We are about to begin the Year of Consecrated Life. It is my privilege to thank the Religious of our country for your witness to holiness and truth, as you stand on the parapets pointing to Jesus and to authentic, spiritual life and witness in the cities, towns and fields of our time.
I come from a Religious Order parish. I was taught only by Religious, and your witness in prayer, in truth, in articulating and living the faith and in encountering others, is something that shines strongly in my own life.
My hope is that we will learn from Pope Francis of the value of this Year of Consecrated Life through taking up its essential joy. As the Pope says: "The joy of the Gospel fills the heart and lives of all who encounter Jesus. With Jesus Christ joy is constantly born anew." (EG 1)
In our parishes and communities, how can we welcome and recognise the gift of consecrated life? My hope for religious is that their life-giving contribution to the Church will be made known through their following the Lord in a prophetic way, able to wake the world up, following Jesus' promise: "that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete". (John 15:11) I hope that religious also show us the joy that arises from the certainty of knowing that we are loved, from a confidence that we are saved.
The Pope asks all of us to reread our own personal story and scrutinise it in the light of God's loving gaze, because a vocation is always his initiative and it is up to us freely to accept the path of discipleship.
My hope also is that we will all discover that meeting the Lord gets us moving, urges us to leave aside self-absorption. (EG 265) From prayer the first thing for a disciple is to be with the Master, to listen to him and learn from him, cultivating the contemplative dimension, even amid the whirlwind of more urgent and heavy duties.
Bringing God's Embrace
People today certainly need words, but most of all they need us to bear witness to the mercy and tenderness of the Lord, which warms the heart, rekindles hope and attracts people towards the good. (Francis, 07/07/2013) The men and women of our time are waiting for words of consolation, the availability of forgiveness and true joy. We are called to bring to everyone the embrace of God. (EG 47)
Since we are witnesses of a communion beyond our vision and our limits, we are called to wear God's smile. If we can walk on the path of attraction, spelling out the newness of God's closeness and waking up the world, we will tirelessly seek the good of others.
Questions from Pope Francis
• There is joy, but where is it born?
• Do we have a heart that desires something great, or a heart that has been lulled to sleep by things?
• How can I be free from the culture of the temporary?
• How can I set an example of consistency to the young?
• Am I anxious to make God known?
• Do I feel the restlessness of love? Do we believe in love for God and for others?
• With Mary at the foot of the cross, are we at the same time the woman of sorrow and of watchful expectation of a mystery far greater than sorrow.
• From Our Lady – rejoice full of grace. Alongside Mary joy expands, joyful in achieving her desires, sensitive in her duty, thoughtful in her joy, she hurries towards the mountain. Behold the servant of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me.
These points and vision are our inspiration as we carry the joy and hope of consecrated life to a world which needs it so desperately.
+ Denis J. Hart,
ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE