Vatican City ( AsiaNews ) - The Church and the world needs the witness of God's love and mercy given by men and women religious" signs of God in the different areas of life", " yeast for the growth of a more just and fraternal society, prophecy of sharing with young and poor". Pope Francis was speaking at the Angelus, marking today's Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Day of Consecrated Life, before 50 thousand people present in St Peter's Square, despite pouring rain. "You are all wet there in the square - the Pope greeted them - but you are brave!.
At the end of the Marian prayer, he recalled that in Italy today is also the Day for Life, saying that "everyone in their role and in their field, should feel themselves called to love and serve life, to welcome, respect and promote it, especially when it is fragile and in need of attention and care, from the womb to its end on this earth".
Marking the Day dedicated to religious life, this morning the Pope celebrated Mass (pictured) in the Saint Peter's Basilica, in the presence of thousands of nuns, friars, monks and consecrated lay people. Taking a cue from the Gospel of Jesus' presentation in the temple, he reflected on the encounter between the young and old, within religious communities, as well as the encounter "between observance and prophecy", like that of the young Mary and Joseph and the elderly Simeon and Anna, the two " newlyweds " with " the joy of walking in the law of the Lord" and the older couple "full of joy for the action of the Holy Spirit".
"This Gospel episode - he said later at the Angelus - is also an icon of the gifting of their entire lives by those who, through a gift of God, take on the typical traits of Jesus, chaste, poor and obedient, the Anointed One of the Father. This offering of themselves to God relates to every Christian, because we are all consecrated to Him through 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 the service the Church, in works of mercy. Nevertheless, this consecration is lived in a particular way by the religious, monks, consecrated lay people, who with the profession of vows, fully and exclusively belong to God. This belonging to the Lord allows those who live it in an authentic way to offer a special witness to the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Totally consecrated to God, they are totally consigned to their brethren, to bring the light of Christ there where the darkness is densest and to spread His hope in the hearts of the disheartened".
"Understood and lived in this way, consecrated life appears as 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 to the people of God on their journey. There is so much need of these presences, which strengthen and renew the commitment to spread the Gospel, Christian education, charity towards the needy, contemplative prayer , the commitment to the human and spiritual formation of young people, families , a commitment to justice and peace in the human family. Just think a little what would happen if there were no nuns in hospitals, schools, missions, just think of a world without sisters: it's unthinkable, these women are great!".
"The Church and the world needs this witness of God's love and mercy. Therefore, we must appreciate, with gratitude, experiences of consecrated life and deepen our knowledge of the different charisms and spirituality. We must pray that many young people respond 'yes' to the Lord who calls them to consecrate themselves wholly to Him, in selfless service to others. Who consecrate their lives to serve God in our brothers and sisters. For all of these reasons, as has already been announced, the year 2015 will be dedicated in a special way to consecrated life".
If Pope Francis centered his Angelus reflection on the relationship between consecrated life and the world, during Mass he expanded on life within religious communities. "The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple - he said - is also called the Feast of the Encounter: The encounter between Jesus and his people, when Mary and Joseph brought their child to the Temple in Jerusalem , the first meeting between Jesus and his people took place, represented by the elderly couple Simeon and Anna. This was also an encounter within the history of the people, an encounter between the young and old: the young were Mary and Joseph with their infant, and the old were Simeon and Anna, two characters who always attended the Temple".
"In 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 who go to Him, guided by the Holy Spirit. But He is at the center. He moves everything, He draws us to the Temple, the Church, where we can encounter Him, recognize Him, welcome Him, embrace Him. Jesus comes to us in the Church through the foundational charism of an Institute: How beautiful it is to think of our vocation in tehis way! Our encounter with Christ took its shape in the Church through the charisma of one of his witnesses, of a witness. This always amazes us and makes us give thanks".
"And even in the consecrated life, there is the encounter between the young and the old, between obedience and prophecy. We should not see them as two opposing realities! Instead we should allow the Holy Spirit animate them both, and the sign of this is joy: joy of observing, walking according to a rule of life is the joy of being led by the Spirit, never rigid, never closed, always open to the voice of God who speaks, who opens up, who leads and guides us toward the horizon. It's good for the elderly to communicate their wisdom to the young, and is good for young people to gather this wealth of experience and wisdom, and carry it forward, not to safeguard it, but to move forward with the challenges that life brings us, to carry it forward for the good of their religious orders and of the entire Church".