Saturday, February 5, 2022
Archbishop Thomas Wenski - The Archdiocese of Miami
Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily during the annual Mass honoring men and women in consecrated life, which he celebrated Feb. 5, 2022 at St. Mary Cathedral.
In 1997, Pope Saint John Paul II instituted a day of prayer for women and men in consecrated life. This celebration is attached to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2nd, a day in which candles are blessed symbolizing Christ who is the light of the world. So too, those in consecrated life are called to reflect the light of Jesus Christ to all peoples. As Jesus, the dawning light for those who sat in the shadow of death, would tell his disciples – and us: We too are to be light in the world.
So today, just a few days after this Feast of the Presentation, we honor our golden jubilarian, Sister Enith Montero, OP, and all our religious – both women and men. We thank God for the gift of your vocations, and we thank you for saying yes to God in choosing to live out your baptismal promises by vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. In reflecting the light of Christ, you are a gift to the Church and to the world.
The world – and too often the faithful – see these vows as simply renunciations. However, they are more than that – for evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, each in its own unique way, is a specific acceptance of the Mystery of Christ lived out within the Church. The vows do not constrain or limit your freedom; the vows make true freedom possible. Poverty frees us from burdens of possessions; chastity liberates us from slavery to vice; and obedience gives us the freedom to serve. So, to promise to follow what are called the evangelical counsels is in no way a limiting of freedom or a diminishment of one’s life or possibilities; rather these vows make it possible for you to cooperate in Jesus’ work of redemption.
In this sense, religious life is quite an adventure. You know, Jesus never tells his disciples to play it safe. Rather, he challenges us: Duc in altum. Put out into the deep, as he told Simon Peter in today’s Gospel. He challenges us to embrace the risks of fidelity. Simon trusted Jesus – and he was not disappointed; nor were you when you embraced the adventure of following Jesus according to the charisms of your religious family or institute.
Each of today’s readings speaks of being chosen. And for Isaiah, for Paul and for Peter — and for each one of us — being chosen is a humbling experience, for the fact of being chosen reminds us of our unworthiness, of the distance between us and God, for we all are sinners in need of redemption. But God in his mysterious ways chooses to need us to cooperate with him; he always needs someone for a mission; and so, like Isaiah, we reply: Here I am Lord, send me.
And, as we see in today’s scripture, and as we see in the Annunciation of the Lord to Mary, every time the Lord gives someone a mission, he is told “Fear not.” Our response must be obedience to the God who calls us.
To paraphrase Saint Paul in today’s second reading: By the grace of God, you are what you are. It is grace that makes it possible for you to persevere in your commitment to the Lord and to serve with open hearts and willing spirits. Grace is totally unmerited on our part — for like Simon Peter, we acknowledge ourselves to be sinners. But in embracing your vocations you have answered like Isaiah: Here I am, send me.
In the world, we see people who are concerned with their own autonomy, people jealous of their freedom, people fearful of losing their independence. In such a world, as religious you are — and you must be — signs of contradiction. Your existence — in the world but not of the world — points to the possibility of a different way of fulfillment of one’s life, “a way where God is the goal, his Word the light, and his will the guide, where consecrated persons move along peacefully in the certainty of being sustained by the hands of a Father who welcomes and provides, where they are accompanied by brothers and sisters, moved by the same Spirit, who wants to and knows how to satisfy the desires and longings sown by the Father in the heart of each one.”
May you continue to be faithful witnesses of God’s love. May others be inspired to live their baptismal commitment by professing the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Today we pray that the life and mission of these men and women in consecrated life be a means of sanctification for them and for the building up the kingdom of God.