By coincidence, the readings for the day take up some themes that speak directly to us who are gathered to mark the consecrated life in the diocese in this year of Consecrated Life proclaimed by Pope Francis.
There’s the theme of prophecy. God promises to raise a prophet to help his People. Through the whole of history God has rasied up prophets to help provide direction, hope and life to his people. All here are linked to God through a prophetic outpouring of the Spirit in a charism that has shaped your life. Through you and your community, the Spirit has responded to the needs of people in all kinds of ways. Above all, God has spoken his word through you. Pope Francis has invited religious to “wake up our world”. Each of you has been and continues to be a wake-up call! I am grateful for the years of fidelity in following that call. Only God knows how many seeds of the Gospel hope you have sown in the hearts of those you served in your various apostolates.
I have often felt that I could write my life around the wonderful members of religious orders who accompanied me in life. It’s true for all of us here both personally and as a diocese. How much Limerick has been enriched by charisms. We know that one of the great discoveries of the Second Vatican Council was the focus on the “charismatic-prophetic” dimension of the Church. In other words, the Church isn’t just hierarchy and sacraments. There are also the outpourings of the Spirit in charisms that keep alive the Gospel in myriad forms of community life and apostolate that drive the Church’s mission. It is good to contemplate that and be thankful. Today we think of the impact of St. Bridget of Kildare. Her mantle spread way beyond Kildare. And that’s true of each specific consecration. It endows the person with a universality that is perhaps not seen but real. Christ takes those drops of our humanity that we offer to him and he transforms our lives into the wine of the Gospel for the benefit of humanity.
You have lived your lives in the consecration of virginity or celibacy, another theme we find in the readings. Like a flower that is chosen here on earth to blossom eternally in heaven, the scent of your consecration has already benefitted many here on earth. The way of consecrated virginity in following God goes right back to the Lord Jesus himself and to Mary and is a particular gift to the Church. When God comes to do great things he has so often chosen those consecrated in virginity – it’s enough to think of Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, Mother Teresa… Thank you for the fidelity to your calling to virginity.
Today, of course, is a chance for us all to renew our consecration. We always need to do that because the Lord still has work to do! We offer him our humanity – that now may be frail or exhausted or sick- but the offering is valuable. He, the Lord, can draw out those resources now that he needs for the world. Perhaps our sufferings offered will bear fruit in parts of the world we know nothing about.
And, finally, as we read in the Gospel, Jesus spoke with authority. You have an authority of experience. I think we can call it a Marian authority. It is the experience you have lived of letting Jesus live in you. Be sure and share it. Tell others of the life you have lived. Tell of things to do with spiritual life, with apostolate, with the divine adventure, things that others can hardly imagine exist. People need to hear these things. I hope that this year you can be creative in speaking your witness so that others might find light and life.