By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Total obedience to God’s will brings wisdom, joy and hope, Pope Francis told religious men and women.
“Yes, the happiness of a religious is a consequence of this path of lowering oneself with Jesus and, when we are sad, when we complain, it will do us well to ask ourselves how we are living this dimension of ‘kenosis'” or self-emptying, he said.
The pope’s words came during his homily at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Feb. 2 celebrating the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which the church marks as the World Day for Consecrated Life. The Mass also came during the Year of Consecrated Life, which, called by Pope Francis, opened Nov. 30 and will close Feb. 2, 2016.
The liturgy for the feast, once widely known as “Candlemas,” began with dozens of sisters, brothers and religious priests carrying lighted candles into the basilica ahead of the pope.
In his homily, the pope said Jesus came not to follow his own will, but to obey the Father’s will.
“Whoever follows Jesus takes the path of obedience,” which means lowering, emptying and humbling oneself like Jesus, he said.
Living a consecrated life means “lowering oneself in service, that is, taking the same path as Jesus” and becoming a servant in order to serve, the pope said.
But religious men and women also have to be obedient and docile to their religious community, their superiors, their order’s rule and to the church; “it is a docility and obedience that is concrete,” not something theoretical, he said.
The new and living path the Lord opened for the world “is for us consecrated men and women the only path that — concretely and without alternatives — we have to take with joy and hope,” he said.
On the one hand, he said, obedience empties and humbles a person, but on the other hand, it lights and safeguards the flame of hope, rendering people creative because they are full of the Holy Spirit.
“The Lord transforms obedience into wisdom with the action of his Holy Spirit,” the pope said.
A life lived in perseverant obedience to God matures into “personal and communitarian wisdom and, that way, it becomes possible also to adapt the rules to the times; in fact, the true ‘aggiornamento,’ (updating) is the work of wisdom, forged in docility and obedience,” he said.
“Reinvigorating and renewing consecrated life come by way of a great love for the rule and also through the ability to contemplate and listen to the elderly in the congregation,” he said.
“That way the ‘deposit,’ the charism of every religious family, is cared for by obedience and wisdom together,” protecting members from a disembodied and superficial or “light” consecrated life, he said.
Religious life lacking this long, continuous path of obedience and wisdom becomes “a caricature,” he said.
He asked that religious men and women continue to guide people to God, but to also “let ourselves be guided. This is what we have to be: guides who are guided.”