Vatican City, 3 February 2016 (VIS) – Yesterday, the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and the Day of Consecrated Life, Pope Francis presided at the Holy Mass for the Jubilee of Consecrated Life, held in the Vatican Basilica at 5.30 p.m. Members of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life concelebrated with the Holy Father.
During the rite, which opened with the blessing of the candles and the procession, the Pope pronounced a homily, extensive extracts of which are published below. He emphasised that gratitude, for the gift of the Holy Spirit that always inspires the Church through different charisms is the word that best summarises the Year of Consecrated Life.
"Before our eyes there is a simple, humble and great fact: Jesus was taken by Mary and Joseph to the temple of Jerusalem. He is a child like any other … but He is unique: He is the only begotten Son Who came for all of us. This Child brought us God's mercy and tenderness. Jesus is the face of the Father's mercy. This is the icon that the Gospel offers us at the end of the Year of Consecrated Life, a year lived with great enthusiasm. Like a river, it now flows into the sea of mercy, in this immense mystery of love that we are experiencing with the extraordinary Jubilee".
"Today's feast, especially in the East, is called the feast of encounter. Indeed, in the Gospel there are several encounters. In the temple, Jesus comes towards us and we come towards Him. We contemplate the encounter with the elderly Simeon, who represents the faithful hope of Israel and the exultation of the heart for the fulfilment of the ancient promises. We also admire the encounter with the elderly prophetess Anna. Simeon and Anna are hope and prophecy; Jesus is newness and completion. He presents Himself to us as God's perennial surprise. In this Child, born for all, the past, made up of memory and promise, and the future, full of hope, are brought together".
"We can see here the beginning of consecrated life. Consecrated men and women are called, first of all, to be men and women of encounter. Vocation, indeed, is not the result of a project of our own … but rather the grace of the Lord Who reaches out to us, through a life-changing encounter. Those who encounter Jesus cannot stay the same as they were before. Those who live this encounter become witnesses and make encounter possible for others too; and they become promoters of the culture of encounter, avoiding the self-referentiality that causes us to become self-centred".
"Jesus, to come towards us, did not hesitate to share in our human condition. … He did not save us 'from outside', He did not stay out of our drama, but instead chose to share our life. Consecrated men and women are called to be a concrete sign of this closeness to God, this sharing in the condition of frailty and sin and the wounds of man in our time".
"The Gospel also tells us that 'the child's father and mother marvelled at what was said about Him'. Joseph and Mary wondered at this encounter full of light and hope for all peoples. And we too, as Christians and as consecrated persons, are guardians of wonder. A wonder that always asks to be renewed; woe to those who settle into habit in spiritual life; woe to those whose charisms are crystallised in abstract doctrine. The charisms of the founders, as I have said many times, must not be sealed up in bottles – they are not museum pieces. Our founders were moved by the Holy Spirit, and were not afraid of getting their hands dirty in everyday life, getting involved in the problems of the people and reaching out courageously to the geographical and existential peripheries".
"Finally, from today's feast we learn to live with gratitude for the encounter with Jesus and for the gift of the vocation to consecrated life. Giving thanks: the Eucharist. How beautiful it is when we encounter the happy face of consecrated persons, perhaps of advanced age like Simeon or Anna, content and full of gratitude for their vocation. This is a word that can summarise all that we have lived during this Year of Consecrated Life: gratitude for the gift of the Holy Spirit, that always inspires the Church through the various charisms".
Following Mass in the Basilica, the Pope went out into St. Peter's Square to greet the many consecrated men and women who had not been able to enter the Vatican Basilica. He addressed the following words to them:
"Thank you for ending here, all together, this Year of Consecrated Life. And keep going! Each one of us has a place, a job to do in the Church. Please, do not forget your first vocation, your first call. Remember this. And with that love with which you were called, today the Lord continues to call to you. Do not let that beauty, that wonder of the first call, diminish. Keep working. … There is always something to do. The main thing is to pray. The centre of consecrated life is prayer. And so we age, but we age like good wine!".
"Let me say something to you. I like it when I find elderly men and women religious, with shining eyes, because the fire of spiritual life is alight in them. That flame has not been extinguished. … Continue to work and to look to tomorrow with hope, always asking the Lord to send us new vocations, so that our work of consecrated may keep going ahead. And memory: do not forget the first call! Work, day by day, and then the hope to go ahead and to sow. May the others who follow us receive the legacy we leave to them".