Pope: Consecrated life, like Simeon 'we ask to be able to perceive God’s grace for us'

On the 24th World Day of Consecrated Life, celebrated on the day of the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Pope Francis presides over a mass with thousands of representatives of religious orders, communities, societies of apostolic life. "Dear brothers and sisters, we did not deserve religious life; it is a gift of love that we have received". The risk of "seeing things in a worldly way" in religious life. "Do not turn away from the Lord, source of hope".

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - “Dear brothers and sisters, let us thank God for the gift of the consecrated life and ask of him a new way of looking, that knows how to see grace, how to look for one’s neighbour, how to hope. Then our eyes too will see salvation."

Thus Pope Francis concluded his homily during the mass celebrated this afternoon in St. Peter's Basilica on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which coincides with the World Day of Consecrated Life, in its 24th edition this year. The Mass was preceded by the rite of light, the blessing of the candles and the procession to the altar of confession.

Addressing the assembly made up of thousands of representatives of different religious orders, communities, societies of apostolic life, the pontiff presented the figure of old Simeon as a model, mentioned in the gospel of the feast (Luke 2, 22-40).

First of all, Simeon "saw the Savior in Jesus ... You too, dear consecrated brothers and sisters, you are simple men and women who caught sight of the treasure worth more than any worldly good. And so you left behind precious things,such as possessions, such as making a family for yourselves. Why did you do this? Because you fell in love with Jesus, you saw everything in him, and enraptured by his gaze, you left the rest behind. Religious life is this vision. It means seeing what really matters in life. It means welcoming the Lord’s gift with open arms, as Simeon did. This is what the eyes of consecrated men and women behold: the grace of God poured into their hands. The consecrated person is one who every day looks at himself or herself and says: “Everything is gift, all is grace”. "Dear brothers and sisters, we did not deserve religious life, it is a gift of love that we have received ".

The second characteristic is "seeing salvation", that is: " Knowing how to see grace is the starting point. Looking back, rereading one’s own history and seeing there God’s faithful gift: not only in life’s grand moments, but also in our fragility and weakness, in our insignificance. The tempter, the devil focuses on our “poverty”, our empty hands: “In all these years you haven’t got any better, you haven’t achieved what you could have, they haven’t let you do what you were meant to do, you haven’t always been faithful, you are not capable…” We see this is true in part, and so we go back to thoughts and feelings that disorient us. Thus we risk losing our bearings, the gratuitous love of God”.

Pope Francis specified: "There is a temptation that looms over religious life: seeing things in a worldly way. This entails no longer seeing God’s grace as the driving force in life, then going off in search of something to substitute for it: a bit of fame, a consoling affection, finally getting to do what I want. But when a consecrated life no longer revolves around God’s grace, it turns in upon itself. It loses its passion, it grows slack, becomes stagnant…This is what a worldly gaze leads to.”

A third characteristic of Simeon is that he "was familiar with the Holy Spirit". " If consecrated life remains steadfast in love for the Lord, it perceives beauty. It sees that poverty is not some colossal effort, but rather a higher freedom that God gives to us and others as real wealth. It sees that chastity is not austere sterility, but the way to love without possessing. It sees that obedience is not a discipline, but is victory over our own chaos, in the way of Jesus. "

Simeone also defines himself as a "servant". “Those who keep their eyes on Jesus - said Francis - Those who see things as Jesus does, learn how to live in order to serve. They do not wait for others to take the initiative, but themselves go out in search of their neighbour, as did Simeon who sought out Jesus in the temple. Where is one’s neighbour to be found in the consecrated life? First of all in one’s own community. The grace must be sought to know how to seek out Jesus in the brothers and sisters we have been given".

The Pope continued: “We need to have a gaze that seeks out our neighbour, that brings those who are far-off closer. Men and women religious, who live to imitate Jesus, are called to bring their own gaze into the world, a gaze of compassion, a gaze that goes in search of those far-off; a gaze that does not condemn, but encourages, frees, consoles".

Finally, "Simeon's eyes ... were eyes that were waiting, full of hope." “Knowing how to hope. Looking around, it is easy to lose hope: things that don’t work, the decline in vocations... There is always the temptation to have a worldly gaze, one devoid of hope. But let us look to the Gospel and see Simeon and Anna: they were elderly, alone, yet they had not lost hope, because they remained in communion with the Lord. Anna “did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day” (v. 37). Here is the secret: never to alienate oneself from the Lord, who is the source of hope. We become blind if we do not look to the Lord every day, if we do not adore him."