2 February – Day for Consecrated Life – St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh

DAY FOR CONSECRATED LIFE
2 FEBRUARY 2011
ST PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, ARMAGH
HOMILY BY
CARDINAL SEÁN BRADY

Today we celebrate the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.  It is one of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.  It is for us to discover the source of that joy and to rejoice in it.  Christ was brought by Mary, His Mother, and St Joseph to the Holy Temple.

Jesus is presented in the Temple and offered to God, the Father, as every first born Jewish child was offered.  He is dedicated and consecrated to God.  His presentation brings great joy to the holy women and men of the Old Testament and represented by Simeon and Anna.  For by presenting Jesus in the Temple Mary and Joseph brought true worship one step closer.  It reaches its fulfilment in the Mass, which is our joy to celebrate together.

This Feast was first celebrated in Jerusalem.  Then it came to Rome where a penitential procession was added.  Then it went to France and they added the candles.  Where did the candles come from? The candles are suggested by the role of Christ who today is proclaimed as the Light of the Gentiles.  The light of the nations – the light of us all.  Now we have the Feast of the Presentation as World Day of Religious Life.

Today when we enter our Church we are also going into the Temple.  We enter in a spirit of worship, the same worship which Jesus brought through His love and His obedience to the Father.  As we enter we remember that we too are temples of God.  Our bodies and our souls are God’s dwelling place.

Today Christ comes to meet His chosen people.  We rejoice in His presence.  Christ comes to meet His faithful people who wait for Him with faith.  He is the faithfulness of God in person, the one who fulfils all our hopes, the light that guides our every step.

So, we lined ourselves up behind dear old Simeon and Anna in procession to follow them and to present ourselves to Christ.  Once again, as on the day of our Profession or Ordination, we entrust ourselves to Christ who is ever faithful, who can never deceive nor be deceived.  We implore Him to be our constant guide to lead us to the fullness of glory.  We renew our own dedication, our consecration and our profession to the Father.  We do this so that we can, in turn, bring Christ to the world around us – a world that is in dire need of Christ to give it hope.

Somebody said to the Presentation of the Child.  Jesus was his Rite of Profession, by which Jesus, or rather his parents vowed him to God.  This put me thinking, today I want to give thanks to God, for the lives of all of you, lives that have been dedicated to God by reason of your religious profession.  We recall that religious life has always held a place of high honour in the eyes of the church.  It is vitally important that we remember that fact.  From the earliest centuries the Church has always celebrated the act of religious profession with great solemnity and beautiful liturgical rites.  Perhaps for a moment you could recall that day.  We recall those who were professed with you on that beautiful day.  The Second Vatican Council directed that the rite of religious profession should be revised with greater unity, simplicity and dignity.

Today we give thanks to God for the millions who have dedicated themselves to the service of God in religious life down through the centuries, for all your colleagues and confreres.  We remember with joy the many various forms which religious life has taken over the centuries,  under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the benefits it brought to the Church and the world.

The Church received your vows.  The Church, the Body of Christ, begs continually God’s grace for all religious and public prayer, as a mark of affection and gratitude and appreciation.

The Church on the day of your Profession placed you in God’s hands.  It blessed you and united the offering which you were then making to the offering which Christ made on the Cross.  As you entered the Novitiate, you asked for God’s grace during that special time of testing and discernment.  First profession followed and then final profession.  Before God and the Church, you asked for God’s merciful love and for the grace of serving God more perfectly in your religious community.  You asked to be allowed to dedicate yourselves to God and to the Kingdom by making profession in your religious community.

Today then we give thanks to God, for every religious profession – First Profession, Final Profession; for every renewal of profession of vows; the profession of those here present, of those of the members of your communities here in Ireland and throughout the world.  We thank God today for the gift of every religious profession.

We remember that every religious profession is a response to a call from God,  a call that is at once an invitation to grow in holiness, in other words, to become more like Christ,  a call to promote the good of the Church, but not only the well-being of the Church but the well-being of the whole human race.

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