what does St Luke say of the elderly? He underlines, more than once, that they were guided by the Holy Spirit. He says Simeon was a righteous and devout man, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and that “the Holy Spirit was upon him” (2:25). He says that “it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit” that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (v. 26); and finally that he went to the Temple “inspired by the Spirit “(v. 27). He says Anna was a “prophetess” (v. 36); that is she was inspired by God and that she was always “worshipping with fasting and prayer” in the Temple (v. 37). In short, these two elders are full of life! They are full of life because they are enlivened by the Holy Spirit, obedient to his action, sensitive to his calls....
And now there is the encounter between the Holy Family and the two representatives of the holy people of God. Jesus is at the centre. It is he who moves everything, who draws all of them to the Temple, the house of his Father.
It is a meeting between the young, who are full of joy in observing the Law of the Lord, and the elderly who are full of joy in the action of the Holy Spirit. It is a unique encounter between observance and prophecy, where young people are the observers and the elderly are prophets! In fact, if we think carefully, observance of the Law is animated by the Spirit and the prophecy moves forward along the path traced by the Law. Who, more than Mary, is full of the Holy Spirit? Who more than she is docile to its action?
In the light of this Gospel scene, let us look at consecrated life as an encounter with Christ: it is he who comes to us, led by Mary and Joseph, and we go towards him guided by the Holy Spirit. He is at the centre. He moves everything, he draws us to the Temple, to the Church, where we can meet him, recognize him, welcome him, embrace him.
Jesus comes to us in the Church through the foundational charism of an Institute: it is nice to think of our vocation in this way! Our encounter with Christ took shape in the Church through the charism of one of her witnesses. This always amazes us and makes us give thanks.
And in the consecrated life we live the encounter between the young and the old, between observation and prophecy. Let’s not see these as two opposing realities! Let us rather allow the Holy Spirit to animate both of them, and a sign of this is joy: the joy of observing, of walking within a rule of life; the joy of being led by the Spirit, never unyielding, never closed, always open to the voice of God that speaks, that opens, that leads us and invites us to go towards the horizon.
It’s good for the elderly to communicate their wisdom to the young; and it’s good for the young people to gather this wealth of experience and wisdom, and to carry it forward, not so as to safeguard it in a museum, but to carry it forward addressing the challenges that life brings, to carry it forward for the sake of the respective religious orders and of the whole Church.
May the grace of this mystery, the mystery of the Encounter, enlighten us and comfort us on our journey. Amen.
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Pope Francis I, so that it could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.
16 February 2014