A reflection for World Day of Consecrated Religious:
Today, Jesus is presented to the altar of God in the Temple. This comes at one of the weakest times of Jesus' entire life. He’s not able to speak for himself, he can’t walk. He’s a baby, young, physically weak, and completely vulnerable. I think the state that Jesus is in can help us to understand what it really means to be presented to the Lord, to be consecrated to the Lord even in the frailest, weakest, most vulnerable times of our imperfect lives.
It's clear that God seems to be very particular with who he calls and who he anoints. As you know, there’s a common theme with the Lord calling the weak and the vulnerable. You might say that God has a knack for picking the ones who seem to be less capable. But he chooses them precisely so his Glory can be revealed, making the words of Isaiah ring true -- "He gives power to the faint, abundant strength to the weak." (Isaiah 41:29) He chooses the poor, the broken, the hurting, he chooses the lesser - those who cannot love themselves.
"He gives power to the faint, abundant strength to the weak."
The fact is that we are all imperfect people. We are all weak in some way, vulnerable, hurting and broken. Like many biblical figures, we doubt the person that God can help us become. We are afraid to love God and afraid to love ourselves. We are in fact, afraid of our own tendency to love imperfectly. But there’s hope because as a people of faith, we are called to re-enter into a relationship with God, to be re-consecrated, and re-presented to Him. That means accepting the love of a God who perfectly loves our imperfections. This does not mean that God is okay with our sins, and shortcomings; rather, that He loves us despite of them.
As I was reflecting on my life as a consecrated religious, I began to think of my journey as lived inside of a large church. At the front of the Church, there is the sanctuary and Jesus awaiting in the tabernacle. Throughout the course of our lives, we position ourselves at different parts and places of this massive church. Some days we might be at the very front, in the sanctuary. We are praying every day, going to mass, doing all the right things and we feel God present in our lives. Other days we might be in the very back of the church, in the very corner, far away - maybe even outside! Sometimes we are hiding on the sides, ashamed and afraid to be seen. We are not concerned with what is happening in front of us. Or, we are in the middle, in the safe-ground. Not too far upfront and not too far in the back. We're comfortable with where we want to be and that's that. We are satisfied with being in the middle ground. "This is my spot, this is where I sit, I'm good, I don't need to do anything else, I am here."...Perhaps this is your life, moving from pew to pew. Regardless, wherever you sit, God is asking of one thing; he's asking for your heart. For your presence. And one thing is certain, we have to approach the altar in order for us to give it freely. Come up and re-present yourself to the Lord with open hearts! Lift up your hearts! Lift up your doors. Just like the psalmist says:
"Lift up! O gates, your lintels;
reach up, you ancient portals,
that the King of Glory may enter!”
"...in order to profess a life consecrated to God, I have to first profess that I am human."
I have found that the greatest freedom in consecrated life comes from opening up the gates of everything that I am and letting God in on it. As the prophet Malachi puts it, there will come a day when the Lord will come and sit in this temple and refine and purify his servants. Jesus would like to purify and refine you. You are that temple, and Jesus wants to transform everything that you don't like about yourself, those imperfections, all the sins, the flaws, the fears, and insecurities - Jesus wants to purify it. For the consecrated religious, we are presented to the Lord in freedom, resting in the sure hope that He will make himself known in the midst of every imperfection and weakness that we know we have. Out of love, we surrender ourselves, we cease any resistance and simply let God love.
I’m very blessed to be able to look back on the life that I’ve lived as a consecrated religious and see all of the incredible ways that God has been present to me. The people, the places, the ministry opportunities, everything has been an adventure of faith and it would have never happened if I had not given God permission to love what I could not. It has occurred to me that in order to profess a life consecrated to God, I have to first profess that I am human. That means admitting to myself that I don't have all the answers, I don't do everything right, I'm not a perfect human being and because of that, I need God. We need God.
It doesn’t matter who are you, what you’re doing, or what you have done. I can promise you that the Lord today is asking for your heart. He wants to replace all of those imperfections with love. Today we're called to receive God, to be re-consecrated to God, to be re-presented to God. Let Him Enter, the King of Glory.
+ Br Vince Mary