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Waking up the world with dawning joy

January 06, 2015 | posted by Jordan McMorrough

Topics: Vocations

Waking up the world with dawning joy

The Year of Consecrated Life was inaugurated in the archdiocese Nov. 30 with a special televised liturgy celebrated by Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, at San Fernando Cathedral, with more than three-quarters of the pews in the sanctuary filled with consecrated religious.

“We begin a new liturgical year and also mark the opening of the Year for Consecrated Life in communion with our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and Catholic communities of faith throughout the world,” the archbishop began his homily. “Advent is a very special time to renew our trust in the Lord’s faithfulness to us, a season of increased awareness of the great need to wait actively and expectantly for the Lord’s coming.”

In the name of the entire archdiocese and in his own name, Archbishop Gustavo thanked God for each of the religious in attendance -- for their dedication, their commitment, and their service to God’s people within the church and in the world.

The archbishop prayed in the words of the book of Isaiah: “O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter; we are all the work of your hands.”

“This very beautiful image of clay in a loving potter’s hand is an apt expression for the Lord’s care for us, his people. This implies of course, that we are not yet finished products!” Archbishop Gustavo said smiling. “God is still shaping each of our lives to bring them into conformity with the gospel message, to bring us into deeper encounter and intimacy with God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

On a more somber note, the prelate noted that as we look at the world in which we live -- marked by violence, hatred, greed -- we also pray to God with the prophet: “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!”

“There is an urgency to our prayer and it finds echoes in today’s gospel about remaining alert for the coming of the Lord, for the full establishment of God’s kingdom of mercy, justice, peace, harmony, and unity,” the archbishop stressed.

Archbishop Gustavo commented on the Gospel reading from the Mass, Mark: 33-37. “Jesus’ words today are very striking. His purpose is to strengthen our discipleship today! Not to focus only on the future -- or the past!” he emphasized. “The Gospel message sustains us in whatever difficulties we face. It motivates us to proclaim the message of God’s love, mercy, and compassion to all whom we encounter. It gives special meaning to the little things we do in our daily lives -- as long as we keep our focus on the Lord Jesus and his Gospel.”

Related to the upcoming jubilee year, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life has issued a letter to women and men religious -- a message based on the teachings of Pope Francis. The archbishop urged listeners to read it and to reflect upon it in their individual lives and communities. The letter has three parts: (1) joy and gladness, (2) comfort of God’s people, and (3) questions for reflection.

Quoting the Holy Father’s Apostolic Exhortation, the letter opens with “the joy of the gospel fills the heart and lives of all who encounter Jesus. With Jesus Christ joy is constantly born anew.”

The Holy Father says that evangelical radicalness -- rooting lives in the gospel -- is demanded of all, not only consecrated women and men. “But religious follow the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way … Religious should be men and women able to wake the world up.” If we are full of the joy of the gospel, we will become “splendid witnesses, effective proclaimers, companions and neighbors for the women and men with whom [we] share a common history and who want to find their Father’s house in the church.”

The second section of the letter from the congregation points out that “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, who bends with a mother’s tenderness over us -- consecrated women and men, signs of the fullness of humanity, facilitators and not controllers of grace, stooped down in a gesture of consolation.”

The third section of the letter includes such questions for reflection as:

  • God awaits you, he seeks you; how do you respond to him? Are you aware of the situation of your soul? Or have you nodded off?(Awake!)
  • Do I retain the force of restlessness for God, for his Word that makes me “step out” of myself towards others?
  • Do we know how to wait for God’s tomorrow? Or do we want it today?
  • An authentic faith always involves a profound desire to change the world. . . Do we have great vision and impetus? Are we also daring? Do our dreams fly high? Does zeal consume us? Or are we mediocre and satisfied with our [uncreative, one-size-fits-all] apostolic programs?

Archbishop Gustavo described this special Year of Consecrated Life as both a time for gratitude for the gift of religious life and also a time of recommitment of women and men religious to their vocation, their mission, their ministry, their witness, and their service.

“It is not enough to call God to rend the heavens and come down! God needs our hands and feet, our minds and hearts, our attitudes and gifts to establish more fully his kingdom on earth,” the archbishop concluded. “God the loving potter is at work in our lives, shaping us. Let us allow him to shape us into something authentic, good, and beautiful for the sake of the gospel.”

Lastly, prior to the end of the liturgy, Archbishop Gustavo called forward Sister Elizabeth Ann Vasquez, SSCJ, and introduced her as the new archdiocesan vicar for religious. She is a Sister of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and has ministered in Catholic school education, most recently at Mount Sacred Heart School as director of mission and ministry.