VATICAN CITY — Christian hope is rooted in the knowledge that God is patient with all his children, even when they stray from the path set before them, Pope Francis told consecrated men and women.
Celebrating the World Day for Consecrated Life Feb. 2, the pope told women and men religious that God’s love is “not weighed in the balance of our human calculations, but unstintingly gives us the courage to start anew.”
“This is the reason for our hope: that God never tires of waiting for us,” he said. “When we turn away, He comes looking for us; when we fall, He lifts us to our feet; when we return to Him after losing our way, He waits for us with open arms.”
About 150 men and women religious, all wearing masks, were in the socially distanced congregation for the celebration of Candlemas — the feast of the Presentation of the Lord — which also marks the Vatican celebration of the World Day for Consecrated Life.
Led by several candle-bearing acolytes, Pope Francis processed toward the Altar of the Chair in a darkened St. Peter’s Basilica, faintly lit by the congregation’s candles as the choir proclaimed in song, “O radiant light, eternal splendor of the father, Christ the Lord immortal.”
In his homily at the Mass with religious, the pope reflected on the example of the elderly Simeon, who “patiently awaited the fulfilment of the Lord’s promises” and the coming of the Messiah.
This exemplary patience, he continued, was “born of prayer and the history of his people” who had always experienced a merciful God that remained patient for centuries, “even in the face of rejection and infidelity.”
“The patience of Simeon is thus a mirror of God’s own patience,” the pope said. “From prayer and the history of his people, Simeon had learned that God is indeed patient.”
Drawing from the example of God and Simeon’s patience, the pope urged men and women religious to reflect on what role patience plays in their lives and to realize that “it is not simply about tolerating difficulties or showing grim determination in the face of hardship.”
“Patience is not a sign of weakness, but the strength of spirit that enables us to ‘carry the burden’ of personal and community problems, to accept others as different from ourselves, to persevere in goodness when all seems lost, and to keep advancing even when overcome by fatigue and listlessness,” he said.
Pope Francis also proposed “three settings” in religious life where patience can become a concrete reality: when the “ardor of our prayer cools,” in community life, and in their relationship with the world.
The pope called on those in consecrated life to follow the example of Simeon and Anna, who “did not complain about how wrong things are, but patiently looked for the light shining in the darkness of history.”
“We, too, need that kind of patience, so as not to fall into the trap of lamenting that ‘the world no longer listens to us,’ or ‘we have no more vocations,’ ‘these are not easy times,’” Pope Francis said.
“These are real challenges for our consecrated life: We cannot remain stuck in nostalgia for the past or simply keep repeating the same old things. We need patience and courage in order to keep advancing, exploring new paths and responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit,” he said.