Pope Francis told consecrated men and women Friday that they are called to have real encounters with their brothers and sisters, and that technology should never have a higher priority than time spent with God and others.
“Today’s frantic pace leads us to close many doors to encounter, often for fear of others,” the Pope said Feb. 2. “Only shopping malls and internet connections are always open.”
“Yet that is not how it should be with consecrated life: the brother and the sister given to me by God are a part of my history, gifts to be cherished. May we never look at the screen of our cellphone more than the eyes of our brothers or sisters, or focus more on our software than on the Lord.”
Pope Francis cautioned against getting trapped by the “life of this world,” pointing out how consecrated life, and vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, are about turning away “from fleeting riches to embrace the One who endures forever.”
“The life of this world pursues selfish pleasures and desires; the consecrated life frees our affections of every possession in order fully to love God and other people,” he said. “Worldly lives aim to do whatever we want; consecrated life chooses humble obedience as the greater freedom.”
The Pope’s homily came during Mass for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which also marks the 22nd World Day of Consecrated Life.
The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord is also sometimes called Candlemas. On this day, many Christians bring candles to the church to be blessed. They can then light these candles at home during prayer or difficult times as a symbol of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.
The Mass in St. Peter's Basilica began with a blessing of the candles in the rear of the church by Pope Francis. He then processed into the darkened church with priests, bishops and cardinals carrying lit candles. Those present in the congregation also held small candles.
This feast, in the Eastern Churches, is sometimes called the “Feast of Encounter,” Francis said. Speaking to consecrated men and women, he noted that their vocation was borne of an encounter with the Lord and his call.
“We journey along a double track: on the one hand, God’s loving initiative, from which everything starts and to which we must always return; on the other, our own response, which is truly loving when it has no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts,’ when it imitates Jesus in his poverty, chastity and obedience,” he said.
Referencing the story of the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, the pontiff said that like the elderly Simeon, it is good for Catholics to also hold the Lord “in our arms.”
“Not only in our heads and in our hearts,” he explained, “but also ‘in our hands,’ in all that we do: in prayer, at work, at the table, on the telephone, at school, with the poor, everywhere.”
A genuine encounter with the Lord in this way helps to correct “saccharine piety and frazzled hyperactivity.” It also helps remedy the “paralysis of routine,” he said.
“The secret to fanning the flame of our spiritual life is a willingness to allow ourselves to encounter Jesus and to be encountered by him,” he continued. “Otherwise we fall into a stifling life, where disgruntlement, bitterness and inevitable disappointments get the better of us.”
In an encounter with Jesus and with our brothers and sisters our hearts can rest in the present moment, the Pope said, not worried about the past or the future.
He also drew attention to another encounter with Jesus from the Gospels that can inspire those in consecrated life — that of the women who go to the tomb to anoint Jesus after his death.
“They had gone to encounter the dead; their journey seemed useless,” he said. “You too are journeying against the current; the life of the world easily rejects poverty, chastity and obedience.”
“Like those women, be the first to meet the Lord, risen and alive. Cling to him and go off immediately to tell your brothers and sisters, your eyes gleaming with joy,” he concluded.