On Sunday, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and Day of Consecrated life, the Holy Father presided over the celebration of Holy Mass, in the Vatican Basilica, with members of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and of Societies of Apostolic life. Concelebrating with the Holy Father were priests belonging to Religious Orders, Congregations and Institutes.
In the course of the rite, which opened with the blessing of candles and a procession followed by the Eucharistic celebration, the Pope delivered the homily which we translate below.
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The feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is also called the feast of encounter: the beginning of the liturgy states that Jesus goes to meet His People, it is the encounter between Jesus and His People. When Mary and Joseph take their child to the Temple of Jerusalem, it is Jesus’ first encounter with His People, represented by the two elderly Simeon and Anna.
It was also an encounter within the history of the People, an encounter between young people and the elderly: the young were Mary and Joseph with their newborn, and the elderly were Simeon and Anna, two personages who always frequented the Temple.
Let us observe what the evangelist Luke says of them, how he describes them. Of Our Lady and Saint Joseph he repeats four times that they wanted to do what was prescribed by the Law of the Lord (cf. Luke 2:184.108.40.206). One gathers, almost perceives that Jesus’ parents have the joy of observing God’s precepts, yes, the joy of following the Law of the Lord! They are two newlyweds, they have just had their child, and they are altogether animated by the desire to fulfill what is prescribed. This is not an external fact; it is not to feel well, no! It is a strong, profound desire full of joy. It is what the Psalm says: “In the way of Thy testimonies I delight … Thy law is my delight” (119:14.77).
And what does Saint Luke say of the elderly? He stresses more than once that they were led by the Holy Spirit. Of Simeon he affirms that he was a just and pious man, who awaited the consolation of Israel, and that “the Holy Spirit was upon him” (2:25); he says that “the Holy Spirit had revealed to him “ that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ, the Messiah (v. 26). And, finally, that he went to the Temple “inspired by the Spirit” (v. 27). Then of Anna, he says that she was a “prophetess” (v. 36), that is, inspired by God, and that she was always in the Temple “worshipping with fasting and prayer” (v. 37). In sum, these two elderly were full of life! They were full of life because they were animated by the Holy Spirit, docile to His action, sensitive to His calls …
And behold the encounter between the Holy Family and these two representatives of the Holy People of God. Jesus is at the center. It is He who moves everything, who attracts one and all to the Temple, which is the House of His Father.
It is an encounter between young people full of joy in observing the Law of the Lord and the elderly full of joy by the action of the Holy Spirit. It is a singular encounter between observance and prophecy, where the young are the observers and the elderly are the prophets! In reality, if we reflect well, the observance of the Law is animated by the Spirit himself, and the prophecy is moved in the way traced by the Law. Who more than Mary is full of the Holy Spirit? Who is more docile than she to His action?
We look at consecrated life in the light of this evangelical scene as an encounter with Christ: it is He who comes to us, brought by Mary and Joseph, and it is we who go to Him, led by the Holy Spirit. But He is at the center. He moves all, He attracts us to the Temple, to the Church, where we can encounter Him, recognize Him, welcome Him and embrace Him.
Jesus comes to meet us in the Church through the foundational charism of an Institute: it is lovely to think thus of our vocation! Our encounter with Christ has taken its form in the Church through the charism of one of his male witnesses, of one of his female witnesses. This always astounds us and makes us give thanks.
And lived also in consecrated life is the encounter between the young and the elderly, between observance and prophecy. Let us not see it as two opposite realities. Rather, let us leave the Holy Spirit to animate both, and the sign of this is joy: the joy of observing, of following a rule of life; and the joy of being led by the Spirit, never rigid, never closed, always open to the voice of God who speaks, who opens, who leads, who invites us to go towards the horizon.
It does good to the elderly to communicate wisdom to young people; and it does good to young people to receive this patrimony of experience and wisdom, and to carry it forward, not to keep it in a museum, but to carry it forwards facing the challenges that life presents; to carry it forward for the good of the respective Religious Families and of the whole Church.
May the grace of this mystery, of the mystery of encounter, enlighten and comfort us on our journey. Amen.
Your Sin Is Never Bigger Than God's Mercy
"Do we love air? Do we love all things? No, no we cannot, we love people and the person we love is Jesus, the gift of the Father among us. It is a love that gives value and beauty to everything else; a love that gives strength to the family, to work, to study, to friendship, to art, to all human activity. It even gives meaning to negative experiences, because this love allows us to move beyond these experiences, to go beyond them, not to remain prisoners of evil, it moves us beyond, always opening us to hope, that’s it! Love of God in Jesus always opens us to hope, to that horizon of hope, to the final horizon of our pilgrimage. In this way our labours and failures find meaning. Even our sin finds meaning in the love of God because this love of God in Jesus Christ always forgives us. He loves us so much that he always forgives us." -Pope Francis
"O taste and see that the LORD is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in him!" -Psalm 34:8
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." -Matthew 11:28
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." -1 John 1:9
Pope to Youth: ‘Christians Were Not Chosen by the Lord for Small Things’
The Holy Father offers his message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations by Elise Harris/CNA/EWTN NEWS 1/17/14
VATICAN CITY — In his message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Francis urged youth to listen to the call of God, stating that this is often faced with obstacles and requires “going against the tide.”
“We Christians were not chosen by the Lord for small things; push onwards toward the highest principles. Stake your lives on noble ideals!” the Holy Father remarked in his Jan. 17 message to youth.
The 51st World Day of Prayer for Vocations is slated to occur on May 11, 2014, which is the Fourth Sunday of Easter, and it will be dedicated to the theme "Vocations, Witness to the Truth."
Beginning his address with the image in Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus states, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few,” the Pope highlighted that what Jesus is asking of the Church “concerns the need to increase the number of those who serve his Kingdom.”
Reciting St. Paul’s words in his First Letter to the Corinthians, Pope Francis observed that we Christians “are God’s field,” which “is why wonder first arises in our hearts over the plentiful harvest which God alone can bestow.”
Emphasizing how we are “possessed” by God through his “steadfast love,” he explained that everything we have “comes from him and is his gift: the world, life, death, the present, the future.”
“Christ, therefore … continually summons us by his word to place our trust in him, loving him ‘with all the heart, with all the understanding and with all the strength,’” he said, quoting the Gospel of Matthew.
“Therefore, every vocation, even within the variety of paths, always requires an exodus from oneself in order to center one’s life on Christ and on his Gospel.”
“Both in married life and in the forms of religious consecration, as well as in priestly life, we must surmount the ways of thinking and acting that do not conform to the will of God,” explained the Pope, adding that “it is an exodus that leads us on a journey of adoration of the Lord and of service to him in our brothers and sisters.”
“He never abandons us,” the Pope noted. “He has the fulfillment of his plan for us at heart, and yet he wishes to achieve it with our consent and cooperation.”
Pope Francis then highlighted how, even today, Jesus is among us, seeking to draw close to everyone, “beginning with the least,” and to heal our wounds.
He then extended an invitation to all youth “to listen to and follow Jesus and to allow yourselves to be transformed interiorly by his words, which ‘are spirit and life.’”
Echoing the words of Mary to the servants of the wedding feast in Cana, “Do whatever he tells you,” the Pope explained that this attitude “will help you to participate in a communal journey” that is able to bring out the best in those around us.
“A vocation,” he explained, “is a fruit that ripens in a well-cultivated field of mutual love that becomes mutual service, in the context of an authentic ecclesial life.”
“No vocation is born of itself or lives for itself. A vocation flows from the heart of God and blossoms in the good soil of faithful people, in the experience of fraternal love.”
This “high standard” of living as a Christian “means sometimes going against the tide and also encountering obstacles, outside ourselves and within ourselves,” noted the Pope, adding that Jesus warns us in the Gospel that “the good seed of God’s word is often snatched away by the Evil One, blocked by tribulation and choked by worldly cares and temptation.”
“All of these difficulties could discourage us, making us fall back on seemingly more comfortable paths,” noted the Pope; however, “the true joy of those who are called consists in believing and experiencing that he, the Lord, is faithful.”
Only with him can we “walk, be disciples and witnesses of God’s love, open our hearts to great ideals, to great things,” the Pope observed, highlighting that “we Christians were not chosen by the Lord for small things.”
He then implored the “bishops, priests, religious, Christian communities and families” to “orient vocational pastoral planning in this direction” and to accompany youths “on pathways of holiness.”
Concluding his message, he asked that all “dispose ourselves” to having “good soil” in our hearts, “by listening, receiving and living out the word, and thus bearing fruit.”
“The more we unite ourselves to Jesus through prayer, sacred Scripture, the Eucharist, the sacraments, celebrated and lived in the Church and in fraternity,” he observed, “the more there will grow in us the joy of cooperating with God in the service of the Kingdom of mercy and truth, of justice and peace.
“And the harvest will be plentiful, proportionate to the grace we have meekly welcomed into our lives. With this wish, and asking you to pray for me, I cordially impart to you all my apostolic blessing.”
Pope Francis: Our baptism gives us a new and glorious hope
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday reflected on the great gift we received when we were baptized. Speaking to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience, the Pope began a series of catecheses on the Sacraments, starting with Baptism. He said that the Second Vatican Council tells us that the Church herself is a “Sacrament”, a grace-filled sign which makes Christ’s saving work present in history, through the power of the Holy Spirit. And speaking of Baptism, the first of the Church’s seven Sacraments, Pope Francis said “it gives us new birth in Christ, makes us sharers in the mystery of his death and resurrection, grants the forgiveness of sin and brings us new freedom as God’s children and members of his Church”. He urged us not to forget the great gift we have received. “Our baptism has changed us, given us a new and glorious hope, and empowered us to bring God’s redeeming love to all, particularly the poor, in whom we see the face of Christ. Our baptism has also given us a share in the Church’s mission of evangelization; as disciples, we are also missionaries” The Pope said “as we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord this Sunday, let us ask him to renew in us the grace of our Baptism and to make us, with all our brothers and sisters, true children of God and living members of his body, the Church”. And through speakers in different languages, the Pope turned to our brothers and sisters from the Middle East, and in particular from Syria, inviting them to remember the day of their Baptism and to celebrate it because thanks to this Sacrament “we have all become new creatures in Christ, temples of the Spirit, adoptive children of the Father, members of the Church, brothers in faith and announcers of the Gospel, capable of forgiving and loving all, even our enemies”.