“The one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Today we honor the jubilarians among the religious sisters who worked here in the Diocese of Orlando. In doing so, we recognize their humble service and join them in thanking God for this exalted vocation – that of living the evangelical counsels as consecrated women.
Sisters, you belong to a variety of congregations and seek to live out – for the building up of the Church – a variety of charisms. But wherever the Church is at work – defending and promoting human persons and the common good – you are there. And you are there not in those first places where you could bask in the approval of the crowds. More often than not, you are in the last places – which makes your witness all the more powerful and prophetic. For, as Jesus tells us in today’s gospel, the last place is the place of the disciple. As consecrated members of Christ’s faithful, vowed to poverty, chastity, and obedience, your lives are signs of contradiction. And as such your lives encourage others; your lives challenge others, to take a position regarding Jesus.
This Jesus is not a remote figure remembered from a long past history. Rather, for you, he is a living person, a person with whom one can have an intimate friendship, a friendship which has inspired you to follow him without compromise In your journey – and today we recognize significant milestones along your way – you have contemplated the face of Christ both hidden under the veil of Word and Sacrament but also in the many disguises –some of them sometimes disagreeable, as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta often said – of the poor, the marginalized, the abandoned, the frightened. You have done this at a time of great cultural and social change – and therefore have always had to be ready to “start afresh from Christ” in order to bear credible witness to his love.
Your life’s journey as a vowed religious has been like that of the Virgin Mary’s own journey: a pilgrimage of faith and consecration. A pilgrim cannot be weighed down by extra baggage. And for this reason the evangelical counsels help you mirror in your own lives Mary’s free response to the Lord’s invitation. Poverty, chastity and obedience lived according to the spirit of your own congregation’s rule of life have freed you for the journey. May her prayers – and her example – continue to encourage you on your journey. May you always echo her words in your lives: before God, may you say with her – be it done unto me according to your word; before men, make you instruct them as she instructed the servants at Cana: – do whatever he tells you.
The consecrated life calls you to humble service within an exalted vocation: by belonging entirely to God, you belong entirely to your brothers and sisters.
And, in the name of these brothers and sisters whom you have served so well and so faithfully over the years, and for the service that you have given this local Church, I thank you. We all thank you for your humble service – and for your exalted vocation. Ad multos annos.