The Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 5, 2023
Fr. Josť Maria de Sousa Alvim Calado Cortes, F.S.C.B.
Pastor of the Church of St. Peter
North St. Paul, Minnesota
Sunday Reading Meditations
Today we are celebrating World Day for consecrated Life.
In 1997, Pope St. John Paul II instituted a day for women and men in consecrated life. This global celebration is attached to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2, also known as Candlemas Day, when candles symbolizing Christ, the light of the world, are blessed. Those in consecrated life are called to reflect the light of Jesus Christ to all peoples. The celebration of World Day for Consecrated Life is transferred to the following Sunday in order to highlight the gift of consecrated persons for the whole Church.
Consecrated life is essential in the life of the Church. The men and women who dedicate their lives to Christ are a great sign for all the faithful and the world. Our Lord calls some to the consecrated life in order to remind all believers that God is everything.
In today's Gospel, Jesus says that we are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We can apply this to all vocations but, in a particular way, to those who are called to religious life. Jesus says: "Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father" (Mt 5:16). In today's first reading, the prophet Isaiah says: "Your light shall break forth like the dawn" (Is 58:8).
In order to be the light of the world, it is necessary to be a disciple of Jesus. As today's alleluia refrain says, "I am the light of the world, says the Lord: whoever follows me will have the light of life."
A person called to a vocation of special consecration to the Lord is called to proclaim the mystery of Christ. As St. Paul says in today's second reading, "I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (1 Cor 2:2).
Virginity is an eschatological sign, reminding us of eternal life. As Jesus says, "At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in heaven" (Mt 22:30). Consecrated life is a more direct participation in the nuptial mystery between Christ and his bride, the Church.
When we walk in the street and see a church steeple, we are reminded of the presence of God. In the same way, when we meet a consecrated person, we are reminded of the ideal of Christian life: to belong totally to Christ. God gives the charism of virginity in the Church in order to recall us to himself.
What moves young men or women to renounce property, love and will? The only possible answer is that they have found something greater in Christ than natural human aspirations. Only God can totally fill the human heart. Without Christ, the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience would be madness. Religious life is total identification with Christ, who lived in poverty, chastity and obedience. To be a religious is to participate in Jesus' life radically. Those called to consecrate themselves are called to love everyone and all things in Christ, to participate in the way that Christ possesses all people and things.
When Jesus calls someone to follow him, he promises a hundredfold reward: "And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life" (Mt 19:29).
In the vocation to religious life, there is a close identification with the Blessed Virgin Mary, the paragon of those called to life the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience. In her Immaculate Heart, we contemplate the beauty of a heat that belongs totally to God. In her fruitful virginity, we see the goal of a vocation: to bring Christ to the World.
Today we pray for all those who have given their lives to Christ. May they persevered in their vocation. May they always be the salt and light of the world. May the Holy Spirit open the hearts of those who are called to follow Jesus. May the Lord grant an increase of vocations to the consecrated life. Amen.