Consecrated life: a precious gift
IN this year (2018), which the Philippine Church dedicates to “Clergy and Consecrated Persons,” we are enriched by reflecting on “Consecrated Life” as we employ the insights of Pope Francis in his 2014 letter to all consecrated persons. Religious themselves should appreciate their unique charism in the Church with deep and profound gratitude.
“Together let us thank the Father, who called us to follow Jesus by fully embracing the Gospel and serving the Church, and poured into our hearts the Holy Spirit, the source of our joy and our witness to God’s love and mercy before the world.”
We “look to the past with gratitude.” All religious institutes or congregations realize that “at their origins we see the hand of God.” The Spirit calls “certain individuals to follow Christ more closely, to translate the Gospel into a particular way of life [charism], to read the signs of the times with the eyes of faith, and to respond creatively to the needs of the Church.”
Undoubtedly, in genuine gratitude, religious communities of women and men appreciate how their unique charism, their call and mission, has been creatively lived over the years. Religious life in the Church clearly manifests the living breath of God’s Spirit!
Living God’s gift today. Pope Francis invites all clergy and religious “to live the present with passion.” We need to “listen attentively to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church today, to implement ever more fully the essential aspects of our consecrated life.”
The Pope asserts that for the various religious founders “the Gospel was the absolute rule … [and] every other rule was meant merely to be an expression of the Gospel and means of living the Gospel to the full. For them, the ideal was Christ; they sought to be interiorly united to him and thus be able to say with Saint Paul: ‘For to me to live is Christ’ (Phil 1:21). Their vows were intended as a concrete expression of this passionate love.”
“The question we have to ask ourselves during this special year is if and how we too are open to being challenged by the Gospel; whether the Gospel is truly the ‘manual’ for our daily living and the decisions we are called to make…. Is Jesus really our first and only love…? If he is, we will be empowered to love.”
Imitating Jesus’ compassion. The founders and foundresses of religious communities of men and women, as Pope Francis notes, “shared in Jesus’ own compassion when he saw the crowds who were like sheep without a shepherd. Like Jesus, who compassionately spoke his gracious word, healed the sick, gave bread to the hungry, and offered his own life in sacrifice,” various religious leaders “sought in different ways to be at the service of all those to whom the Spirit sent them.”
How did they live out their call and mission? “They did so by their prayers of intercession, their preaching of the Gospel, their works of catechesis, education, their service to the poor and the infirm. The creativity of charity is boundless; it is able to find countless new ways of bringing the newness of the Gospel to every culture and every corner of society.”
During this Philippine “Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons” we are challenged to “examine our fidelity to the mission entrusted to us…. Do we have the same passion for our people, are we close to them to the point of sharing their joys and sorrows, thus truly understanding their needs and helping to respond to them?” Indeed, Pope Francis captures the essence of mission in a succinct expression: “Mission is at once a passion for Jesus and a passion for his people” (Evangelii Gaudium 268).