Remember the "dream" that moved the "elders" of the religious orders and courage to pursue that dream, eschewing the "temptation" to settle for "survival” bringing Christ to his people in the multicultural transformation of our time.
This was Pope Francis’ call addressed today
to men and women religious on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord
and the XXI World Day of Consecrated Life, commonly called "Candlemas".
Thousands of candles, blessed and carried in procession, in fact,
illuminated the basilica of St. Peter's where the Pope celebrated Mass
with members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of
In his Homily Francis was inspired by the song of blessing and high
praise by Simeon when he holds the child that Joseph and Mary brought to
the temple in his arms. “oday’s liturgy tells us that in that rite, the
Lord, forty days after his birth, “outwardly was fulfilling the Law,
but in reality he was coming to meet his believing people” (Roman Missal, 2 February, Introduction to the Entrance Procession). This encounter of God with his people brings joy and renews hope.
Simeon’s canticle is the hymn of the believer, who at the end of his
days can exclaim: “It is true, hope in God never disappoints” (cf. Rm 5:5).
God never deceives us. Simeon and Anna, in their old age, were
capable of a new fruitfulness, and they testify to this in song. Life
is worth living in hope, because the Lord keeps his promise. Jesus
himself will later explain this promise in the synagogue of Nazareth:
the sick, prisoners, those who are alone, the poor, the elderly and
sinners, all are invited to take up this same hymn of hope. Jesus is
with them, Jesus is with us (cf. Lk 4:18-19).
We have inherited this hymn of hope from our elders. They made us
part of this process. In their faces, in their lives, in their daily
sacrifice we were able to see how this praise was embodied. We are
heirs to the dreams of our elders, heirs to the hope that did not
disappoint our founding mothers and fathers, our older brothers and
sisters. We are heirs to those who have gone before us and had the
courage to dream. Like them, we too want to sing, “God does not
deceive; hope in him does not disappoint”. God comes to meet his
people. And we want to sing by taking up the prophecy of Joel and
making it our own: “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons
and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and
your young men shall see visions” (2:28).
We do well to take up the dreams of our elders, so that we can
prophesy in our day and once more encounter what originally set our
hearts afire. Dreams and prophecies together. The remembrance of how
our elders, our fathers and mothers, dreamed, and the courage
prophetically to carry on those dreams.
The temptation of survival
This attitude will make us fruitful. Most importantly, it will
protect us from a temptation that can make our consecrated life barren: the temptation of survival.
An evil that can gradually take root within us and within our
The mentality of survival makes us reactionaries, fearful,
slowly and silently shutting ourselves up in our houses and in our own
preconceived notions. It makes us look back, to the glory days – days
that are past – and rather than rekindling the prophetic creativity born
of our founders’ dreams, it looks for shortcuts in order to evade the
challenges knocking on our doors today.
A survival mentality robs our
charisms of power, because it leads us to “domesticate” them, to make
them “user-friendly”, robbing them of their original creative force. It
makes us want to protect spaces, buildings and structures, rather than
to encourage new initiatives.
The temptation of survival makes us
forget grace; it turns us into professionals of the sacred but not
fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters of that hope to which we are
called to bear prophetic witness. An environment of survival withers
the hearts of our elderly, taking away their ability to dream.
way, it cripples the prophecy that our young are called to proclaim and
work to achieve. In a word, the temptation of survival turns what the
Lord presents as an opportunity for mission into something dangerous,
threatening, potentially disastrous. This attitude is not limited to
the consecrated life, but we in particular are urged not to fall into
Let us go back to the Gospel passage and once more contemplate that
scene. Surely, the song of Simeon and Anna was not the fruit of
self-absorption or an analysis and review of their personal situation.
It did not ring out because they were caught up in themselves and were
worried that something bad might happen to them. Their song was born of
hope, the hope that sustained them in their old age. That hope was
rewarded when they encountered Jesus.
When Mary let Simeon take the Son
of the Promise into his arms, the old man began to sing of his dreams.
Whenever she puts Jesus in the midst of his people, they encounter
joy. For this alone will bring back our joy and hope, this alone will
save us from living in a survival mentality. Only this will make our
lives fruitful and keep our hearts alive: putting Jesus where he
belongs, in the midst of his people.
Part of the cultural transformation of our times
All of us are aware of the multicultural transformation we are
experiencing; no one doubts this. Hence, it is all the more important
for consecrated men and women to be one with Jesus, in their lives and
in the midst of these great changes. Our mission – in accordance with
each particular charism – reminds us that we are called to be a leaven
in this dough.
Perhaps there are better brands of flour, but the Lord
has called us to be leaven here and now, with the challenges we face.
Not on the defensive or motivated by fear, but with our hands on the
plough, helping the wheat to grow, even though it has frequently been
sown among weeds.
Putting Jesus in the midst of his people means having
a contemplative heart, one capable of discerning how God is walking
through the streets of our cities, our towns and our neighbourhoods.
Putting Jesus in the midst of his people means taking up and carrying
the crosses of our brothers and sisters. It means wanting to touch the
wounds of Jesus in the wounds of a world in pain, which longs and cries
out for healing.
To put ourselves with Jesus in the midst of his people! Not as
religious “activists”, but as men and women who are constantly forgiven,
men and women anointed in baptism and sent to share that anointing and
the consolation of God with everyone.
To put ourselves with Jesus in the midst of his people. For this
reason, “we sense the challenge of finding and sharing a ‘mystique’ of
living together, of mingling and encounter, of embracing and supporting
one another, of stepping into this flood tide which, while chaotic, can
[with the Lord] become a genuine experience of fraternity, a caravan of
solidarity, a sacred pilgrimage… If we were able to take this route, it
would be so good, so soothing, so liberating and hope-filled! To go
out of ourselves and to join others” (Evangelii Gaudium, 87) is
not only good for us; it also turns our lives and hopes into a hymn of
praise. But we will only be able to do this if we take up the dreams of
our elders and turn them into prophecy.
Let us accompany Jesus as he goes forth to meet his people, to be in
the midst of his people.
Let us go forth, not with the complaining or
anxiety of those who have forgotten how to prophesy because they failed
to take up the dreams of their elders, but with serenity and songs of
praise. Not with apprehension but with the patience of those who trust
in the Spirit, the Lord of dreams and prophecy. In this way, let us
share what is truly our own: the hymn that is born of hope”.