Sunday, November 30, 2014

Year of Consecrated Life: Looking at the Past with Thanksgiving, Living the Present with Passion, Looking to the Future with Hope

Sorry it has been so long since I published. I am picking it back up again for Advent.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. It is also the first day of the Year of Consecrated Life, the first day of the Year of the Poor designate by the Philippine bishops, and the time of preparation for the Holy Father's visit to the Philippines in January.

Listen to my homily for today:

If you have trouble listening, click here.

Advent is a season where the whole Church, the mystical Body of Christ is carried in the womb of Mary, for this reason it is a season of silence, and a certain darkness is veiled over us to focus on what is most important, the divine life growing inside of us.

Mary is the one who can synthesize these four rather large concerns we have today: the Advent season, the Year of Consecrated Life, and Year of the Poor.

The Holy Father points to three aims for the Year of Consecrated Life:

1. Look to the past with gratitude:
2. This Year also calls us to live the present with passion.
3. To embrace the future with hope should be the third aim of this Year. 

He published this letter a few hours ago, and in it he addresses young religious:

I would especially like to say a word to those of you who are young. You are the present, since you are already taking active part in the lives of your Institutes, offering all the freshness and generosity of your “yes”. At the same time you are the future, for soon you will be called to take on roles of leadership in the life, formation, service and mission of your communities. This Year should see you actively engaged in dialogue with the previous generation. In fraternal communion you will be enriched by their experiences and wisdom, while at the same time inspiring them, by your own energy and enthusiasm, to recapture their original idealism. In this way the entire community can join in finding new ways of living the Gospel and responding more effectively to the need for witness and proclamation. 
Here are the expectations he has for this year:

1. Witness of consecrated joy - they see us as men and women who are happy!

2. I am counting on you “to wake up the world”, since the distinctive sign of consecrated life is prophecy. “Radical evangelical living is not only for religious: it is demanded of everyone. But religious follow the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way.”
At times, like Elijah and Jonah, you may feel the temptation to flee, to abandon the task of being a prophet because it is too demanding, wearisome or apparently fruitless. But prophets know that they are never alone. As he did with Jeremiah, so God encourages us: “Be not afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:8).

3. Men and women religious, like all other consecrated persons, have been called, as I mentioned, “experts in communion”. So I am hoping that the “spirituality of communion”, so emphasized by Saint John Paul II, will become a reality and that you will be in the forefront of responding to “the great challenge facing us” in this

new millennium: “to make the Church the home and the school of communion.”[5]
To this end, I would ask you to think about my frequent comments about criticism, gossip, envy, jealousy, hostility as ways of acting which have no place in our houses. This being the case, the path of charity open before us is almost infinite, since it entails mutual acceptance and concern.

4. I also expect from you what I have asked all the members of the Church: to come out of yourselves and go forth to the existential peripheries. “Go into all the world”; these were the last words which Jesus spoke to his followers and which he continues to address to us (cf. Mk 16:15).
Don’t be closed in on yourselves, don’t be stifled by petty squabbles, don’t remain a hostage to your own problems. These will be resolved if you go forth and help others to resolve their own problems, and proclaim the Good News. You will find life by giving life, hope by giving hope, love by giving love.

5. I expect that each form of consecrated life will
question what it is that God and people today are asking of them.

Here is the thrust of the Philippine Bishops letter of the Year of the Poor:


In the sign of this crucified Lord, now resurrected, we your Pastors, invite you to the celebration of the Year of the Poor. Behold Jesus, poor. No image of Jesus, poor, surpasses this one. Jesus hangs from his Cross stripped of his clothes, his dignity, his possessions, his power, his strength. He is fully one with the unwashed, the oppressed, the scorned, the powerless, the miserable, the outcaste. In the Year of the Poor, look into the eyes of the crucified Lord. There is no experience richer.