Text of the Joint Declaration of the Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople

http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/text-of-joint-declaration-signed-by-pope-and-ecumenical-patriarch

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We, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, express our profound gratitude to God for the gift of this new encounter enabling us, in the presence of the members of the Holy Synod, the clergy and the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to celebrate together the feast of Saint Andrew, the first–called and brother of the Apostle Peter. Our remembrance of the Apostles, who proclaimed the good news of the Gospel to the world through their preaching and their witness of martyrdom, strengthens in us the aspiration to continue to walk together in order to overcome, in love and in truth, the obstacles that divide us.

On the occasion of our meeting in Jerusalem last May, in which we remembered the historical embrace of our venerable predecessors Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, we signed a joint declaration. Today on the happy occasion of this further fraternal encounter, we wish to re–affirm together our shared intentions and concerns.

We express our sincere and firm resolution, in obedience to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, to intensify our efforts to promote the full unity of all Christians, and above all between Catholics and Orthodox. As well, we intend to support the theological dialogue promoted by the Joint International Commission, instituted exactly thirty–five years ago by the Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios and Pope John Paul II here at the Phanar, and which is currently dealing with the most difficult questions that have marked the history of our division and that require careful and detailed study. To this end, we offer the assurance of our fervent prayer as Pastors of the Church, asking our faithful to join us in praying “that all may be one, that the world may believe” (Jn17:21).

We express our common concern for the current situation in Iraq, Syria and the whole Middle East. We are united in the desire for peace and stability and in the will to promote the resolution of conflicts through dialogue and reconciliation. While recognizing the efforts already being made to offer assistance to the region, at the same time, we call on all those who bear responsibility for the destiny of peoples to deepen their commitment to suffering communities, and to enable them, including the Christian ones, to remain in their native land. We cannot resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians, who have professed the name of Jesus there for two thousand years. Many of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted and have been forced violently from their homes.It even seems that the value of human life has been lost, that the human person no longer matters and may be sacrificed to other interests. And, tragically, all this is met by the indifference of many. As Saint Paul reminds us, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together” (1 Cor 12:26). This is the law of the Christian life, and in this sense we can say that there is also an ecumenism of suffering. Just as the blood of the martyrs was a seed of strength and fertility for the Church, so too the sharing of daily sufferings can become an effective instrument of unity. The terrible situation of Christians and all those who are suffering in the Middle East calls not only for our constant prayer, but also for an appropriate response on the part of the international community.

The grave challenges facing the world in the present situation require the solidarity of all people of good will, and so we also recognize the importance of promoting a constructive dialogue with Islam based on mutual respect and friendship. Inspired by common values and strengthened by genuine fraternal sentiments, Muslims and Christians are called to work together for the sake of justice, peace and respect for the dignity and rights of every person, especially in those regions where they once lived for centuries in peaceful coexistence and now tragically suffer together the horrors of war. Moreover, as Christian leaders, we call on all religious leaders to pursue and to strengthen interreligious dialogue and to make every effort to build a culture of peace and solidarity between persons and between peoples. We also remember all the people who experience the sufferings of war. In particular, we pray for peace in Ukraine, a country of ancient Christian tradition, while we call upon all parties involved to pursue the path of dialogue and of respect for international law in order to bring an end to the conflict and allow all Ukrainians to live in harmony.

Our thoughts turn to all the faithful of our Churches throughout the world, whom we greet, entrusting them to Christ our Saviour, that they may be untiring witnesses to the love of God. We raise our fervent prayer that the Lord may grant the gift of peace in love and unity to the entire human family.

“May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you” (2 Thess 3:16).

From the Phanar, 30 November 2014

Monday, 1 December 2014 : First Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple or Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s readings talk about us as the people of God, ought to go and seek the Lord, to find Him and follow His ways. Thus, we are urged to live according to what the Lord had taught us, and there are many ways to do this. But I would like to bring to your attention, our Gospel of today, which is about the faith of an army centurion or captain, whose faith in Jesus was so great that it was truly amazing for him to exhibit such a faith and Jesus praised him for such faith.

It is in fact also the kind of faith which all of us should have, a faith that is strong, genuine and sincere, and yet at the same time, it is humble, unassuming and also undeterred. What the centurion did was exactly what we always say to the Lord at the celebration of the Holy Mass, every time the priest shows us the Most Precious Body and Blood of Christ after the singing of the Agnus Dei. Remember the words? ‘I am not worthy, that You should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.’

These words are almost a direct representation from the words of the centurion, who said to Jesus, that he was unworthy to have Jesus to come to his house, sinful as he was, and he asked only that for the Lord to give the word, and then his servant shall be healed, by the power of Jesus. That is a true, sincere and genuine faith, the kind which our Lord seeks from all of us.

It is important then that we understand the circumstances, the background and the reality behind the story of the Gospel today. Judea at that time was under the rule of the descendants of king Herod the Great, but in reality their role and power was mostly just honorary. The real power and authority lie with the Romans. The military at the time was also dominated by the Romans, with some local and Temple guards, but the army were mostly Roman, the legions stationed in Judea as a garrison army.

Therefore, the army centurion was likely not a Jew in origin, and even most likely might have been a Roman, and to the Jews, the Romans, as with the other Gentiles or the non-Jewish people were considered pagan, unclean and unworthy of God. And the army centurion was likely fully aware of this fact. Thus, even though he was truly desperate to have his servant healed and brought from the brink of death, he was aware that inviting Jesus to his house might have dire implication for himself, and even more so, for Jesus.

He likely did not want Jesus to be harassed and badmouthed by the Pharisees and the Temple authorities for associating with one such as himself. These people had already made it difficult for the Lord by slandering Him for His associations with the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the Gentiles and many other people, whom the Pharisees and the Temple authorities deemed to be sinners and unworthy of salvation.

But did Jesus care about what they thought of Him? No, not at all! That is because He is solely concerned about the salvation of the souls of mankind, of sinners who has no one else to turn to but God. This concern is what made our Lord to go out and seek the sinners and the condemned, in order to bring them back from the precipice of darkness and damnation, and to return them into the light and the grace of God.

The army centurion was fully aware of his unworthiness, and he came forth to beg the Lord’s love and mercy, and with complete and full trust in the Lord, he knew that, while he was unworthy to receive the Lord in his own house, but whatever the Lord would do for his sake, would truly come true. This is the kind of great faith which the army centurion had, and which the Pharisees and the Temple authorities did not have.

Do we all remember about the doubting disciple, Thomas, who doubted the resurrection of Christ? Who refused to believe until the Lord Himself showed Himself to him? The same therefore occurred for the Pharisees, the Temple authorities, and to be frank, with many if not most of us. We want physical and visual evidence when we want to believe in something, and if we are not shown what we want to see, then we will not believe.

Yet, we have to notice that the army centurion did not even ask for Jesus to come and heal his servant physically and directly, so that he might see and believe. No, in fact he had already believed even not by seeing, and by his faith and belief in Jesus, he put his trust completely in God, and what he asked for was fulfilled completely. The Pharisees on the other hand, they had frequently seen and witnessed what Jesus had done throughout His ministry, in their futile attempts to discredit and destroy Him in their jealousy. And indeed, they failed to see the truth of God’s works in Jesus and they did not have the faith.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, we have a choice today, and on this season of Advent, there is indeed no better time to do so, that is to reflect on our own faith and on our own life. Have we been faithful in the way of the Pharisees and the Temple authorities? Is our faith like theirs, that is proud, unbending, arrogant and self-serving? Do we recognise the Lord when He comes again? Or are we too caught up in our own self-preserving attitudes, pride, jealousy and greed that we fail to recognise Him?

Certainly, we want to avoid this. And the way to truly live our lives is to be like the army centurion. Let us truly mean what we always say every time at the Mass, ‘I am not worthy, not worthy’, and not worthy we are indeed of the Lord, for we have sinned before God. Far less worthy we are indeed to even receive Him into ourselves. We have to realise this and be humble, just as the army centurion was, he who had admitted publicly that he was not worthy for Christ to come to his house and heal his servant.

And yet, our Lord Jesus, out of His great and infinite love for us, desires us to be reconciled to Himself, and He has the power and authority to heal us and make us whole, just as He had healed the servant of the army centurion. All that we need to do, is just ask, like the army centurion. He asked in great humility, sincere devotion and genuine faith, and he received his reward.

The Lord had already said to us, that we need to only ask, and we shall receive, and we need to only knock at the door, and the door shall be opened for us. Thus, this Advent season, let us use the opportunity given to us, to respond to God calling deep in our hearts, for us to repent and change our ways, and for us to walk in His ways and follow Him once again. Let us put our complete trust in Lord like the centurion, who have strong and genuine faith, without the need for doubt or proof. Do not be like the Pharisees, who have seen plenty, and yet refused to believe.

May Almighty God be with us all, and guide us all this Advent, that He may bring us all ever closer to His salvation and eternal glory, by making our faith more and more like the faith of the centurion. May we grow stronger and deeper in our humility and in our love for God. Doubt no more but believe! And let us prepare for the Lord who will come again to claim us all His people and bring us into His eternal kingdom. God bless us all. Amen.

 

First Reading :

https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2014/11/30/monday-1-december-2014-first-week-of-advent-first-reading/

 

Psalm :

https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2014/11/30/monday-1-december-2014-first-week-of-advent-psalm/

 

Gospel Reading :

https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2014/11/30/monday-1-december-2014-first-week-of-advent-gospel-reading/

Monday, 1 December 2014 : First Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple or Violet

Matthew 8 : 5-11

At that time, when Jesus entered Capernaum, an army captain approached Him to ask His help, “Sir, my servant lies sick at home. He is paralysed and suffers terribly.” Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”

The captain answered, “I am not worthy to have You under my roof. Just give an order and my boy will be healed. For I myself, a junior officer, give orders to my soldiers. And if I say to one, ‘Go!’ he goes; and if I say to another, ‘Come!’ he comes; and if I say to my servant, ‘Do this!’ he does it.”

When Jesus heard this He was astonished, and said to those who were following Him, “I tell you, I have not found such faith in Israel. I say to you, many will come from east and west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven.”

 

Homily and Reflection :

https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2014/11/30/monday-1-december-2014-first-week-of-advent-homily-and-scripture-reflections/

Monday, 1 December 2014 : First Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple or Violet

Psalm 121 : 1-2, 3-4a, 4b-5, 6-7, 8-9

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” And now we have set foot within your gates, o Jerusalem!

Jerusalem, just like a city, where everything falls into place. There the tribes go up.

The tribes of the Lord, the assembly of Israel, to give thanks to the Lord’s Name. There stand the courts of justice, the offices of the house of David.

Pray for peace of Jerusalem : “May those who love you prosper! May peace be within your walls and security within your citadels!”

For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, “Peace be with you!” For the sake of the house of our Lord, I will pray for your good.

 

Homily and Reflection :

https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2014/11/30/monday-1-december-2014-first-week-of-advent-homily-and-scripture-reflections/

Monday, 1 December 2014 : First Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple or Violet

Isaiah 2 : 1-5

The vision of Isaiah, son of Amoz, concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In the last days, the mountain of YHVH’s house shall be set over the highest mountains and shall tower over the hills. All the nations shall stream to it, saying, “Come, let us go to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us His ways and we may walk in His paths. For the Teaching comes from Zion, and from Jerusalem the word of YHVH.”

“He will rule over the nations and settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not raise sword against nation; they will train for war no more.”

“O nation of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”

 

Homily and Reflection :

https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2014/11/30/monday-1-december-2014-first-week-of-advent-homily-and-scripture-reflections/

Apostolic Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis on the Year of Consecrated Life (30 November 2014 – 2 February 2016)

http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_letters/documents/papa-francesco_lettera-ap_20141121_lettera-consacrati.html

APOSTOLIC LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS
POPE FRANCIS

TO ALL CONSECRATED PEOPLE

ON THE OCCASION OF THE YEAR OF CONSECRATED LIFE

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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Consecrated Life,

I am writing to you as the Successor of Peter, to whom the Lord entrusted the task of confirming his brothers and sisters in faith (cf. Lk 22:32). But I am also writing to you as a brother who, like yourselves, is consecrated to God.

Together let us thank the Father, who called us to follow Jesus by fully embracing the Gospel and serving the Church, and poured into our hearts the Holy Spirit, the source of our joy and our witness to God’s love and mercy before the world.

In response to requests from many of you and from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, I decided to proclaim a Year of Consecrated Life on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, which speaks of religious in its sixth chapter, and of the Decree Perfectae Caritatis on the renewal of religious life. The Year will begin on 30 November 2014, the First Sunday of Advent, and conclude with the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple on 2 February 2016.

After consultation with the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, I have chosen as the aims of this Year the same ones which Saint John Paul II proposed to the whole Church at the beginning of the third millennium, reiterating, in a certain sense, what he had earlier written in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata: “You have not only a glorious history to remember and to recount, but also a great history still to be accomplished! Look to the future, where the Spirit is sending you in order to do even greater things” (No. 110).

I. AIMS OF THE YEAR OF CONSECRATED LIFE

1. The first of these aims is to look to the past with gratitude. All our Institutes are heir to a history rich in charisms. At their origins we see the hand of God who, in his Spirit, calls certain individuals to follow Christ more closely, to translate the Gospel into a particular way of life, to read the signs of the times with the eyes of faith and to respond creatively to the needs of the Church. This initial experience then matured and developed, engaging new members in new geographic and cultural contexts, and giving rise to new ways of exercising the charism, new initiatives and expressions of apostolic charity. Like the seed which becomes a tree, each Institute grew and stretched out its branches.

During this Year, it would be appropriate for each charismatic family to reflect on its origins and history, in order to thank God who grants the Church a variety of gifts which embellish her and equip her for every good work (cf. Lumen Gentium, 12).

Recounting our history is essential for preserving our identity, for strengthening our unity as a family and our common sense of belonging. More than an exercise in archaeology or the cultivation of mere nostalgia, it calls for following in the footsteps of past generations in order to grasp the high ideals, and the vision and values which inspired them, beginning with the founders and foundresses and the first communities. In this way we come to see how the charism has been lived over the years, the creativity it has sparked, the difficulties it encountered and the concrete ways those difficulties were surmounted. We may also encounter cases of inconsistency, the result of human weakness and even at times a neglect of some essential aspects of the charism. Yet everything proves instructive and, taken as a whole, acts as a summons to conversion. To tell our story is to praise God and to thank him for all his gifts.

In a particular way we give thanks to God for these fifty years which followed the Second Vatican Council. The Council represented a “breath” of the Holy Spirit upon the whole Church. In consequence, consecrated life undertook a fruitful journey of renewal which, for all its lights and shadows, has been a time of grace, marked by the presence of the Spirit.

May this Year of Consecrated Life also be an occasion for confessing humbly, with immense confidence in the God who is Love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8), our own weakness and, in it, to experience the Lord’s merciful love. May this Year likewise be an occasion for bearing vigorous and joyful witness before the world to the holiness and vitality present in so many of those called to follow Jesus in the consecrated life.

2. This Year also calls us to live the present with passion. Grateful remembrance of the past leads us, as we listen attentively to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church today, to implement ever more fully the essential aspects of our consecrated life.

From the beginnings of monasticism to the “new communities” of our own time, every form of consecrated life has been born of the Spirit’s call to follow Jesus as the Gospel teaches (cf. Perfectae Caritatis, 2). For the various founders and foundresses, the Gospel was the absolute rule, whereas every other rule was meant merely to be an expression of the Gospel and a means of living the Gospel to the full. For them, the ideal was Christ; they sought to be interiorly united to him and thus to be able to say with Saint Paul: “For to me to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21). Their vows were intended as a concrete expression of this passionate love.

The question we have to ask ourselves during this Year is if and how we too are open to being challenged by the Gospel; whether the Gospel is truly the “manual” for our daily living and the decisions we are called to make. The Gospel is demanding: it demands to be lived radically and sincerely. It is not enough to read it (even though the reading and study of Scripture is essential), nor is it enough to meditate on it (which we do joyfully each day). Jesus asks us to practice it, to put his words into effect in our lives.

Once again, we have to ask ourselves: Is Jesus really our first and only love, as we promised he would be when we professed our vows? Only if he is, will we be empowered to love, in truth and mercy, every person who crosses our path. For we will have learned from Jesus the meaning and practice of love. We will be able to love because we have his own heart.

Our founders and foundresses shared in Jesus’ own compassion when he saw the crowds who were like sheep without a shepherd. Like Jesus, who compassionately spoke his gracious word, healed the sick, gave bread to the hungry and offered his own life in sacrifice, so our founders and foundresses sought in different ways to be the service of all those to whom the Spirit sent them. They did so by their prayers of intercession, their preaching of the Gospel, their works of catechesis, education, their service to the poor and the infirm… The creativity of charity is boundless; it is able to find countless new ways of bringing the newness of the Gospel to every culture and every corner of society.

The Year of Consecrated Life challenges us to examine our fidelity to the mission entrusted to us. Are our ministries, our works and our presence consonant with what the Spirit asked of our founders and foundresses? Are they suitable for carrying out today, in society and the Church, those same ministries and works? Do we have the same passion for our people, are we close to them to the point of sharing in their joys and sorrows, thus truly understanding their needs and helping to respond to them? “The same generosity and self-sacrifice which guided your founders – Saint John Paul II once said – must now inspire you, their spiritual children, to keep alive the charisms which, by the power of the same Spirit who awakened them, are constantly being enriched and adapted, while losing none of their unique character. It is up to you to place those charisms at the service of the Church and to work for the coming of Christ’s Kingdom in its fullness”.[1]

Recalling our origins sheds light on yet another aspect of consecrated life. Our founders and foundresses were attracted by the unity of the Apostles with Christ and by the fellowship which marked the first community in Jerusalem. In establishing their own communities, each of them sought to replicate those models of evangelical living, to be of one heart and one soul, and to rejoice in the Lord’s presence (cf. Perfectae Caritatis, 15).

Living the present with passion means becoming “experts in communion”, “witnesses and architects of the ‘plan for unity’ which is the crowning point of human history in God’s design”.[2] In a polarized society, where different cultures experience difficulty in living alongside one another, where the powerless encounter oppression, where inequality abounds, we are called to offer a concrete model of community which, by acknowledging the dignity of each person and sharing our respective gifts, makes it possible to live as brothers and sisters.

So, be men and women of communion! Have the courage to be present in the midst of conflict and tension, as a credible sign of the presence of the Spirit who inspires in human hearts a passion for all to be one (cf. Jn 17:21). Live the mysticism of encounter, which entails “the ability to hear, to listen to other people; the ability to seek together ways and means”.[3] Live in the light of the loving relationship of the three divine Persons (cf. 1 Jn 4:8), the model for all interpersonal relationships.

3. To embrace the future with hope should be the third aim of this Year. We all know the difficulties which the various forms of consecrated life are currently experiencing: decreasing vocations and aging members, particularly in the Western world; economic problems stemming from the global financial crisis; issues of internationalization and globalization; the threats posed by relativism and a sense of isolation and social irrelevance… But it is precisely amid these uncertainties, which we share with so many of our contemporaries, that we are called to practice the virtue of hope, the fruit of our faith in the Lord of history, who continues to tell us: “Be not afraid… for I am with you” (Jer 1:8).

This hope is not based on statistics or accomplishments, but on the One in whom we have put our trust (cf. 2 Tim 1:2), the One for whom “nothing is impossible” (Lk 1:37). This is the hope which does not disappoint; it is the hope which enables consecrated life to keep writing its great history well into the future. It is to that future that we must always look, conscious that the Holy Spirit spurs us on so that he can still do great things with us.

So do not yield to the temptation to see things in terms of numbers and efficiency, and even less to trust in your own strength. In scanning the horizons of your lives and the present moment, be watchful and alert. Together with Benedict XVI, I urge you not to “join the ranks of the prophets of doom who proclaim the end or meaninglessness of the consecrated life in the Church in our day; rather, clothe yourselves in Jesus Christ and put on the armour of light – as Saint Paul urged (cf. Rom 13:11-14) – keeping awake and watchful”.[4] Let us constantly set out anew, with trust in the Lord.

I would especially like to say a word to those of you who are young. You are the present, since you are already taking active part in the lives of your Institutes, offering all the freshness and generosity of your “yes”. At the same time you are the future, for soon you will be called to take on roles of leadership in the life, formation, service and mission of your communities. This Year should see you actively engaged in dialogue with the previous generation. In fraternal communion you will be enriched by their experiences and wisdom, while at the same time inspiring them, by your own energy and enthusiasm, to recapture their original idealism. In this way the entire community can join in finding new ways of living the Gospel and responding more effectively to the need for witness and proclamation.

I am also happy to know that you will have the opportunity during this Year to meet with other young religious from different Institutes. May such encounters become a regular means of fostering communion, mutual support, and unity.

II. EXPECTATIONS FOR THE YEAR OF CONSECRATED LIFE

What in particular do I expect from this Year of grace for consecrated life?

1. That the old saying will always be true: “Where there are religious, there is joy”. We are called to know and show that God is able to fill our hearts to the brim with happiness; that we need not seek our happiness elsewhere; that the authentic fraternity found in our communities increases our joy; and that our total self-giving in service to the Church, to families and young people, to the elderly and the poor, brings us life-long personal fulfilment.

None of us should be dour, discontented and dissatisfied, for “a gloomy disciple is a disciple of gloom”. Like everyone else, we have our troubles, our dark nights of the soul, our disappointments and infirmities, our experience of slowing down as we grow older. But in all these things we should be able to discover “perfect joy”. For it is here that we learn to recognize the face of Christ, who became like us in all things, and to rejoice in the knowledge that we are being conformed to him who, out of love of us, did not refuse the sufferings of the cross.

In a society which exalts the cult of efficiency, fitness and success, one which ignores the poor and dismisses “losers”, we can witness by our lives to the truth of the words of Scripture: “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10).

We can apply to the consecrated life the words of Benedict XVI which I cited in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: “It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but by attraction” (No. 14). The consecrated life will not flourish as a result of brilliant vocation programs, but because the young people we meet find us attractive, because they see us as men and women who are happy! Similarly, the apostolic effectiveness of consecrated life does not depend on the efficiency of its methods. It depends on the eloquence of your lives, lives which radiate the joy and beauty of living the Gospel and following Christ to the full.

As I said to the members of ecclesial movements on the Vigil of Pentecost last year: “Fundamentally, the strength of the Church is living by the Gospel and bearing witness to our faith. The Church is the salt of the earth; she is the light of the world. She is called to make present in society the leaven of the Kingdom of God and she does this primarily by her witness, her witness of brotherly love, of solidarity and of sharing with others” (18 May 2013).

2. I am counting on you “to wake up the world”, since the distinctive sign of consecrated life is prophecy. As I told the Superiors General: “Radical evangelical living is not only for religious: it is demanded of everyone. But religious follow the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way.” This is the priority that is needed right now: “to be prophets who witness to how Jesus lived on this earth… a religious must never abandon prophecy” (29 November 2013).

Prophets receive from God the ability to scrutinize the times in which they live and to interpret events: they are like sentinels who keep watch in the night and sense the coming of the dawn (cf. Is 21:11-12). Prophets know God and they know the men and women who are their brothers and sisters. They are able to discern and denounce the evil of sin and injustice. Because they are free, they are beholden to no one but God, and they have no interest other than God. Prophets tend to be on the side of the poor and the powerless, for they know that God himself is on their side.

So I trust that, rather than living in some utopia, you will find ways to create “alternate spaces”, where the Gospel approach of self-giving, fraternity, embracing differences, and love of one another can thrive. Monasteries, communities, centres of spirituality, schools, hospitals, family shelters – all these are places which the charity and creativity born of your charisms have brought into being, and with constant creativity must continue to bring into being. They should increasingly be the leaven for a society inspired by the Gospel, a “city on a hill”, which testifies to the truth and the power of Jesus’ words.

At times, like Elijah and Jonah, you may feel the temptation to flee, to abandon the task of being a prophet because it is too demanding, wearisome or apparently fruitless. But prophets know that they are never alone. As he did with Jeremiah, so God encourages us: “Be not afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:8).

3. Men and women religious, like all other consecrated persons, have been called, as I mentioned, “experts in communion”. So I am hoping that the “spirituality of communion”, so emphasized by Saint John Paul II, will become a reality and that you will be in the forefront of responding to “the great challenge facing us” in this new millennium: “to make the Church the home and the school of communion.”[5] I am sure that in this Year you will make every effort to make the ideal of fraternity pursued by your founders and foundresses expand everywhere, like concentric circles.

Communion is lived first and foremost within the respective communities of each Institute. To this end, I would ask you to think about my frequent comments about criticism, gossip, envy, jealousy, hostility as ways of acting which have no place in our houses. This being the case, the path of charity open before us is almost infinite, since it entails mutual acceptance and concern, practicing a communion of goods both material and spiritual, fraternal correction and respect for those who are weak … it is the “mystique of living together” which makes our life “a sacred pilgrimage”.[6] We need to ask ourselves about the way we relate to persons from different cultures, as our communities become increasingly international. How can we enable each member to say freely what he or she thinks, to be accepted with his or her particular gifts, and to become fully co-responsible?

I also hope for a growth in communion between the members of different Institutes. Might this Year be an occasion for us to step out more courageously from the confines of our respective Institutes and to work together, at the local and global levels, on projects involving formation, evangelization, and social action? This would make for a more effective prophetic witness. Communion and the encounter between different charisms and vocations can open up a path of hope. No one contributes to the future in isolation, by his or her efforts alone, but by seeing himself or herself as part of a true communion which is constantly open to encounter, dialogue, attentive listening and mutual assistance. Such a communion inoculates us from the disease of self-absorption.

Consecrated men and women are also called to true synergy with all other vocations in the Church, beginning with priests and the lay faithful, in order to “spread the spirituality of communion, first of all in their internal life and then in the ecclesial community, and even beyond its boundaries”.[7]

4. I also expect from you what I have asked all the members of the Church: to come out of yourselves and go forth to the existential peripheries. “Go into all the world”; these were the last words which Jesus spoke to his followers and which he continues to address to us (cf. Mk 16:15). A whole world awaits us: men and women who have lost all hope, families in difficulty, abandoned children, young people without a future, the elderly, sick and abandoned, those who are rich in the world’s goods but impoverished within, men and women looking for a purpose in life, thirsting for the divine…

Don’t be closed in on yourselves, don’t be stifled by petty squabbles, don’t remain a hostage to your own problems. These will be resolved if you go forth and help others to resolve their own problems, and proclaim the Good News. You will find life by giving life, hope by giving hope, love by giving love.

I ask you to work concretely in welcoming refugees, drawing near to the poor, and finding creative ways to catechize, to proclaim the Gospel and to teach others how to pray. Consequently, I would hope that structures can be streamlined, large religious houses repurposed for works which better respond to the present demands of evangelization and charity, and apostolates adjusted to new needs.

5. I expect that each form of consecrated life will question what it is that God and people today are asking of them.

Monasteries and groups which are primarily contemplative could meet or otherwise engage in an exchange of experiences on the life of prayer, on ways of deepening communion with the entire Church, on supporting persecuted Christians, and welcoming and assisting those seeking a deeper spiritual life or requiring moral or material support.

The same can be done by Institutes dedicated to works of charity, teaching and cultural advancement, to preaching the Gospel or to carrying out specific pastoral ministries. It could also be done by Secular Institutes, whose members are found at almost every level of society. The creativity of the Spirit has generated ways of life and activities so diverse that they cannot be easily categorized or fit into ready-made templates. So I cannot address each and every charismatic configuration. Yet during this Year no one can feel excused from seriously examining his or her presence in the Church’s life and from responding to the new demands constantly being made on us, to the cry of the poor.

Only by such concern for the needs of the world, and by docility to the promptings of the Spirit, will this Year of Consecrated Life become an authentic kairos, a time rich in God’s grace, a time of transformation.

III. THE HORIZONS OF THE YEAR OF CONSECRATED LIFE

1. In this letter, I wish to speak not only to consecrated persons, but also to the laity, who share with them the same ideals, spirit and mission. Some Religious Institutes have a long tradition in this regard, while the experience of others is more recent. Indeed, around each religious family, every Society of Apostolic Life and every Secular Institute, there is a larger family, a “charismatic family”, which includes a number of Institutes which identify with the same charism, and especially lay faithful who feel called, precisely as lay persons, to share in the same charismatic reality.

I urge you, as laity, to live this Year for Consecrated Life as a grace which can make you more aware of the gift you yourselves have received. Celebrate it with your entire “family”, so that you can grow and respond together to the promptings of the Spirit in society today. On some occasions when consecrated men and women from different Institutes come together, arrange to be present yourselves so as to give expression to the one gift of God. In this way you will come to know the experiences of other charismatic families and other lay groups, and thus have an opportunity for mutual enrichment and support.

2. The Year for Consecrated Life concerns not only consecrated persons, but the entire Church. Consequently, I ask the whole Christian people to be increasingly aware of the gift which is the presence of our many consecrated men and women, heirs of the great saints who have written the history of Christianity. What would the Church be without Saint Benedict and Saint Basil, without Saint Augustine and Saint Bernard, without Saint Francis and Saint Dominic, Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Angelica Merici and Saint Vincent de Paul. The list could go on and on, up to Saint John Bosco and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. As Blessed Paul VI pointed out: “Without this concrete sign there would be a danger that the charity which animates the entire Church would grow cold, that the salvific paradox of the Gospel would be blunted, and that the “salt” of faith would lose its savour in a world undergoing secularization” (Evangelica Testificatio, 3).

So I invite every Christian community to experience this Year above all as a moment of thanksgiving to the Lord and grateful remembrance for all the gifts we continue to receive, thanks to the sanctity of founders and foundresses, and from the fidelity to their charism shown by so many consecrated men and women. I ask all of you to draw close to these men and women, to rejoice with them, to share their difficulties and to assist them, to whatever degree possible, in their ministries and works, for the latter are, in the end, those of the entire Church. Let them know the affection and the warmth which the entire Christian people feels for them.

3. In this letter I do not hesitate to address a word to the consecrated men and women and to the members of fraternities and communities who belong to Churches of traditions other than the Catholic tradition. Monasticism is part of the heritage of the undivided Church, and is still very much alive in both the Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church. The monastic tradition, and other later experiences from the time when the Church in the West was still united, have inspired analogous initiatives in the Ecclesial Communities of the reformed tradition. These have continued to give birth to further expressions of fraternal community and service.

The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life has planned a number of initiatives to facilitate encounters between members of different expressions of consecrated and fraternal life in the various Churches. I warmly encourage such meetings as a means of increasing mutual understanding, respect and reciprocal cooperation, so that the ecumenism of the consecrated life can prove helpful for the greater journey towards the unity of all the Churches.

4. Nor can we forget that the phenomenon of monasticism and of other expressions of religious fraternity is present in all the great religions. There are instances, some long-standing, of inter-monastic dialogue involving the Catholic Church and certain of the great religious traditions. I trust that the Year of Consecrated Life will be an opportunity to review the progress made, to make consecrated persons aware of this dialogue, and to consider what further steps can be taken towards greater mutual understanding and greater cooperation in the many common areas of service to human life.

Journeying together always brings enrichment, and can open new paths to relationships between peoples and cultures, which nowadays appear so difficult.

5. Finally, in a special way, I address my brother bishops. May this Year be an opportunity to accept institutes of consecrated life, readily and joyfully, as a spiritual capital which contributes to the good of the whole body of Christ (cf. Lumen Gentium, 43), and not simply that of the individual religious families. “Consecrated life is a gift to the Church, it is born of the Church, it grows in the Church, and it is entirely directed to the Church”.[8] For this reason, precisely as a gift to the Church, it is not an isolated or marginal reality, but deeply a part of her. It is at the heart of the Church, a decisive element of her mission, inasmuch as it expresses the deepest nature of the Christian vocation and the yearning of the Church as the Bride for union with her sole Spouse. Thus, “it belongs… absolutely to the life and holiness” of the Church (ibid., 44).

In the light of this, I ask you, the Pastors of the particular Churches, to show special concern for promoting within your communities the different charisms, whether long-standing or recent. I ask you to do this by your support and encouragement, your assistance in discernment, and your tender and loving closeness to those situations of suffering and weakness in which some consecrated men or women may find themselves. Above all, do this by instructing the People of God in the value of consecrated life, so that its beauty and holiness may shine forth in the Church.

I entrust this Year of Consecrated Life to Mary, the Virgin of listening and contemplation, the first disciple of her beloved Son. Let us look to her, the highly -beloved daughter of the Father, endowed with every gift of grace, as the unsurpassed model for all those who follow Christ in love of God and service to their neighbour.

Lastly, I join all of you in gratitude for the gifts of grace and light with which the Lord graciously wills to enrich us, and I accompany you with my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 21 November 2014, Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Francis

 


[1] Apostolic Letter to the Religious of Latin America on the occasion of the Fifth Centenary of the Evangelization of the New World Los caminos del Evangelio (29 June 1990), 26.[2]SACRED CONGREGATION FOR RELIGIOUS AND SECULAR INSTITUTES, Religious and Human Promotion (12 August 1980), 24: L’Osservatore Romano, Suppl., 12 November 1980, pp. I-VIII.

[3] Address to Rectors and Students of the Pontifical Colleges and Residences of Rome (2 May 2014).

[4] POPE BENEDICT XVI, Homily for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord(2 February 2013).

[5] Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (6 January 2001), 43.

[6]Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2013), 87

[7] JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata (25 March 1996), 51.

[8] BISHOP J.M. BERGOGLIO, Intervention at the Synod on the Consecrated Life and its Mission in the Church and in the World, XVI General Congregation, 13 October 1994.

Sunday, 30 November 2014 : First Sunday of Advent, Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple or Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we mark the beginning of the season of Advent, the special season in our liturgical year, which we also begin anew today, that marks the season of preparation before the great feast and solemnity of Christmas, which will occur in about four weeks from now. The celebration of Christmas is about the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, commemorating the occasion when He first came into our world, He who is Divine and yet willing to assume the appearance and substance of a humble Man, in order to bring salvation to all of us.

We have two great celebrations in our liturgical year, namely the solemnities of Christmas and Easter, both of which commemorate the most important events in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ on earth. The former celebrates His birth and entry into the world as mentioned, and the latter celebrates the even greater event of His suffering, Passion and way to the cross, death and ultimately His resurrection from the dead. These are the two great celebrations of our Faith, and we put special importance to them.

And that is why for both occasions, we have two special seasons to prepare for them, as a season of penitence and self-introspection, a time for reflection and for us to look deeply into our lives. For our Lord is coming to us, just as He had come before, and like someone who is inviting guests to a party, would it not be fitting for the host to be prepared beforehand?

Thus why those seasons I have mentioned are very important? That is because these two seasons, Advent and Lent are the time for us to be prepared to celebrate with all of our heart, the joy and the truth of our Lord’s life events, in the Christmas and Easter celebrations. If we do not prepare ourselves fully beforehand, then the meaning of the celebrations may be lessened, as what many of us often encountered in our own lives.

The celebrations and festivals which grew around both events, Christmas and Easter had become increasingly more and more distant from their original meaning and purpose, and in this world, which values money and possessions above everything else, the true meaning of the celebration, in particular of Christmas had been lost, in the midst of commercialisation, branding and attempts to sell Christmas for money and profit.

How many of us grow to see Christmas only in terms of the parties and celebrations it brings with it? And how many of us associate it with shopping and gifts? Presents, new clothes and new things for our homes? How many of us associate Christmas with Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, the gift boxes and the various other so-called Christmas apparels and decorations? If we have done so frequently, then do not be afraid brethren, for many of us certainly have done so too.

It is the way of the world, and by extension, the works of Satan, in order to divert us from the true focus of Christmas. It is certainly not wrong for us to celebrate Christmas and be happy with all the celebrations. But are we really celebrating for the right purpose and with the right attitude? This is a question which all of us must ask ourselves, and for us all to be aware of.

Christmas is truly about Christ, the birthday Boy, the One whose birth we are celebrating, and nothing more important than this. We can celebrate and be happy about all the feasts and celebrations, but we must have Christ in our celebrations, and in our hearts we have to understand the significance of His birth and coming into the world. Otherwise, our Christmas celebrations will be empty, meaningless and directionless.

You may be wondering why I am talking so much about Christmas, and even Easter and all the festive and celebration seasons of the Church, even though Christmas itself is still about a month away, and we are just barely beginning the season of Advent. That is because the season of Advent is intimately and very closely related to Christmas itself, and our four weeks of Advent will be meaningless if we do not understand the true meaning of Christmas. It is just necessary that we start this Advent season right.

And in the same way, Christmas and all of its celebrations will be meaningless as I have mentioned, if we have not amply and sufficiently prepared ourselves, and that is why we have this season of Advent to serve as an opportunity and guide for us, to sit back and move away for a while from the busy schedules and activities we have in our lives, and take the opportunity to reflect, and to also confess our sins that as we enter later into the season of Christmas, our hearts, minds, body and souls will be ready for the Lord.

That is also the essence of the Scripture Readings which we heard today, from the first reading, to the second reading and the Gospel itself. The Lord Jesus who has come once before, will come again one day to judge all the living and the dead, and this is what we believe. And it is necessary that we begin the preparations for what is to come. For Advent itself means to prepare and to welcome in expectation for, from the Latin, ‘Adventus’ which literally means ‘coming’, the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The first reading from the Book of the prophet Isaiah focuses on the nature of our Lord as our Redeemer, who will wash away our sins and iniquities, providing that we want to change our ways and repent all of our sinfulness. Isaiah the prophet had indeed acknowledged our sinfulness, and how wicked we have been, but he also showed that while our Lord is angry with our sins and attitudes in life, but He also opens the way for our salvation and repentance.

The psalm spoke of our Lord as our Shepherd, and this relates to how Isaiah the prophet said that the Lord is like our Potter, who shaped us all like a potter shaped the clay jugs and items. He guides us and leads us like a shepherd guiding his sheep from places to places. But it is also easy for the clay to lose its structure and shape, and for the sheep to be lost to the shepherd, if the condition of the clay is not satisfactory, or if the sheep is misled and misguided by other things other than the shepherd.

Thus, as I have elaborated earlier on, it is easy for us to lose our path in life, and to lose focus in our faith, that we forget the true meaning of our faith, of all the celebrations we have and why we even call ourselves a Christian and come to celebrate the Holy Mass together as the Church. We have to therefore be vigilant and strong, and seek help from whatever source available, to strengthen our faith and be ready, for when the Lord comes again.

The second reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians and the Gospel from the Gospel according to St. Mark truly spoke of one thing, that our Lord is coming again, and the time of His coming will not be known to us. But we have no need to fear if we put our trust and faith in Jesus completely, for He will guide us and show us the way. Thus, it is of great importance for us, to use this perfect opportunity of the Advent season now, to prepare thoroughly, for the eventual and inevitable coming of our Lord and Saviour.

On this day, we also celebrate the feast of one of the great holy Apostles, the feast of St. Andrew, the brother of St. Peter, the chief of all the Apostles and Vicar of Christ. St. Andrew was the first to be called among all the Apostles, at the shore of the lake of Galilee by Jesus, who then called his brother Simon, then to be named Peter by the Lord. As he was the first to be called among the Apostles, and also the first to believe in the Lord Jesus as the Messiah who came into the world, he is also known widely as St. Andrew the First-Called.

And it happens also that as the brother of St. Peter, he was also the founder of the brother of the premier see and diocese in Christendom. He was the founder of the See and Diocese of Constantinople, then known as Byzantium, a quiet city at the edge of Europe at the boundary between Europe and Asia, which is at the site now known as the city of Istanbul. However, it is truly still known by its true name, Constantinople or New Rome or Second Rome.

The city of Constantinople was founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great who was the first Christian Emperor and who ended the great persecutions of the faithful and convoked the first Ecumenical Council in Nicaea in the year 325. The city of Constantinople therefore became a second capital of the Roman Empire, and as such, in the next few decades, the See founded by St. Andrew would grow to a great importance, as the second most important in Christendom after Rome, the See of St. Peter, the Vicar of Christ.

Thus, today we see that among our separated brethren in the Eastern Orthodox Communion, the Archbishop of Constantinople is the most important among all the bishops, and styled himself the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. Our Holy Father and Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis is visiting Constantinople today to celebrate this occasion of the feast of St. Andrew, and to foster unity between the Church established by the Apostles, and rediscover the close bond and brotherhood between the Apostles St. Peter and St. Andrew.

But what is truly the significance of this feast of St. Andrew for us? And how is it relevant to our celebration of the First Sunday of Advent? Truly, we have to know first what St. Andrew had done for the Lord and for the faithful. St. Andrew was one of the Twelve Apostles, and although details about him other than his calling by Jesus were scant in the Gospels and also in the rest of the New Testament, it was known by Tradition that he also did what the other Apostles did, in spreading the Good News to many lands and helped to establish many dioceses and structures of the Church.

St. Andrew worked hard and zealously to bring the Good News of the Lord to the people who have yet to hear of it, and he and his fellow servants of God faced difficulties and challenges, until eventually, he was martyred in what is now Greece, as he went about spreading the Gospel. He was crucified like that of his brother, St. Peter in Rome. While St. Peter chose to be crucified upside-down, St. Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross, which we are now familiar with as the cross of St. Andrew.

The lesson from the life of St. Andrew, how he was called and how he carried on his faith is very relevant to us, on this very occasion of the very first day of this season of Advent. The Lord Jesus is coming soon, and when He comes again, in sudden and unannounced arrival, He will proceed to measure the worth of us all, in whether we have been faithful and devoted to Him. He Himself had told His disciples and all of us many times of what will happen.

The signs are clear, brethren, and the evidence is clear. If we have faith in God, then why hesitate anymore? We have to use whatever opportunity we have now, and this Advent is a perfect reminder to all of us, that we have to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord. This Advent is more than just a preparation for Christmas and Christmas is more than just festivities and celebrations. They are all part of our larger preparation in expectation of the coming again of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ into this world as King, and this time to bring us all into the eternal glory and happiness He had promised all of us.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us use this opportunity to the maximum, and let us be proactive in our faith. Just as St. Andrew believed in John the Baptist when he said about the Christ, ‘there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’ and immediately set about following Him as the first-called among many, we too should follow his example and set about following the Lord now.

Do not wait until the last minute, lest we may be like the foolish and unwise women who were not prepared with oil in their lamps as told in the parable of the five wise women and the five unwise women. When the Lord comes again suddenly, they will be caught unprepared and no goodness will come to them. Instead, be ready and be vigilant, be prepared with all things, that is our heart, mind, body and soul, that we are ever ready to welcome the Lord our God in His glory.

May Almighty God bless us all and guide us all in this season of Advent, that all of us may come to greater realisation of the need to prepare for the coming of Christ, and therefore to prepare ourselves thoroughly and fully, that when He comes again in glory, reminiscing His first coming at Christmas, we may be found ready and worthy, as like St. Andrew, be made worthy of the kingdom of God. God bless us all. Amen.

 

First Reading :

https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2014/11/28/sunday-30-november-2014-first-sunday-of-advent-feast-of-st-andrew-apostle-first-reading/

 

Psalm :

https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2014/11/28/sunday-30-november-2014-first-sunday-of-advent-feast-of-st-andrew-apostle-psalm/

 

Second Reading :

https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2014/11/28/sunday-30-november-2014-first-sunday-of-advent-feast-of-st-andrew-apostle-second-reading/

 

Gospel Reading :

https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2014/11/28/sunday-30-november-2014-first-sunday-of-advent-feast-of-st-andrew-apostle-gospel-reading/

 

Epistle (Usus Antiquior) :

https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2014/11/28/usus-antiquior-first-sunday-of-advent-i-classis-sunday-30-november-2014-epistle/

 

Gospel (Usus Antiquior) :

https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2014/11/28/usus-antiquior-first-sunday-of-advent-i-classis-sunday-30-november-2014-holy-gospel/