Pope Francis presided over Mass on Tuesday for the conclusion of the Year for Consecrated Life, reminding religious men and women of their call to be “custodians of wonder” as they promote a culture of encounter with Christ.
“All forms of consecrated life, each according to its own characteristic, are called to be in permanent states of mission,” the Pope said in his Feb. 2 homily at St. Peter's Basilica for the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.
The Roman Pontiff explained how the grace of vocation is borne out of a life-changing encounter with Christ, who “is the novelty that makes all things new.”
Those who experience this encounter, he said, become witnesses who reach out to others and promote a culture of encounter, rather than remaining closed in on themselves.
The Pope also emphasized the importance of gratitude on the part of consecrated men and women.
“This is a word that can summarize all that we have seen during this Year for Consecrated Life: gratitude for the gift of the Holy Spirit, which always enlivens the Church through the different charisms.”
The Year for Consecrated Life began Nov. 30, 2015, and concludes Feb. 2.
Pope Francis reflected on the day's Gospel reading, which recounts Christ's presentation at the Jewish Temple by Mary and Joseph.
“This child has brought to us God's mercy and tenderness: Jesus is the face of the Father's Mercy,” he said.
This is the “icon” offered at the conclusion of the Year for Consecrated life, which in turn flows like a river into “the sea of mercy, into this immense mystery of love, which is being experienced with the extraordinary Jubilee.”
Reflecting on the encounter with the prophets Simeon and Anna told in the Gospel reading, the Pope said the child Jesus “is presented as the perennial surprise of God.”
Through him, he added, we encounter “the past, made of memory and promise, and the future, full of hope.”
“We can see in this the beginning of the consecrated life,” the Pope said: consecrated persons are, “above all, called to be men and women of encounter.”
Pope Francis reflected on the day's epistle, from the letter to the Hebrews, which shows how Christ “did not hesitate to share in our human condition.”
In turn, consecrated men and women “are called to be concrete and prophetic signs of this closeness to God,” sharing in the fragility, sin, and woundedness of men and women today.
Pope Francis reflected on Mary and Joseph being amazed at the words of Simeon, and how they protect the sense of wonder of this encounter.
Likewise, “as Christians and consecrated men women, we are custodians of wonder,” the Pope said.
This wonder calls for constant renewal, the Roman Pontiff stressed, reminding consecrated persons that the charisms of their founders are not meant to be “sealed in a bottle” as though they were museum pieces.
Rather, they were “moved by the Spirit, and not afraid to get their hands dirty with daily life, the problems of the people,” as they courageously went to the “geographic and existential peripheries.”
The founders of religious orders were not deterred by obstacles or misunderstandings from others, nor did they attempt to “domesticate the grace of the Gospel.”
Instead, they maintained a “healthy concern for the Lord” and a desire to bring him to others.
“We too are called to make prophetic and courageous choices,” he said.
Pope Francis reflected on the day's feast as an opportunity to learn how to live out our gratitude for the encounter with Christ in the Eucharist, and for the grace of the consecrated vocation.
“How beautiful is it when we encounter the happy face of consecrated persons, perhaps already advanced in years like Simeon or Anna, content and full of gratitude for their vocation,” the Pope said.
He concluded: “May the Lord Jesus, through the maternal intercession of Mary, grow in us, and increase in each of us the desire for encounter, the protection of wonder, and the joy of gratitude.”
In this way, others may be “attracted to his light, and be able to encounter the Father's mercy.”