02/02/2018, 20.11
VATICAN
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The youthfulness of an institute of consecrated life lies in its roots, in listening to its elders, pope says

On World Day of Consecrated Life, Pope Francis tells consecrated men and women that “we can never leave others behind, never pass over generations, but must accompany one another daily, keeping the Lord always at the center.”

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope celebrated Mass for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in St Peter’s Basilica as well as the 22nd World Day of Consecrated Life. The pontiff focused on the bond that must exist in a religious community to the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Speaking to thousands consecrated men and women holding lit candles (today is Candlemas), Francis said that the youthfulness of an institute of consecrated life lies in its roots, in listening to its elders, in never leaving “others behind,” nor passing “over generations”. It lies with accompanying one another every day, and going against the grain in today’s world.

Francis noted that “In the Christian East, this feast is called the ‘Feast of Encounter’: it is the encounter between God, who became a child to bring newness to our world, and an expectant humanity, represented by the elderly man and woman in the Temple.”

“In the Temple, there is also an encounter between two couples: the young Mary and Joseph, and the elderly Simeon and Anna. The old receive from the young, while the young draw upon the old. In the Temple, Mary and Joseph find the roots of their people. This is important because God’s promise does not come to fulfillment merely in individuals, once for all, but within a community and throughout history. There too, Mary and Joseph find the roots of their faith, for faith is not something learned from a book, but the art of living with God learned from the experience of those who have gone before us. The two young people, in meeting the two older people, thus find themselves. And the two older people, nearing the end of their days, receive Jesus, the meaning of their lives. This event fulfills the prophecy of Joel: ‘Your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions’ (2:28). In this encounter, the young see their mission and the elderly realize their dreams. All because, at the center of the encounter, is Jesus.”

This is how it was for those who heeded Jesus’s calling. “Everything started in an encounter with the Lord. Our journey of consecration was born of an encounter and a call. We need to keep this in mind. And if we remember aright, we will realize that in that encounter we were not alone with Jesus; there was also the people of God, the Church, young and old, just as in today’s Gospel.”

The evangelical episode also shows something else. The young couple, Mary and Joseph, were silent, whilst the older one, Simeon and Anne spoke. “It seems it should be the other way around. Generally, it is the young who speak enthusiastically about the future, while the elderly protect the past. In the Gospel, the very opposite occurs, because when we meet one another in the Lord, God’s surprises immediately follow.”

“For this to occur in the consecrated life, we have to remember that we can never renew our encounter with the Lord without others; we can never leave others behind, never pass over generations, but must accompany one another daily, keeping the Lord always at the center. For if the young are called to open new doors, the elderly have the keys. An institute remains youthful by going back to its roots, by listening to its older members. There is no future without this encounter between the old and the young. There is no growth without roots and no flowering without new buds. There is never prophecy without memory, or memory without prophecy. And constant encounter.”

 “Today’s frantic pace leads us to close many doors to encounter, often for fear of others. Only shopping malls and internet connections are always open. Yet that is not how it should be with consecrated life: the brother and the sister given to me by God are a part of my history, gifts to be cherished. May we never look at the screen of our cellphone more than the eyes of our brothers or sisters or focus more on our software than on the Lord. For whenever we put our own projects, methods and organization at the center, consecrated life stops being attractive; it no longer speaks to others; it no longer flourishes because it forgets its very foundations, its very roots.”

“Consecrated life is born and reborn of an encounter with Jesus as he is: poor, chaste and obedient. [. . .] Whereas the life of this world attempts to take hold of us, the consecrated life turns from fleeting riches to embrace the One who endures forever. The life of this world pursues selfish pleasures and desires; the consecrated life frees our affections of every possession in order fully to love God and other people. Worldly life’s aim to do whatever we want; consecrated life chooses humble obedience as the greater freedom. And while worldly life soon leaves our hands and hearts empty, life in Jesus fills us with peace to the very end, as in the Gospel, where Simeon and Anna come happily to the sunset of their lives, with the Lord in their arms and joy in their hearts.”

“How good it is for us to hold the Lord “in our arms” (Lk 2:28), like Simeon. Not only in our heads and in our hearts but also ‘in our hands’, in all that we do: in prayer, at work, at the table, on the telephone, at school, with the poor, everywhere. Having the Lord ‘in our hands’ is an antidote to insular mysticism and frenetic activism since a genuine encounter with Jesus corrects both saccharine piety and frazzled hyperactivity. Savouring the encounter with Jesus is also the remedy for the paralysis of routine, for it opens us up to the daily ‘havoc’ of grace. The secret to fanning the flame of our spiritual life is a willingness to allow ourselves to encounter Jesus and to be encountered by him; otherwise, we fall into a stifling life, where disgruntlement, bitterness and inevitable disappointments get the better of us.”

“At the end of the Gospels, there is another encounter with Jesus that can inspire the consecrated life. It is that of the women before the tomb. They had gone to encounter the dead; their journey seemed useless. You too are journeying against the current: the life of the world easily rejects poverty, chastity, and obedience. But like those women, keep moving forward, without worrying about whatever heavy stones need to be removed (cf. Mk 16:3). And like those women, be the first to meet the Lord, risen and alive. Cling to him (cf. Mt 28:9) and go off immediately to tell your brothers and sisters, your eyes gleaming with joy (cf. v. 8). In this way, you are the Church’s perennial dawn. I ask you to renew this very day your encounter with Jesus, to walk together towards him. For this will give light to your eyes and strength to your steps.

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