Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
Fr. Miguel Marie Soeherman, MFVA
Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament,
2 February 2010
Today is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. We processed in with lit blessed candles earlier. And the light of our blessed candles symbolizes Christ, Who is the Light of the World. It symbolizes the Infant Savior, Who entered into the temple with Mary and Joseph. God, our Father, Who is the Source of all light, revealed to Simeon the Light of revelation to the nations. It symbolizes also that we are to always bring that light of Christ we received at our own baptism to those who live in darkness.
Coinciding with this Feast, it is also a special day for all consecrated men and women throughout the world. Of course, all baptized persons are truly consecrated to God. The moment we were baptized, we were consecrated to God. We become separated from the world yet being in the world especially to fulfill the mission God gives us. But this day is particularly highlighting those who consecrate themselves more radically through the profession of the evangelical counsels — like our dearest Sisters here and others who profess the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience as their permanent state of life.
There are indeed many forms of consecrated life that exist today within the Church. As the Catechism stated, it’s “one great tree, with many branches.” Our dearest Sisters here, as I mentioned, are living one of the many forms of consecrated life, that is the form of “religious life” — specifically religious life who has the privilege of Solemn Vows and Papal Enclosure. This is just one form within the main branch of religious life within the bigger branch of consecrated life.
There are more within the Church. You can look it up yourselves in the Catechism starting paragraphs 914 and on. You will see varieties of consecrated life in the Catechism which is spelled out for us who they are and their differences from one to another. It is a good day to expand our knowledge and our understanding or to simply review what we already know about the consecrated life by reviewing the Catechism on the section for the consecrated life.
I remember my Canon Law professor in the seminary, Dr. Carol Houghton, she was very big on emphasizing the many forms of the consecrated life. She noticed in various parishes during the Mass she attended how they often pray for vocations during the prayers of the faithful. They would say something like “pray for vocation to the religious life.” She pointed out how that intercession only cover one form of consecrated life. There are more than just religious life. Surely, we want to pray for more than that! We ought to pray “for vocation to the consecrated life” and this includes the eremitic life, the consecrated virgins, the consecrated widows, religious life, societies of apostolic life, etc.
On this day, we want to praise God and to thank Him for the men and women who have consecrated themselves in a radical way to God and to His service. St. Teresa of Avila said, “What would become of the world if there were no religious?” That’s a very good question! What would become of the world if there were no consecrated persons?
You see — through the consecrated persons in the world, the Lord continues to enliven and sustain the Church in its demanding journey through this world. The Lord preserves the world from its total self-destruction by means of these dedicated men and women who give themselves totally to God and who give themselves to Him with an undivided heart. The consecrated persons have been given the irreplaceable mission in the Church and in the world by the Lord. And the Lord has done marvelous accomplishments in the Church and in the world through the consecrated persons in the Church. Not only that! But the consecrated persons become like “living signs” for our journey here on earth. They signify and proclaim in the Church and in the world by their witness of the glory of the world to come! This is how we are going to live our life in Heaven — God will be all in all!
It is well to recognize the men and women who committed themselves to God totally with their undivided hearts. But it is more important that we should never forget that consecrated life is a gift which comes from on high. None of us has the right for this gift! None of us deserves this gift! It is totally a pure gift of God! It is an initiative of the Father who draws His creatures to Himself with a special love and for a special mission.
The Book of Exodus requires that “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord.” Mary and Joseph brought the Infant Jesus to fulfill this law. They presented the Infant Child in the temple so that He “shall be consecrated to the Lord.” And Jesus, indeed, is the supreme Consecrated One. He is the Missionary of the Father for the sake of His Kingdom.
And Mary too — among all persons consecrated unreservedly to God, She is the first who is His creature. She is the one most fully consecrated to God! She is the one consecrated in the most perfect way. She fulfills in the most perfect way His call: “Follow me.” She follows Him. She, the Mother, follows Him as her Teacher of chastity, poverty, and obedience. If the entire Church finds in Mary her first model, all the more reason do we, consecrated individuals, find her so. Each of us, consecrated persons, is invited to live our religious consecration according to the model of the consecration of the very Mother of God.” (cf. Directives on Formation in Religious Institutes, 20).
So on this day, besides getting to know or to review what consecrated life is about, we want to thank God for the gift of these men and women. And it is not always easy to live the life either. We know ourselves who profess the vow that there are challenges at times — challenges in living the vow of poverty, or the vow of chastity, or the vow of obedience. The vow of obedience — I say — is the most challenging of them all. In the beginning when one enters a community, it seems very easy. But the more we live our life, the more it requires ourselves of the dying of our own will — to our superior, or to the will of the community, or to the will of God manifested in them.
Again, we want to thank God for the gift of the consecrated men and women throughout the world. And we want to pray for them also so that they would live their consecration faithfully and generously. Because when they live their calling faithfully and generously, they will make a big difference for the better in the Church and in the world!