On February 2nd, the Church celebrates the feast of the presentation of Jesus in the temple. But this year is also an important anniversary. In fact, 25 years ago, John Paul II instituted February 2nd as the World Day of Consecrated Life, a day to celebrate all men and women who give themselves in active and contemplative religious life, in the order of consecrated virgins, as hermits, in societies of apostolic life, in new communities and, of course, in secular institutes.
For 73 years, secular institutes have been part of consecrated life! It is very little in more than 2000 years of the history of the Church... But, over the years, we have developed our own way of being this living presence of God in the world. Through our insertion in temporal realities and through our love for God and for the world, we have developed a spirituality of discernment and creativity and a spirituality of dialogue and communion. This is how the great conversation with humanity can begin to reveal to every man and woman that they are the image and likeness of a God who is close at hand.
The members of secular institutes are, as Paul VI said, the “mountaineers of the Spirit”. It is up to us to accept the great adventure of overcoming the greatest challenges in order to do as Jesus did: to climb the mountain to be with God and to find him also on the plain, in the midst of crowds often “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt 9:36). And we always respond: “Present!” For these men and women are our brothers and sisters; they have been entrusted to us in a special way. It is up to each one of us to respond to our vocation to be light, salt and leaven.
Light, salt and leaven: a call to be fulfilled!
“You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14), Jesus reminds us. It is up to each one of us to have the audacity to bear witness, for this same verse ends with the words: “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” It is up to us to regain the courage of mission to proclaim loud and clear our love for God and the world.
“You are the salt of the earth” (Mt 5:13). I'm not a scientist, but Google says that because of its high mineral content (magnesium, calcium, potassium...), salt promotes cellular exchanges, maintains skin hydration and slows down aging. By reading these words from a spiritual perspective, we are called to be of those men and women who allow human contact. By drawing from the source of living water that is Christ, we continually welcome new life. What a wonderful discovery for us and all those around us!
You are the leaven in the middle of the dough. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened” (Mt 13:33). Leaven makes the dough rise, even if it is very small. And it takes very little to see the whole dough rise! It is now fashionable to be “influencers” on social media. This is the role of the leaven... to seek to have an impact in the environment where it acts! And this is our profound call: to be “influencers” of our environment, through our values, our solidarity, our respect for others, our prayer and to believe in our mission as baptized people, knowing that it is God's work!
Our vocation is more necessary than ever! On this day of consecrated life, let us celebrate it with pride and joy. Even more, let us celebrate this day by challenging another person to open himself or herself to the possibility of a call to give his or her whole life to God for the mission! Let us dare to present Jesus who calls us to total self-giving.
Let us make a difference!
At the heart of this pandemic, the mission of faith, hope and love that we carry is more necessary than ever. We are in contact with men and women who need to be supported, welcomed and comforted. May our presence as light, salt and leaven constantly impel us to undertake a small gesture, to listen, to accompany, to share a word that can make all the difference!
Because that is why we are given, consecrated! The mission gives meaning to our life; it is the mission that continues to move us and gets us up every morning to discover new opportunities to meet Jesus and to make Him better known, loved and served! This is what the Church recalled in one of the most important documents concerning secular institutes: “The whole life of the members of a Secular Institute (...) must become an apostolate” (Primo feliciter, no. 6).
On this XXVth World Day of Consecrated Life, I warmly greet all consecrated and associate members of secular institutes present in Canada. Some Institutes have sprung up on this land; others have spread their roots here and have blossomed. Certainly, together as partners and fellow colleagues in secular consecrated life, men and women, priests and laity, we live the beautiful vocation of being a significant presence of consecrated life in the midst of the world and the Church.
May these words of the Gospel on the feast of the presentation of Jesus guide our steps to continue to be these “mountaineers of the Spirit”: “For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Lk 2:30-32).