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Mass to close the Year of Consecrated Life

On Friday of last week, the provincial government released the results of its long-anticipated royalty review. The review process took place over a number of months, focused on the energy sector of our economy, particularly oil and gas. Key questions behind the review had to do with the adequacy or not of royalties received by the owners of the resources, and the securing of rates of return on the investment in those resources by corporations.

Today the Church is concluding a year-long review of one of its own energy sectors, namely the women and men in consecrated life. In the special Year for Consecrated Life, which concludes today, the Church has celebrated the ministry, witness and prayer of religious as an enormous power for good as it serves the People of God. The ownership of the resource is, of course, God Himself, the author of life and the giver of all gifts. The investment is that of the sisters, priests and brothers who consecrate themselves fully to God and the Church, invest themselves completely in its mission, through the evangelical counsels.

The return on this investment is manifold, visible in education, care of the sick, outreach to the poor. It is measured not in terms of the health of a balance sheet but in the hope inspired in the hearts of people. Over the past year, our review of religious life has enabled the Church to focus in a particular way upon this dimension of its life that it has always held in high esteem. This review leaves us in awe of the great and wonderful things God has done, and continues to do, through the self-investment, the self-gift, of men and women in religious life. While the royalty review was inward-focused — does the province get its fair share?; do companies have adequate profit margins? — the Year of Consecrated Life has looked outward, concerned with the spread of the Gospel and the service of the Lord's people.

Ever since Simeon recognized Jesus as the fulfillment of Malachi's prophecy and announced him as the light of revelation to the world, the Church has sought to reflect that light in every age. From the moment Anna began to speak to others about the child born of Mary and encountered in the Temple, the Church has not ceased to announce Him as Saviour of the world, present in that wondrous temple which is His mystical Body. In this mission of announcing Christ as light and hope, consecrated religious have participated in a unique and indispensable manner. By their total self-consecration, they witness to the light, to Christ, whose love draws them entirely out of themselves; by their complete dedication to the service of others, they point to Christ, whose mercy instils hope and impels to mission.

Our Gospel account this evening also helps us to appreciate a special Marian dimension to consecrated life. Simeon tells Mary that a sword will pierce her heart, a prophecy fulfilled at the foot of the Cross. How many good works, how many ministries, how many institutions dedicated to the service of the needy, have been born from the hearts of religious pierced through by the agony of Christ as he suffers in his wounded brothers and sisters! Religious do not stand idly by. Where there is a need to be met, they respond, often when no one else will. In my recent visit to India I met many suffering people — young and old — who, were it not for the notice and care of religious, would be living on the street. In our own country and province, the foundations of our educational, healthcare and social outreach systems were set by religious at a time when few others could respond to these needs, and this was done at great personal cost. They continue to search out and respond to unmet needs. I think, for example, of the enormous energy that religious have put into raising awareness of the scourge of human trafficking, and their actions to rescues victims from it. In these and so many other ways they serve to exemplify to all of us what Pope Francis means when he speaks of going to the peripheries as disciples of Christ and agents of mercy and hope.

After the results of the royalty review were announced on Friday, it soon became clear that nothing much has changed, and little will change in the years ahead. My prayer is that the universal review called the Year of Consecrated Life will not leave us unchanged. The example of discipleship given to us by religious women and men challenges all of us to consider our own response to the Lord. This is no small challenge! We are told in Hebrews that Jesus became like us in all things in order to save us. This is what St. Paul calls elsewhere in Scripture the kenosis, or self-emptying, of the Son of God as he assumed fully our human nature. Consecrated Life, through living the evangelical counsels, mirrors that self-emptying of the Lord, and thus reminds us all of our call to die to self in order to live for the Lord and his saving will.

Sisters, Fathers, Brothers, the review is complete, the results are in, and we are awe-struck by the report. Your legacy is one of great heroism, born of a love for Christ and his Church and a commitment to live by the power of his love. Thank you for your witness; thank you for your fidelity; thank you for your service to God's people.

Richard W. Smith
    Archbishop of Edmonton

February 2, 2016