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We, too, should carry a light for all to see

Archbishop Wenski's homily on Candlemas, at first profession of vows by Servants of the Pierced Hearts

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily during a Mass where three Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary professed their first vows in the religious community. The Mass was celebrated Feb. 2, 2023 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Doral.

Today’s Mass, also known as Candlemas, takes place 40 days after Christmas. Thus, this Feast of Lights which recalls our Lord’s Presentation in the temple completes our celebrations of the birth of our Lord: The Word made Flesh, the light that has come into the world.

Mary, purest Mother and Virgin undefiled, goes to the temple to be “purified” in accordance with Mosaic Law. She carries in her arms the true light of the world. Enlightened by faith in her Divine Son, we, too, should carry a light for all to see.

Mary comes with her husband, Joseph, to hand over the child Jesus to the Lord; yet, through the eyes of Simeon, we learn that something even greater is happening here. We learn that it is God himself who has handed over his only begotten Son to us. Today’s Presentation of the Lord is prelude to another, future presentation – to that presentation that will take place on Calvary, in our Lord’s sacrificial death on the cross, of which every Mass is a re-presentation.

Guided by and filled with the Holy Spirit, Simeon embraces the Child. His hope fulfilled by the presence of the Promised Messiah, he begs the Lord to release him from earthy cares and to go from this life in peace. For his eyes have seen “salvation,” “light” and the “glory of Israel.” These prophetic words uttered by Simeon and repeated by the Church in prayer at Compline give us a brief catechesis on the mystery of Jesus: He is the salvation of humanity, a light to the nations and the glory of Israel.

This evening, three young women lift up their own song of praise to the Lord. Your first vows – poverty, chastity, and obedience, with a special vow of total Marian availability – are not so much a “Nunc Dimittis” – for Simeon was old and you are young. Your vows are rather a “Magnificat” expressed not only in song but also in your daily lives as Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

On behalf of all of us here, but also as the Archbishop of Miami, I thank our soon-to-be newly professed sisters for their enthusiasm, for their generosity, and for their joy. We bring all of this to the Lord – and to his table of sacrifice. May the Eucharist – during which we are privileged to gaze upon the face of the Lord and to have communion in his Body and Blood – affirm you and strengthen you in your resolve to give up everybody and everything to embrace Christ and His Gospel.

Consecrated life is a witness of the search for God. Religious life is not about the seeking of self but rather the seeking of God. The only reason for this choice in life is to seek to know his will, to build a community of brothers and sisters in which God is sought after and loved before all else. Mary’s life – and our own lives – if we, like her, follow Jesus to the end, will be lived under the sign of the cross.

As Simeon prophesied, the “thoughts of many hearts” have been revealed in the betrayals and apostasies of the Church’s sinners but also in the constancy of her confessors, in the purity of her virgins and in the courage of her martyrs. Pope St. John Paul II, when as Cardinal Karol Wojtyla he preached a Lenten retreat to Pope St. Paul VI, said that “sign of contradiction” maybe be the “distinctive definition of Christ and his Church.”

Today, the witness of the Church on behalf of the dignity and right to life of the human person from the first moment of conception till natural death is itself a “sign that will be contradicted” – and is in fact contradicted by those who hold abortion to be a right rather than the grievous wrong that it is. In the ascendant secularism of our culture which tells us that we can live as if God doesn’t matter, those who are determined to live believing that he does matter will encounter opposition or at least bewilderment.

Today’s feast of the Presentation of the Lord – thanks to the initiative of Pope John Paul II – is also observed as the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life. (And we will honor our religious brothers and sisters at St. Mary’s Cathedral this Saturday evening.) To make your first vows today is a special grace. Those who live their Christian baptism through vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as religious sisters, brothers and priests, should see the oblation of the Son of God presented today in the temple as the model for religious life. We pray for you and all vowed religious. May your perseverance in seeking first the Kingdom of God above all else inspire the rest of us to seek to live holy lives in fidelity to the promises of our own baptisms.