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Homilies - Bishop Brendan Leahy

Year C: Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Year C: Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mass to mark Consecrated Life

Mount St. Alphonsus, Limerick

Homily Notes

The liturgy today has provided us with readings that speak powerfully to us as we mark and honour Consecrated Life in the Diocese. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us of the depth of the calling to Consecrated life: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you; I have appointed you as prophet to the nations”. It is always amazing to think of how the idea God has for each of us exists in his mind from all eternity. He has chosen us, marked us out and surrounded us with signs of love as he is always drawing us towards him in weaving a wonderful design out of our life. At times, we might only see the knots just like we see the knots of the back of a fabric but one day we will contemplate the beautiful design that is being weaved.

Today, however, is a day for each of us to say “thank you” to God for our calling. It is a day for me as Bishop to say “thank you” to you for your generous “yes” to God. You have let yourself “receive” his gift of a calling to consecrated life. You welcomed it. And you have remained faithful. I sent a text to a Bishop friend whose birthday occurred recently and he responded with a line that I liked: “the personal history of each of us is a biography that God is writing with our freedom”. Yes, let’s not take for granted that “yes” that each of us in freedom has uttered.

Jeremiah’s reading with its prophecy, “They will fight against you” taken up in today’s Gospel also reminds us of how the gift of God’s closeness can so often be met with resistance, opposition, conflict. It’s hard to understand how his own people could have rejected Jesus. He had just outlined a wonderful programme of life; he had performed marvellous miracles in nearby towns. They should have been rightly proud of him and yet that malign spirit that wants everything for itself; that wants things under its control; that doesn’t want to share; that wants to possess and dominate others; that isn’t open to newness; that doesn’t want to hear a message that disturbs our comfort, that malign spirit brought Jesus’ own people of Nazareth to reject The Consecrated One, the Son of God.

But we know the story. Jesus continued his mission. He went on to do great things. Yes, he was opposed and ultimately abandoned and died on the Cross. But he gained salvation, redemption and liberation for the whole world. His life, limited to the small country of the Holy Land, had a universal impact. Just as had the life of Mary and those closely associated with Jesus, those who had said “yes” and welcomed and received his gift. They were people who had found God in Jesus Christ, fallen in love with him and opened the doors of their heart and the eyes of their soul to see as Jesus saw, feel what Jesus felt, act as Jesus acted.

The great gift Mary and the other disciples of Jesus received, enabling them to be consecrated followers of Jesus, was nothing less than the agape-love of which St. Paul speaks so eloquently. With that agage-love in their hearts, Jesus’ consecrated friends poured out the fragrance of Christ in the world around them. In them, Christ became present, Christ who is patient and kind; never boastful or conceited; rude or selfish; delighting in the truth; always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.

The German theologian Johannes Metz wrote that “In the end Jesus did not teach an ascending mysticism of closed eyes, but rather…a mysticism of open eyes”. [1] In other words, Jesus’ gift of agape love opens our eyes to see more not less the sufferings to those around us. The women and men who consecrate their lives to God have always been called to see more not less. We see so many examples of how they have seen and felt the need and wants of those around them – the need for education, for healing, for counselling, for accompaniment, for a listening ear, for prayers, for closeness, for reassurance, for hope, for genuine relationships, for communication, for combatting violence against women, for justice, for promoting reconciliation, for care of our planet, for outreach to the vulnerable...

In your consecrated life, you have expressed and continue to express the closeness of the God who made himself a friend to human beings. How much each of your lives has borne fruits that have gone beyond the specific ministry of your charism or activity. And while the time for busy activities is for many of you behind you, nevertheless, your consecration is still at work. It is your life, your self-offering, your prayers, your witness, your perseverance, your endurance in the face of negative commentary – all of this is now your continuing “yes” to Jesus, receiving his gift today even when others around you criticise or want to remove him. As a sister in Germany that I know, Sr. Elizabeth, put it to me: today our ministry is more in terms of “being with” people rather “doing” things for them.

I was also struck by another comment that a woman in a religious community shared with me recently. Her community had received a special visitor and was telling the visitor what their religious congregation does. While rejoicing in that, the visitor remarked: “what I admire above all is not so much what you do but the shining of God in your eyes”. What a great phrase! And Pope Francis often comments on how he values meeting religious who are advancing in years but with the light and sparkle of hope and faith in their eyes, a light that has come from a life time of following Jesus, receiving his gift of light and love.

In thanking you today, I am also mindful of the sisters and priests who have died in the past year. We remember them. Their earthly journey has ended. But in faith we believe they continue to journey with us and are still working for the Church, their congregation and this diocese here below. We can count on that closeness. It is the hidden but real accompaniment of heaven.

So, let us continue as we renew our “yes” to God again today, deciding to receive again and again the gift of agape-love that Jesus, through the power of the Spirit, wants to pour into our hearts. Missionary activities may be less but the many nuances of agage-love are always to be rediscovered in each phase of our lives. Patience, being ready to excuse, trust and hope, maybe take a different shape now in our lives than they did 30 or 50 years ago, but we are still called to exercise the charity-love that brings life.

I’ll give the final word to Padre Arrupe who famously said:

Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.






[1] Metz, Passion for God, 163.