World Day for Consecrated Life 2022
[Malachi 3:1-4; Psalm 24; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40]
Of late, our attention has been drawn to borders. At our southern border with Montana there has been a blockade of trucks. World tensions are escalating over what is happening at the border separating Russia and Ukraine. Migrants amass at frontiers in Europe, hoping for new life, and are refused entry. And recently we all heard the heart-rending story of the young family from India that froze to death near the US-Manitoba border, victims of the unspeakable crime of human trafficking.
We are grappling, too, with many invisible frontiers seemingly impossible to cross, those of fear, suspicion, mistrust and anger, many occasioned by varying reactions to the pandemic, boundaries that separate people in new and worrying ways. The widespread mental anguish gripping untold numbers of men, women, and children is creating an interior border that separates people even from themselves as it prevents a crossing from anguish to hope.
Within this very painful world situation, the Gospel passage for our liturgy announces real hope, by proclaiming the transcending of borders that has happened in the gift of Jesus Christ. The announcement is given by Simeon, in his Nunc dimittis: “my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:30-32). In Jesus Christ, God’s saving love is now revealed as extending to all people, without condition and absent of all distinction. There are no borders that can ever separate people from the love of God, revealed in Jesus Christ.
It belongs to the Church now to echo Simeon’s announcement. Indeed, the Church has been fashioned for this very purpose. Drawn together by the Spirit into union with the one Lord, we are members one with each other, a communion. As such, the Church exists in the order of sacrament, meaning that by her very nature she serves as both sign and instrument of the unity God wills to obtain among all peoples.
Yet, you have seen, as I have, how borders are erected even within the Church herself. This is something with which the faith community has always had to grapple, but the push toward fracture has been accelerating lately, for a host of reasons. This is clearly not of God. Simeon’s exclamation calls us back to ourselves as disciples of Jesus, and summons us to recover and maintain unity, which today has become the counter-sign that the Church must place before a fractured world.
In this light we see the particular mission of consecrated life, and the hope inherent within it. Women and men drawn together into a community by the common profession of the evangelical counsels show that unity among people is possible by witnessing to its source. The evangelical counsels are directed to God, whose love breaks down borders and brings people together. To be more specific, they point to Christ, who not only fulfilled Malachi’s prophecy by suddenly appearing in the Temple as messenger of the covenant but also surpassed it by becoming himself the covenant between God and humanity. Precisely by living in communion with the Lord Jesus and thus in unity with one another, consecrated women and men in religious community show us how we can all find the way to one another.
This pertains equally to consecrated single persons. Their witness is that of adherence to the Lord Jesus with an undivided heart. It invites us all to admit of no boundary within our own hearts that would separate us from Christ. Those frontiers that divide us within ourselves are the root of all borders that separate people one from another.
Of course, we each know from personal experience that the development of a truly undivided heart requires the gift of grace. Notice that everything recalled in the Gospel text today unfolds within the precincts of the Temple. There, Simeon and Anna await God’s saving action. There, Mary and Joseph present their newborn son to God. The Temple is God’s dwelling. The Temple is the place of worship, the venue in which God, through worship, encounters His people and bestows his saving grace. That Temple is now the Body of the Risen Lord, who imparts the grace of unity sacramentally, especially in the mystery of the Eucharist.
As we gather, then, at the table of the Lord, even if remotely, let’s pray for the grace of renewed and deepened unity. May the witness of consecrated life be lifted up in this Archdiocese and throughout the Church as the much-needed counter-sign that points a fractured world toward real hope.
And I pray, too, that you, the consecrated women and men serving in this Archdiocese will know the love and support of God’s people as you fulfill your necessary mission. You are well-loved and greatly esteemed. In a great many ways, you have not allowed any humanly-imposed borders to separate you from people whom those same frontiers have left on the margins. Your witness helps us all to look beyond borders and transcend them in order to see and welcome the other as brother or sister. On behalf of the Archdiocese, and in my own name, I want to thank you for your presence and ministry among us.
Allow me to express a particular thanks to the women, who over many years have served the Archdiocesan Council of Consecrated Women. For understandable reasons, you have come to the conclusion that this particular association needs to conclude its good work. Since its inception in 1983, there has been inherent in every CCW endeavour a deep love for your sisters and a desire to give all necessary assistance. That same love, I am sure, will give birth to new ways in which the religious women in the Archdiocese lend support to one another. I am confident your sisters join with me today in expressing heartfelt gratitude to you and deep appreciation for your dedicated service.
Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
St. Frances de Sales Chapel, Edmonton
February 2nd, 2022