This past Sunday I had the privilege of celebrating with a number of our Religious Women who were marking special anniversaries of profession. Though my own vocation as a Diocesan priest is not precisely the same as our Consecrated men and women in congregations, societies and orders, I have a deep respect of and true gratitude for those who answer God’s call in this way.
So many of us have been taught, formed and inspired by men and women Religious. Congratulations and prayerful best wishes to our Jubiliarians!
Homily – Diocesan Jubilee for Consecrated Life
Dear Jubilarians in Consecrated Life, Dear friends in Christ all,
“None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.” These words of St. Paul to the Romans, our second reading today, are especially powerful as we come to celebrate a great gift of self to the Lord in our consecrated Religious. In answering God’s call in such a complete way, through the vows of Religious Life, and through the daily living of those promises, we see how this Gospel call can be lived to its fullest in joy and hope.
Today is a day of Jubilee, a day of thanksgiving to God. With those who have reached special anniversaries, we give thanks for the grace of perseverance in the Religious vocation. With the whole people of God we render our sacrifice of gratitude – the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – for the prayerful apostolate and mission you continue to carry out in the Church. As Bishop of the Diocese, I also wish to express the thanks of us all for your charity and faith, the contribution of your holiness and your service in this local Church. May God sustain you in His peace and give you strength for the work remaining.
The Jubilarians we honor today throughout our Diocese have cumulatively offered to God hundreds of years of prayer and service. They have taught in our schools; worked in hospitals and homes caring for the sick and dying; advocated for the poor – bringing the Gospel message of hope to us all.
Day after day, our consecrated brothers and sisters have prayed the Liturgy of the Hours for the sake of the whole world. They have spent countless hours in prayer before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and offered themselves as a living oblation for the salvation of souls. The supernatural chronicle of your self-offering – known fully only by God – surpasses infinitely even the tally of your years of service. Thanks be to God, dear Jubilarians! May He bless you with the grace of more years and, one day, life on high with Him for all eternity.
“Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” this is the call of all of us, but again the world sees how this self-offering is made real in a most dramatic way in consecrated life. Young people today – but indeed every person in their reflection on life – may ask, “Can a person truly give themselves to God? Is it possible to be faithful to a vocation in Jesus Christ forever?” And we know the answer is “yes,” not so much because of us but because the grace of God calls us and sustains us, making this possible; the will and plan of God is for people to do so. Indeed it is when we fail to give our self fully that we often get caught in habits of selfishness and sin. God knows the human hearts He has made. He knows the sacrifice of which we are capable. It is to this self-giving, self-sacrificing love that He calls us. This is the true meaning of love, human and divine: that God so loved the world, that He gave His Son; He gave Him to live and die for us. “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. All is for Him and His people; all is possible when we give our self to Jesus Christ.
Today’s Gospel offers us an extraordinary example and promise of mercy: the King who wrote off the huge debt of his servant. The servant had no way to make up fully what he owed. The King, in turn, looks to see what we will do when we are the arbiter of mercy; when we have a chance to forgive. As God has given us – so must we give. He chooses us and calls us to be instruments of mercy; to never give up on our fellow man; to always reach out in hope. For the sake of living out this extraordinary call, which is the heart of the Gospel, He even grants us a participation in things that are divine. We must forgive as God forgives.
Can we give ourselves as Christ gives? Yes; He makes it possible to pour out our lives completely, and even joyfully lay down our life as did Jesus Christ for us.
Today, dear friends, we rejoice in the love of God that is reflected and made alive in the love of our Jubilarians. Thank you, Sisters (Brothers?), for your yes to God’s call years ago, and your daily yes to the Bridegroom of your soul – and to His Church.
May Mary intercede with her Son, Jesus, for an increase of vocations and for the faithful perseverance of those called.
The Father of Mercies has called you and made you a sign of selfless and tender love. May He who is your light and your spouse, sustain you in His joy and hope forever. Amen.