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World Day for Consecrated Life

St. Joseph Basilica, Edmonton

February 2, 2019

In the course of many parish visits over the last year and a half, I've been repeatedly drawing attention to the message at the heart of my pastoral letter Living in the Word of God. I do this by asking the simple question: "Who are you listening to?" Many voices compete for our attention, but only one is worthy of our complete trust, namely, the voice of Jesus. It is he to whom we must listen, since he alone has "the words of everlasting life" (John 6:68). So, the steady invitation has been to read the Bible; remain focused on the teachings of Christ; allow them to permeate the entirety of our lives, that they may serve as the lamp for our feet and light for our path (cf. Psalm 119:105).

The Gospel passage we hear this Sunday (Luke 4:21-30) is a reminder that listening to Jesus will at times be very challenging. Those who were listening to him preach in his hometown synagogue at Nazareth were at first pleased by what he had to say. But then, they turned on him, violently. What happened? His word struck a sensitive nerve as he challenged prophetically certain assumptions they held about what it means to be the chosen people of God and the recipient of divine blessing. His word was a clear and direct summons to a painful self-examination and subsequent renewal of their minds, and they didn't like it. In fact, so intense was their anger that they sought to throw him off a cliff!

How do we respond when we find our mindsets and behaviour patterns challenged by the Word of God, whether we encounter it in the sacred texts or handed down to us in the teaching of the Church? If, for example, I realize that my life is not ordered by the charity proclaimed by St. Paul, or if I come to see that fidelity to the Word of God will bring me into conflict with the world around me, as it did Jeremiah, how do I react? A habit many of us develop in our multi-channel universe is to "surf" through the many messages on offer in order to remain tuned in only to those we find to our liking. Those which displease us are tuned out by changing the channel, moving on in the news or Twitter feed, and so on. When the word of Jesus challenges us, do we stay on his "channel" or switch to another; do we remain tuned in or turn off the broadcast - the digital equivalent, as it were, of casting Jesus aside?

For help in remaining faithful to the words of Christ, however difficult, it is good to have examples of people who have remained always focused upon Jesus, riveted to his word. I'd like first to hold up for reflection the perfect model, Mary the mother of Our Lord.

Our Lady is a perpetual source of help for the life of discipleship centered on listening to and following Jesus. Scripture tells us that she pondered deeply all that was said about her son during the events surrounding his birth (cf. Luke 2: 19, 51). We can be sure that she continued to ponder deeply all that unfolded in his life, above all his crucifixion and resurrection. No change of channel in her life! She remained always focused on her son, the Word made flesh. Now, in her maternal love for the world, she wants nothing more than that we do the same and be always ready to do whatever Jesus tells us to do (cf. John 2:5). So, we need constantly to stay close to Mary and to seek her intercession that we shall be faithful to the words of Jesus.

For a second example, I'd like to hold up the women and men in consecrated life. As I mentioned at the beginning of Mass, today is the World Day for Consecrated Life. In virtue of their special consecration to God, women and men religious serve among us as witnesses of fidelity to God's Word in a way that is of great importance.

Sometimes we may hear it said that obedience to the Word of God is a great burden that serves only to weigh us down and limit our freedom. Women and men religious teach us by their witness that this is simply not true. God's Word springs from the infinite depths of his love and addresses us precisely as his beloved. His Word does not bind, it liberates; it does not weight down, it lifts up; it gives rise not to sadness but to joy! It is precisely the awareness of God’s love and of the divine call to a life of covenant love and liberty grounded in his Word that inspires men and women religious to respond with the entirety of their lives. Their free and joyful embrace of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience stands as an encouragement to all of us to remain focused upon the words of our Beloved Lord, to allow them to transform our lives completely, and to follow without condition wherever they lead. Consecrated men and women teach us that there is nothing to fear, and everything to gain by attentive and loving obedience to all that Jesus teaches us.

Many consecrated women and men have joined us at mass this evening. In my own name and on behalf of everyone in this local Church, I want to say to each and every one of you: Thank you for your witness. It is good, very good, that you are among us in this Archdiocese. The Church calls us today to pray for you, and we do so gladly and thankfully. We ask that you, in turn, pray for us, that we may remain always focused - tuned in(!) - to hear and to put unto practice the Lord's words of everlasting life.

✠ Richard W. Smith
    Archbishop of Edmonton

St. Joseph’s Basilica
Feb 2, 2019