Day of Consecrated Life – The homily of Patriarch Pizzaballa: “discovering that God visits our life in an unpredictable way”



Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

May the Lord give you peace!

All over the world we celebrate the Day of Consecrated Life today.

I would like the Word of God that we heard a moment ago to help us reinterpret the deep meaning of what we religious experience. This is a precious thing, not only for the life of each one of us and of our respective communities, but also for the whole Church.

There is something provocative about our lifestyle, or at least it poses an inconvenient question, because it is absolutely against our mentality. It springs from common and ordinary values ​​and models, not only from our society, but also from a certain way of being Christian and thinking about the life of faith.

In a way, our religious choice should be a prophecy of what we all are and are called to become, what we will all be one day.

The Word gives us today two icons that speak to us precisely of this.

Who are Simeon and Anne?

I like to think that they are two people whom the Lord has comforted.

Verse 25 tells us precisely that there was a just and pious man in Jerusalem, who waited for the consolation of Israel.

The whole announcement of the prophets could be summed up in this word: “consolation”. The second part of the book of Isaiah, for example, which begins with the famous announcement of liberation (“Console, comfort my people – saith your God –…” Isaiah; 40,1), is called the “Book of consolation of Israel”. The prophets remind the people that God wants to console, to make himself present, to be close to us, that he does not abandon.

And Simeon is waiting for this, he is waiting for the consolation of Israel. He is a just and pious man, but he is a man who knows that being just and pious is not everything, that the truth of life is not found in our justice, that is to say in a logic of exclusively human life, but that it goes and takes us beyond, and that we must wait for it. And Simeon waits, all his life, with the only certainty that comes to him from the Spirit. He waits all his life, and on a day like every other day, in the temple as always, he is comforted.

What is this consolation?

Simeon tells us, in verse 30, when, rereading what happened to him today, welcoming this child in his arms, he discovers that he is amazed to have “seen salvation”, to have seen it his own eyes.

The consolation, then, is to see salvation, and to see it with one’s own eyes, that is, to experience it. It is the ability to discover that God makes himself present and visits our life in a new, unpredictable way. May the Lord go precisely where we least expect him.

Consolation is the experience of what man desires more than anything, but which it is impossible for him to obtain by his own strength. This is precisely what becomes – by grace – a reality. It is the experience of heaven tearing apart, so what you hope for more than anything is given to you. And so we experience a healing that has taken place within us. Only God can truly console.

We alone cannot console because we have no words of eternal life. We have human words, poor, limited, incapable of giving life, of healing.

But when we experience the consolation of God, then it happens that we too are a sign of consolation for each other.

This is what Saint Paul says in 2 Corinthians:

“Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulations, that by the comfort which we ourselves receive from him, we may console others in all their afflictions! (2 Cor. 1, 3-4)

Simeon and Anne are therefore two people consoled because they are two consecrated people, in the deepest sense of the term, that is to say a man and a woman who have linked the meaning of their lives to an expectation, a man and a woman who gave meaning to their desire, and who lived with it, without giving in to fatigue, fear, or pessimism.

The consecrated are those who know that only God can console them, that only he can give them life. They choose to remain in this attitude of expectation and hope, in a poverty which awaits the fulfillment of their existence from him.

And this expectation, this life in reference to a beyond, is the profound truth of their life.

It seems to me that this is one of the great challenges of today: the ability to find one’s own deep desire, and to unify one’s life around this desire, also accepting to be in the void, to to live in a desert where there is nothing, where life is filled with nothing but a gaze fixed on the consolation that comes from God.

The Eucharistic adoration that we all experience at least once a week has this characteristic, this capacity to create a void in our hearts, to live only with a glance, from a “beyond” which becomes present in the everyday life.

Precisely because Siméon and Anne know how to wait, so they know how to recognize. But they are also capable of being surprised. (cf. John the Baptist, at the Jordan, when he recognizes precisely because he allows himself to be surprised by this Messiah who awaits his turn like everyone else…).

God surprises because he is small, a child, because he is like all other children, because there is nothing extraordinary about his coming.

We religious also have this mission, that of persevering in recognizing God, that, in a way, of “training” ourselves to recognize him in every poor person and in every poverty, beginning with our own, with the poverty of our life. We have to recognize it in everything that is not extraordinary.

Because the extraordinary happens in us, when we recognize it, because then it changes our life, because this recognition of God brings peace: “Lord, now you let your servant go in peace…” (Luke 2, 29).

The fruit of all this can only be a profound peace, which has the face of those two humble elders, who no longer need anything else, because they have seen salvation.

We are therefore here to recognize all this, and to ask the Lord that this profound attitude of expectation, of consolation, of gratitude, of gentleness and of peace may today mark our life forever, that of your communities, and – therefore – that of each one of us.

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