FULL TEXT Homily of Pope Francis says "God placed his Son in our arms because welcoming Jesus is the essential, the center of faith." at Presentation of Our Lord Mass + Video
FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD
XXVI WORLD DAY OF CONSECRATED LIFE
HOLY MASS WITH THE MEMBERS OF INSTITUTES OF CONSECRATED LIFE
AND SOCIETIES OF APOSTOLIC LIFE
HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
St. Peter's Basilica
Wednesday, February 2, 2022
Two elders, Simeon and Anna, await in the temple the fulfillment of the promise that God made to his people: the coming of the Messiah. But their waiting is not passive, it is full of movement. Let us therefore follow Simeon's movements: he is first moved by the Spirit, then he sees his salvation in the Child and finally welcomes him in his arms (cf. Lk 2: 26-28). Let us simply stop on these three actions and let ourselves be crossed by some important questions for us, in particular for the consecrated life.
The first is: what are we moved by?Simeon goes to the temple "moved by the Spirit" (v. 27). The Holy Spirit is the main actor of the scene: it is He who makes God's desire burn in Simeon's heart, it is He who revives the expectation in his soul, it is He who pushes his steps towards the temple and makes his eyes capable of recognizing the Messiah, even if he presents himself as a small and poor child. This is what the Holy Spirit does: it makes one capable of perceiving the presence of God and his work not in the great things, in the showy exterior, in the displays of strength, but in littleness and fragility. Let us think of the cross: there too it is a smallness, a fragility, even a drama. But there is the strength of God. The expression "moved by the Spirit" recalls what in spirituality are called "spiritual motions": they are those movements of the soul that we feel within us and that we are called to listen, to discern whether they come from the Holy Spirit or from something else. Pay attention to the inner motions of the Spirit.
So we ask ourselves: by whom do we mainly let ourselves be moved: by the Holy Spirit or by the spirit of the world? It is a question that we must all measure ourselves against, especially we consecrated persons. While the Spirit leads us to recognize God in the smallness and fragility of a child, we sometimes risk thinking about our consecration in terms of results, goals, success: we move in search of spaces, visibility, numbers: it is a temptation. The Spirit, on the other hand, does not ask for this. He wants us to cultivate daily fidelity, docile to the little things that have been entrusted to us. How beautiful is the fidelity of Simeon and Anna! Every day they go to the temple, every day they wait and pray, even if time passes and nothing seems to happen. They wait their whole life, without getting discouraged and without complaining,
We, brothers and sisters, can ask ourselves: what moves our days? What love drives us to move forward? The Holy Spirit or the passion of the moment, which is anything? How do we move in the Church and in society? Sometimes, even behind the appearance of good works, the worm of narcissism or the craving for protagonism can be hidden. In other cases, while carrying out many things, our religious communities seem to be moved more by mechanical repetition - doing things out of habit, just to do them - than by the enthusiasm to adhere to the Holy Spirit. It will do all of us good to verify our interior motivations today, let us discern the spiritual motions, because the renewal of consecrated life passes first of all from here.
A second question: what do our eyes see?Simeon, moved by the Spirit, sees and recognizes Christ. And he prays saying: "My eyes have seen your salvation" (v. 30). Here is the great miracle of faith: he opens his eyes, transforms the gaze, changes the view. As we know from many encounters of Jesus in the Gospels, faith is born from the compassionate gaze with which God looks at us, melting the hardness of our heart, healing his wounds, giving us new eyes to see ourselves and the world. New eyes on ourselves, on others, on all the situations we live, even the most painful. It is not a question of a naive look, no, it is sapiential; the naive look escapes reality or pretends not to see the problems; instead, it is a question of eyes that know how to "see within" and "see beyond"; that don't stop at appearances,
The elderly eyes of Simeon, although tired from the years, see the Lord, they see salvation. And U.S? Everyone can ask themselves: what do our eyes see? What vision do we have of consecrated life? The world often sees it as a “waste”: “But look, that good boy, to become a friar”, or “such a good girl, to become a nun… It's a waste. If at least it was bad or ugly ... No, they are good, it is a waste ”. So we think. The world perhaps sees it as a reality of the past, something useless. But we, Christian communities, religious and religious, what do we see? Are we looking backwards, nostalgic for what no longer exists or are we capable of a far-sighted gaze of faith, projected within and beyond? Having the wisdom of looking- this is given by the Spirit -: look carefully, measure distances well, understand realities. It does me so much good to see consecrated men and women who are elderly, who continue to smile with bright eyes, giving hope to the young. Let's think about when we met similar looks and we bless God for it. They are looks of hope, open to the future. And perhaps it will do us good, in these days, to have a meeting, to pay a visit to our elderly religious brothers and sisters, to look at them, to talk, to ask, to hear what they think. I believe it will be good medicine.
Brothers and sisters, the Lord does not fail to give us signals to invite us to cultivate a renewed vision of consecrated life. It takes, but under the light, under the motions of the Holy Spirit. We cannot pretend not to see these signs and continue as if nothing had happened, repeating the same things as always, dragging ourselves by inertia into the forms of the past, paralyzed by the fear of change. I have said it many times: today, the temptation to go backwards, out of security, out of fear, to keep the faith, to keep the founding charism… It is a temptation. The temptation to go back and keep the "traditions" with rigidity. Let's get it right: stiffness is a perversion, and under every stiffness there are serious problems. Neither Simeone nor Anna were rigid, no, they were free and had the joy of celebrating: him, praising the Lord and prophesying with courage to his mother; and she, like a good old lady, going from side to side saying: "Look at these, look at this!" They gave the announcement with joy, their eyes full of hope. No past inertia, no stiffness. Let's open our eyes: through the crises - yes, it's true, there are crises -, the missing numbers - "Father, there are no vocations, now we will go to that island of Indonesia to see if we can find any" -, the forces that fail, the Spirit invites us to renew our life and our communities. And how do we do this? He will show us the way. We open our hearts, with courage, without fear. We open the heart. Let's look at Simeone and Anna: even if they are advanced in years, they don't spend days regretting a past that never comes back, but they open their arms to the future that comes to meet them. Brothers and sisters, let's not waste today looking at yesterday, or dreaming of a tomorrow that will never come, but let us place ourselves before the Lord, in adoration, and ask for eyes that know how to see the good and see the ways of God. The Lord will give them to us, if we ask for it. With joy, with fortitude, without fear.
Finally, a third question: what do we hold in our arms? Simeon welcomes Jesus in his arms (cf. v. 28). It is a tender and meaningful scene, unique in the Gospels. God placed his Son in our arms because welcoming Jesus is the essential, the center of faith. Sometimes we risk getting lost and dispersed in a thousand things, fixing ourselves on secondary aspects or immersing ourselves in things to do, but the center of everything is Christ, to be welcomed as the Lord of our life.
When Simeon takes Jesus in his arms, his lips utter words of blessing, of praise, of amazement. And we, after so many years of consecrated life, have we lost the ability to be amazed? Or do we still have this ability? Let's examine this, and if someone does not find it, ask for the grace of amazement, the amazement at the wonders that God is doing in us, hidden like that of the temple, when Simeon and Anna met Jesus. If the consecrated lack words that they bless God and others, if there is no joy, if the momentum is lacking, if fraternal life is only fatigue, if there is no amazement, it is not because we are victims of someone or something, the real reason is that our arms do not they hold Jesus more tightly. And when the arms of a consecrated person do not hold Jesus, they hold the emptiness, they try to fill with other things, but there is emptiness. Clasp Jesus with our arms: this is the sign, this is the path, this is the "recipe" for renewal. Then, when we don't embrace Jesus, the heart closes in bitterness. It is sad to see consecrated, consecrated bitter: they close in complaining about things that don't go right on time. They always complain about something: the superior, the superior, the brothers, the community, the kitchen ... If they have no complaints, they do not live. But we must embrace Jesus in adoration and ask for eyes that know how to see good and see God's ways. If we welcome Christ with open arms, we will also welcome others with trust and humility. Then conflicts do not escalate, distances do not divide and the temptation to abuse and hurt the dignity of some sister or brother is extinguished. Let us open our arms, to Christ and to the brothers! There is Jesus.
Dear friends, let us renew our consecration today with enthusiasm! Let us ask ourselves what motivations move our hearts and our actions, what is the renewed vision that we are called to cultivate and, above all, we take Jesus in our arms. Even if we experience fatigue and weariness - this happens: even disappointments, it happens -, we do as Simeone and Anna, who patiently await the Lord's fidelity and do not allow themselves to be robbed of the joy of the encounter. Let us go towards the joy of the encounter: this is very beautiful! Let us put him back in the center and go forward with joy. So be it.