Witnesses to Gospel joy and preachers of Truth
An estimated 40,000 consecrated men and women from every part of the world
joined John Paul II in St Peter's Square on Wednesday, 2 February, for
the Jubilee of Consecrated Life. The liturgy for the feast of the Presentation
of the Lord included the blessing of candles, a procession led by
representatives of 30 congregations and institutes, thanksgiving for the gift of
consecration and renewal of the commitment to follow Christ. Concelebrating with
the Pope were superiors and officials of the Congregation for Institutes of
Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and the Committee for the Great
Jubilee, along with 11 Superiors General and a representative of the World
Conference of Secular Institutes. After the proclamation of the Gospel the Holy
Father preached the following homily in Italian. Here is a translation.
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. "There was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man
was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy
Spirit was upon him.... And there was a prophetess Anna" (Lk 2:25-26, 36).
These two figures, Simeon and Anna, witnessed the presentation of Jesus at
the temple in Jerusalem. The Evangelist stresses that each of them, in his or
her way, is a precursor of the event. Both express the longing for the Messiah's
coming. Both in some way bear within them the mystery of the temple in
Jerusalem. Thus they are both present there—in a way that can be called
providential—when Jesus' parents take him to the temple, 40 days after his
birth, to offer him to the Lord.
Simeon and Anna represent the expectation of all Israel. It is granted to
them to meet the One whom the prophets had foretold for centuries. Enlightened
by the Holy Spirit, the two elderly people see the long-awaited Messiah in the
Child that Mary and Joseph have brought to the temple as prescribed by the law
of the Lord.
Simeon's words have a prophetic tone: the old man looks at the past and
foretells the future. He says: "Lord, now let your servant depart in
peace, according to your word; for mine eyes have seen your salvation which you
have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel" (Lk 2:29-32). Simeon
expresses the fulfilment of the expectation that was his reason for living. The
same thing occurs with the prophetess Anna, who rejoices at the sight of the
Child and speaks of him "to all who were looking for the redemption of
Jerusalem" (Lk 2:38).
Your presence has prophetic value for all Christians
2. Every year a vast throng of consecrated persons assembles at the Tomb of
Peter for today's liturgical feast. Today, this throng has become a multitude,
because consecrated persons have come here from every part of the world. Dear
brothers and sisters, today you are celebrating your Jubilee, the Jubilee of
Consecrated Life. I welcome you with the Gospel embrace of peace!
I greet the men and women Superiors of the various congregations and
institutes, and I greet all of you, dear brothers and sisters, who have wished
to experience the Jubilee by crossing the threshold of the Holy Door in the
Patriarchal Vatican Basilica. In you I see all your brothers and sisters
throughout the world: my affectionate greeting also goes to them.
Assembled at the Tomb of the Prince of the Apostles in this Jubilee Year, you
wish to express with special emphasis the deep bond that links consecrated
life to the Successor of Peter. You are here to place upon the altar of the
Lord the hopes and problems of your respective institutes. In the spirit of the
Jubilee, you give thanks to God for the good he has wrought and, at the same
time, you ask his forgiveness for the failings that may have marked the life of
your religious families. You are asking yourselves at the beginning of a
new millennium about the most effective ways to contribute, while respecting
your foundational charism, to the new evangelization by reaching out to the
many people who still do not know Christ. With this in mind, your fervent prayer
rises to the Lord of the harvest that he will awaken in the hearts of many young
men and women the desire to give themselves totally to the cause of Christ and
I gladly join in your prayer. Having been a pilgrim in so many parts of the
world, I have been able to appreciate the prophetic value of your presence for
all Christian people. Men and women of this generation have a great need to meet
the Lord and his liberating message of salvation. On this occasion I am also
pleased to note the example of generous Gospel dedication offered by your
countless brothers and sisters, who often work in difficult situations. In
Christ's name they devote themselves unreservedly to serving the poor, the
outcast and the lowly.
Many of them, even in recent years, have paid with the supreme witness of
blood for their choice of fidelity to Christ and to man, without surrender
or compromise. They deserve the tribute of our admiration and gratitude!
3. Jesus' presentation in the temple sheds particular light on the choice you
have made, dear brothers, and, sisters.. Do you too not live the mystery of
the expectation of Christ's coming, expressed as it were personified by
Simeon and Anna? Do not your vows express with particular intensity that
expectation of meeting the Messiah which these elderly Israelites cherished in
their hearts? Old Testament figures standing on the threshold of the New, they
reveal an inner attitude that is never out-of-date. You have made it your own,
as you look with expectation for the second coming of the Bridegroom.
Eschatological witness is part of your vocation. The vows of poverty,
obedience and chastity for the kingdom of God are a message that you proclaim to
the world about man's ultimate destiny. It is a valuable message: "Those
who vigilantly await the fulfilment of Christ's promises are able to bring hope
to their brothers and sisters who are often discouraged and pessimistic about
the future" (Vita consecrata, n. 27).
4. "It had been revealed to him by the Spirit" (Lk 2:26). What the
Evangelist said of Simeon can easily be applied to you whom the Spirit leads
towards a special experience of Christ. By the renewing power of, his love, he
wants to make you effective witnesses to conversion, penance and new life.
To have your heart, affections, interests and feelings centred on
Jesus is the most important aspect of the gift that the Spirit works within you.
He conforms you to the chaste, poor and obedient Jesus. And the evangelical
counsels, far from being an impoverishing renunciation, are a choice that
frees a person for a fuller realization of his potential.
Make your praise resound in the Church
The Evangelist notes that the prophetess Anna "did not depart from the
temple" (Lk 2:37). The first vocation of those who endeavour to follow
Jesus with an undivided heart is "to be with him" (Mk 3:14), to be
in communion with him, listening to his words in constant praise of God (cf.
Lk 2:38). I am thinking at this moment of prayer, particularly liturgical
prayer, which rises from so many monasteries and communities of consecrated
life in every comer of the earth. Dear brothers and sisters, make your
praise resound in the Church with humility and constancy, and the hymn of your
life will echo deeply in the heart of the world.
5. The joyful experience of meeting Jesus, the exultation and praise which
flow from the heart, cannot remain hidden. The service given to the Gospel by
institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life, in the variety
of forms which the Holy Spirit has stirred up in the Church, is always born
of an experience of love and a living encounter with Christ. It arises from
sharing his efforts and his ceaseless offering to the Father.
Invited to leave everything to follow Christ, you, consecrated men and women,
no longer define your life by family, by profession or by earthly interests, and
you choose the Lord as your only identifying mark. Thus you acquire a new
family identity. The divine Teacher's words apply particularly to you:
"Here are my mother and my brethren" (cf. Mk 3:35). The invitation to
renunciation, as you know well, is not meant to leave you "without a
family" but to make you the first and distinctive members of the "new
family", a witness and prophetic example for all whom God wishes to call
and bring into his house.
6. Dear friends, at every moment of your life may the Virgin Mary be
close to you as an example and support. Simeon disclosed to her the mystery of
the Son and the sword that would " pierce through your own soul also"
(Lk 2:35). Today I entrust to her those of you here and all consecrated persons
who are celebrating their Jubilee.
Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and of the Church, look upon the men and women
whom your Son has called to follow him in total consecration to his love: may
they always let the Spirit guide them; may they be tireless in giving of
themselves and in serving the Lord, so as to be faithful witnesses to the joy
that flows from the Gospel, and preachers of the Truth that leads human beings
to the springs of immortal life. Amen!
Holy Father's greetings at end of Mass
At the end of the Mass celebrated on 2 February for the Jubilee of
Consecrated Life, the Holy Father greeted the consecrated persons and the
pilgrims taking part in the liturgy. Here is a translation of his remarks.
I greet the consecrated persons present on this Jubilee day. I also extend my
cordial greetings to the French-speaking pilgrims. May everyone give thanks for
the grace of consecrated life! I bless you all.
I warmly welcome the consecrated men and women, and the pilgrims and visitors
from the English-speaking countries. I invoke almighty God's blessings and grace
upon you so that you may grow in friendship with God, who alone can fulfil the
deepest aspirations of the human heart.
I very cordially greet the consecrated men and women who have come to Rome
from German-speaking countries to celebrate the Great Jubilee and to renew their
vows. May this gathering become a source of inner joy and enthusiasm for their
life according to the evangelical counsels.
I extend a heartfelt greeting to the consecrated persons as well as to the
Spanish-speaking pilgrims who have taken part in this celebration. With the
grace of the Jubilee may you proclaim Christ by your witness of life and your
I cordially greet all the orders, congregations, societies of apostolic life
and institutes present for the Jubilee of Consecrated Life in Rome. I thank God
with you for the gift of your vocation to the consecrated life, which is bearing
abundant fruits of holiness and apostolic zeal in our homeland and beyond its
I also greet all the pilgrims who have come to the Eternal City.