Day for Consecrated Life

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Homily Notes of  Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin , Archbishop of Dublin

Church of the Guardian Angels, Newtownpark Avenue, 2nd February 2019



The Christian community lives waiting in joyful hope.  In our Gospel reading we noted how as Jesus enters into the Temple he is greeted first of all by Simeon, one “who looked forward to Israel’s comforting, one on whom the Spirit rested and who watched and waited for the restoration of Israel.  Note the words: “looked forward to”, “watched”, “waited”.


The second encounter is with the elderly woman Anna who appears almost just in passing and yet understands that this child was the one who realised the hopes of all who “looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem”.  Those who remained true to the Lord’s Covenant were those who in the face of trial and the unknown never failed to “look forward”


Both are presented to us in terms of prophecy.  Prophecy is the gift not so much of foreseeing the future as if by some magical powers.  No, the gift of prophecy is a gift for the present. It is the gift that enables us to recognise and understand and interpret the true the meaning of the present and look forward in hope.


Like Simeon and Anna, the religious must be so focussed on what expectation means in life, that they are in the forefront in recognising what, through Jesus, fulfilment and happiness mean in the present and are able to communicate something of that Christian hope to the many in today’s world who struggle with the capacity to hope.


We celebrate the Day of Consecrated Life.  We come to thank God for the gift to the Church of the prophetic witness of religious men and women.  We come to pray that each of us will be steeped in the hope we are called to, that we will be able to interpret what that call requires today and where it should be guiding our lives.


We pray that individual religious and their communities will witness to what expectation and consolation and renewal mean today for God’s holy people and for the world in which we live.


Religious life is about discernment.  It is about how one lives one’s life in the complexities of this world while never losing sight of what true expectation is about. It is about how we live our lives today in absolute coherence with what the true expectation of fulfilled humanity is about.


Religious life is not so much about doing, but about meaning.  It is not to say that religious turn their back on the needs and necessities, the anxieties and the hopes of the people in the world, especially the most marginalised and needy.  Religious are indeed doers, but doers with a difference.  They do not do things to build their own empires or to make others dependant on them.   They do things in a unique manner, which enables hope to spring forth in people’s lives and replace that sense of emptiness and that feeling of not being of worth, which haunts so many man and women, young or old in our days.


Religious do this in various ways.   First, they do so through their recognition that in the midst of all the successes and failures of human progress, they are called consistently to witness to the primacy and otherness of God.  In times of secularisation, religious are called to witness to the presence of the transcendent God whose love is revealed and encountered in Jesus Christ, who reaches out to the men and women of our time pointing their lives towards where the blessed hope is to be found.   Religious must be men and women of prayer,  who can lead others into prayer. We remember the extraordinary hidden apostolate carried out by our contemplative religious and how they touch the hearts of many in our world.


Religious witness to that blessed hope, not just as individuals, but in community.  In a fragmented world the witness of communion and community is vital.  Our communion with one another witnesses then to what communion with Christ means.   Where we fail in our communion with one another, we distort the very meaning of our communion with Christ.


Religious life is a call to real commitment.   It must reflect zeal for the things of God.  The commitment of religious can never be limited to a nine-to-five commitment. I believe that the real challenge about religious life and about ministry in the Church is not the falling numbers of vocations but the mediocrity with which so many of us end up being satisfied with.  It is a temptation for all of us.   Times of difficulty or frustration and uncertainty are not moments when we retreat from commitment.   We all need to restore our commitment to and confidence in our calling and the ability to recognise and set aside that which is marginal and distracting and much more that which we have built around ourselves just for our comfort and false security.


Religious life is a call to poverty.  Religious must be true friends of the poor.  They must develop a love for the poor. Love for the poor is not just a passing moment of emotion.  If you love the poor, then you will rejoice only when the other can become themselves fully and realise the potential that is within them. Loving the poor does not mean loving poverty but rejoicing when men, women, and children can rise from poverty and dependence and be fully themselves.


Loving the poor does not mean loving poverty, except in one sense.  Consecrated religious embrace poverty and love poverty because they know that they can only reveal the richness of the love of Jesus when they themselves become truly poor.


There is a final characteristic of religious life and indeed of the life of the Church in Ireland that I would stress it today – it  is joy.     Times are difficult in the Church; day after day there are those within the Church and outside it who prophecy only the end of the Church in Ireland.    We must realistically recognise the critical situation of the Church, but we should never give in to pessimism and negativity.   There are sadly some growing signs of nasty negativism and divineness within our Church today worldwide.  The God revealed in Jesus Christ is a God of love.


When Christians revert into negativity and lose the ability to live in joy then they have lost faith in the God of love and hopefulness.  The Christian recognises failure and infidelity and sinfulness, but always remains with the ability to look forward to the salvation which comes from a God who is faithful.  Religious life is a special call to live Christian joy and to bring that joy to all those in our world who are troubled and who are searching for true light and true expectation. ENDS