By Tanya Connor
A deeper, more intimate encounter with Jesus is the way forward for religious men and women and their institutes, Bishop McManus said at the Mass he celebrated for the Year of Consecrated Life Saturday at Assumption College. Several religious priests concelebrated. Other religious priests, brothers and sisters participated from the pews. Afterwards, they mingled at a luncheon.
In his homily Bishop McManus made connections between religious life and spousal love, and between the Year of Consecrated Life, which ends Feb. 2, 2016, and the Year of Mercy, which begins Dec. 8.
He began with a point from Vatican Council II’s “Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life,” which he said “called for a renewal of religious life as an integral part of the entire Church’s call to renewal.”
“[E]ven the most desirable changes made on behalf of contemporary needs will fail of their purpose unless a renewal of spirit gives life to them,” he quoted. (#2)
He used Scriptures from the Mass to suggest a way forward for continued renewal. In Hosea 2 God speaks of the love between him and his spouse, Israel, as characterized by justice, love, mercy and fidelity.
The bishop said these virtues should characterize the lives of those making the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. He said these vows are not ends in themselves, but means to live in imitation of Christ, who came to serve and give his life.
“[T]he way forward today and in the future is to experience both individually and as religious institutes a deeper and more intimate encounter with Jesus who alone is our way, our truth and our life,” Bishop McManus said.
He said that in the Gospel from John 15 Jesus, knowing he’s about to die, calls for being united to him as spouses cling to each other in tender, intimate love.
The renewal of consecrated life and of the Church must be a renewal of spousal love for Christ that manifests itself in joy, in service and in fruitful and faithful living for the sake of the Gospel and the salvation of the world, Bishop McManus said.
“It is providential that as the Church ends her celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life, she will immediately begin to celebrate the Extraordinary Year of Mercy,” he said, because the gift of consecrated life to the Church is a manifestation of Christ’s love for his spouse, and love is rooted in mercy and fidelity.
The ultimate expression of mercy was Christ’s offering of himself for the salvation of the world, he said. He quoted Pope Francis: “When we journey,” build or profess Christ without the cross “we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly.”
The path to renewal “must pass through the mystery of the Eucharist,” the well-spring of divine mercy in and for the life of the Church, Bishop McManus said. He expressed hope that this eucharistic celebration would be a time to allow God’s words “to capture our heart … ‘I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart. … I will espouse you to me forever … in fidelity … you shall know the Lord.” (Hos 2:16; 21-22)