Today we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. We also celebrate World Day of Consecrated Life! Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the Temple, as was a customary ritual in their religion. We may think of it as parents today presenting their child/ren for baptism. As Jesus entered the Temple in the arms of his parents, the prophet Simeon and prophetess Anna recognize Him as the Messiah, the one who will save His people Israel and all of humanity from their sins. Simeon longed for this day before he died and when it happened he said to God: Now you can dismiss your servant in peace.
May you and I, over and over again, recognize the Messiah in our lives and accept Jesus into our lives each day as well. Then when the time of our earthly pilgrimage comes to an end, we, too, will be able to say to God: Now you can dismiss your servant in peace.
Today, we also celebrate Consecrated Life Day in honor of priests and women and men religious called to consecrate their lives to the Lord forever! As with Abram, the call to serve the Lord unreservedly as His servants meant leaving our homelands. For some that meant leaving their native country for mission territory. For all, it meant leaving home to serve wherever one's diocese or religious community needed one to serve the Lord. Many times, a person was asked to surrender his/her dream to serve God in one's cherished profession and asked to embrace another. In my religious community, those Sisters who ended up becoming teachers instead of nurses, or vice versa, speak of how blessed they were in following God's will as expressed through their superiors, as we believe firmly that one of the ways God reveals His will was through legitimate authority, be that one's religious superior or the bishop, if called to priesthood.
How did I know that I was called to consecrate my life to the Lord as a woman religious? One day, at age 14, out of the blue as I was sitting on the grass outside of the elementary school that I attended, the thought came to me: "Become a Sister." I began that journey by entering a high school that was only for girls intending to become a Sister of that religious community. I never regretted answering that call. Many years later, possibly in my 30's, I was in prayer one day and, as sometimes happens, my identical twin, in spirit, joins me. During that hour of prayer, she told me that my religious vocation was a gift from her. She wanted me "to have the intimacy with God that she experiences in heaven." Wow! I certainly have a way to go to reach that goal but the greatest gift of religious life for me is the opportunities to grow in that intimacy through daily celebration of the Mass, an annual 8-day retreat (a vacation with God alone), daily spiritual reading, a spiritual renewal day each month with the Sisters with whom I live, learning each day in community life to love and forgive as Jesus teaches in the Scriptures, pouring oneself out in sacrificial love on a regular basis, as life makes demands upon me as a community member (Trinitarian self-giving).
As I was called to religious life, my siblings were each called to marriage, to pour themselves out in self-giving, self-sacrificing love of that state in life!
What is your calling?