ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
TO THE RELIGIOUS OF THE ORDER OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY OF MERCY (MERCEDARIANS),
IN THE 8TH CENTENARY OF FOUNDATION
Thursday, 6 December 2018
I welcome you to this meeting. I thank Fr. Juan Carlos Saavedra Lucho, Master General of the Order, for the words that Father has given to me, and that God keeps him enthusiastic. You are concluding the Jubilee for the eighth centenary of the foundation of the Order; a time of grace in which you have had the opportunity to experience God's merciful love on the journey, as well as to examine the present and to establish guidelines for continuing with renewed spirit.
In this meeting I wish to place before your gaze that first love which you express with the vow of redemption. In it you promise to "give life, if necessary, as Christ has given it for us, to save Christians who find themselves in the extreme danger of losing their faith in new forms of slavery" (Constitutions, No. 14) . A short time ago, I told one of you: "How many problems do you have, eh?" "Well, I have the vow to give my life," he replied. These words remind us all, and especially to the religious, that following Christ means giving life to save souls.
We all know the importance of following Christ, but sometimes, instead of following Him, we plan our life as if He were to follow us - the whims of the religious are difficult, My God, they are very difficult - and to adjust to the plans. and to the projects we make and create. It's temptation, is not it?
Following Jesus is not a question of methodology; it is to let Him precede us and give time for personal and community walking. The mercedary charism is topical and is called upon to be challenged by the new fields of action and "redeeming service", such as the promotion of the dignity of the human person, the prevention of physical or spiritual slavery, the accompaniment and reintegration of more vulnerable than our society. Redemption of prisoners, or be sure that today there are many more, more than double those at the time of the foundation of the Order. The mercedarian family, consecrated and lay, needs to be inspired by this "creativity of God", even when this implies having to break their own patterns that, over time, have been added to the foundational charism. This always happens to us with foundational charisms, it is as if time slowly dulled them and created shells; and if one is not careful to remove these shells, the charism then becomes the heart of a large coconut and it is difficult to return to it. We need to remove these shells of time to go back to that, to the primordial intuition, which is a call from God.
Those who follow Christ do so by giving life; it is not a partial discipleship. The poor rich young man wanted to make a partial discipleship and he could not. This places us before the essential truth of our religious consecration. To trust the Lord means to surrender himself to him without keeping anything in his pocket; giving him not only what is material and superfluous, but also all that we consider ours, even our tastes and our opinions. The gift of one's life is not something optional, but it is the consequence of a heart that has been "touched" by the love of God.
Please, I ask you not to be carried away by the temptation to consider your sacrifice and the gift of yourselves as an investment destined for personal profit, to achieve a position or a certainty of life. No !, this is not. Rather, try to translate this oblation and consecration into the service of God and of men, living the joy of the gospel through the charism of redemption. Those who let themselves be saved by the Lord are freed from sin and, above all, from sadness, inner emptiness and isolation (see Evangelii gaudium, n.1). To give life is to find it in those who have been redeemed by the Lord through our example and our testimony.
The Order of Mercy echoes the gospel of salvation which says: "The Lord has visited and redeemed his people" (Lk 1, 68). Thus the gesture of "visiting and liberating" marks all your vocation and your missionary activity. You are called to go out to save Christians who are in danger of losing their faith, who are seen as diminished in their dignity as people and trapped in principles and systems opposed to the gospel. This concept of trapped Christians work it out well, because it is a form of slavery, end up trapped in a thousand worldly things or that presents society itself, and not know how to get out of it, and also free the trapped Christians.
Today, as in other periods of history, Christians are threatened by this triple enemy: the world, the devil and the flesh. It is not something of the past, it is something current. These dangers are sometimes disguised and we do not recognize them, but their consequences are obvious, they fall asleep the conscience and provoke a spiritual paralysis that leads to inner death. These enemies sometimes appear before us, but in most cases they go slowly, slowly, fall asleep, and one does not realize it, does not realize it, and it takes God's grace to say: "Where am I? How did I fall from there to here? ". It is an anesthesia. Vigilated, supervised not to end anesthetized. We must also be careful not to fall into this state of lack of spiritual vitality. Think of the spiritual worldliness that subtly enters our life and slowly dissipates the beauty and strength of this first love of God in our souls (see Gaudete et exsultate, nn. 93-97). Of the Apocalypse we remember: "I have this against you: that you have abandoned your first love" (2, 4). And the times the Lord reproaches his People: "I remember the affection of your youth, when you followed me in the desert" in Jeremiah (see 2, 2). That is, the memory, the memory of the first love. That we should not be reprimanded: "What a pity, the Order is well organized, everything is fine, but what a pity, they have lost their first love". That this reproach is never done. Some time ago, in a public hearing in the square, while I greeted the people, there was a married couple, elderly, but very young, celebrating sixty years of marriage even if it did not seem. I asked them: "Do you continue to love each other?". They looked at each other, then they looked at me, their eyes were bright and they answered me: "We are in love". I leave you this image so that each of you can say: "I am in love, I have not lost my first love".
As members of a redemptive order, you must first of all experience in yourself the redemption of Christ to help your brothers to discover the God who saves. "Redeemed to redeem", a good definition of your life and your vocation. I invite you to continue to be bearers of the Lord's redemption to prisoners, refugees and migrants, to those who fall into the networks of trafficking in human beings, to vulnerable adults, orphans and exploited children ... Bring to all those who are discarded from the society the tenderness and the mercy of God.
Dear brothers and sisters, I encourage you in your vocation and mission, and do not get tired of being instruments of freedom, joy and hope. May this eighth centenary yield an abundant fruit of grace and holiness, and be a constant stimulus to follow Christ giving life for all men in the times in which we live. May the Virgin of Mercy and St. Pedro Pascual, whose memory we are celebrating today, intercede for all of you and accompany you on your journey. And please do not forget to pray for me.