The 2nd of February is celebrated as the Day for Consecrated Life. Consecrated persons have their identity in Jesus Christ who calls them to make a journey of discipleship. Some thoughts about the nature and mission of consecration may help us to appreciate more this way of life.
Called and chosen
It all starts with desire. This desire helps those who are ready to give up everything, to embrace the treasure of belonging entirely to God. The gospel of Matthew speaks clearly about this: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Mt 13, 44). St. Paul made the same experience after encountering the Risen Lord: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil 3, 8). It is the same Paul who is aware of carrying this treasure in earthenware: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor 4, 7).
Formation as a journey of conversion to a bigger picture
The experience of Paul of being jars of clay carrying a treasure shows the importance of a grounded formation to religious life.
This formation accompanies one’s journey of being rooted in the love of Christ. Consecrated persons are friends of Jesus whom He has chosen and sent out to bear fruit (see John 15, 13-16). He equips them with evangelical counsels. In fact, they live a counter-culture which is meant to remind all that the world is not a permanent home but a transitory state and on pilgrimage to the eternal union of God who is love.
The apostolic exhortation “Vita Consacrata” rightly states: “In effect, the consecrated life is at the very heart of the Church as a decisive element for her mission, since it manifests the inner nature of the Christian calling and the striving of the whole Church as Bride towards union with her one Spouse.“ (VC3)
Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ
The evangelical counsels (vows) that the religious live can be understood as an answer to the question that St. Paul poses in his letter to the Romans: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Rom 8, 35) With the vow of chastity, poverty and obedience, the religious say clearly that no-body will ever separate them from His love. This is nothing else than imitating Christ whose mission was to do the will of His Father.
Consecrated persons and community living
One reality which the religious consecrated persons must joyfully embrace is that of community life. Through community living, the religious give witnesses to Christ whose presence is visible where two or three are gathered in His name (Mt 18, 20).
On a mission in the world but not of the world
We must keep in mind that the consecrated persons are not better than the others who are part of God’s people. As the religious, we ought to remember as Enzo Bianchi (2002) admonishes us: “We are not better than the others.” The religious are called to be witnesses to the radicality of the Gospel and the eloquence of a form of life based on four main pillars: Life of conversion, witness of a true and living God, the primacy of faith, and embrace the Logic of the Cross.
Fr. Anthony Kibira MCCJ
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