Consecrated Life–A Treasure of God’s Reign
Words are fascinating! You know that feeling when you say a word over and over and, even though it’s a word you use all the time, suddenly it sounds strange. I was flipping through a book, Apostolic Religious Life in America Today: A Response to the Crisis, and came across an essay entitled: Consecrated Life – Witness to Destiny. The word ‘destiny’ caught my attention and I began to ponder it, repeating it to myself and playing around with the inflection – des-tiny, destin-y, de-stiny. Have you ever played the ‘word association game’? One person chooses a word, says it aloud, then the next person has to say the first thing that comes into their mind when they hear the word. The game can continue indefinitely…
Destiny … Expectation… Hope… Anticipation… Waiting…
A non-Christian might think more of words like ‘fate’ or ‘luck’ but as Christians we know our destiny and we know it has nothing to do with luck. In his encyclical Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict speaks about all of these things and he asks the question: ‘Eternal Life – what is it?’ That’s a good question. What exactly is it that we are waiting for?
Jesus preached ‘The Kingdom’ – in His words and with His very life. People were drawn to hear and see Him because their hearts knew that the Kingdom is what they were made for. Nothing has changed in the human heart since the time of Jesus – its gravity pulls every person in Heaven’s direction, even if some are not paying enough attention to their hearts to notice it. Peter Kreeft, in his book Fundamentals of the Faith, says: ‘[Heaven] won’t appear strange and faraway and “supernatural”, but utterly natural. Heaven is what we were designed for. All our epics seek it: it is the “home” of Odysseus, of Aeneas, of Frodo, of E.T. Heaven is not escapist. Worldliness is escapist. Heaven is home’.
At the same time, Pope Benedict tells us, ‘God’s Kingdom is not an imaginary hereafter, situated in a future that will never arrive; his Kingdom is present wherever He is loved and wherever his love reaches us.’ So the Kingdom is here ‘already and not yet.’ Hmmm. He continues: ‘His love alone gives us the possibility of soberly persevering day by day, without ceasing to be spurred on by hope, in a world, which by its very nature is imperfect. At the same time his love is our guarantee of the existence of what we only vaguely sense and which nevertheless, in our deepest self, we await: a life that is “truly” life.’ (Spe Salvi 31)
Consecrated life is an eschatological sign. It points the present world towards Heaven. Religious are the Church’s countersign to the secular ideology that life’s final and definitive end is nothing more and nothing less than death itself. Our faith continues Jesus’ mission of preaching the Kingdom. Our faith denies death’s finality.
The author of Consecrated Life – Witness to Destiny, Fr. Hugh Cleary C.S.C., calls the consecrated life ‘a treasure of God’s reign.’ In giving herself undividedly to the Lord the consecrated woman says by her profession of the vows: ‘Lord, reign in me. Reign over my heart and my affections. Reign over my will. Reign over my gifts and talents. Reign over my possessions. Reign over my hopes and dreams. Reign over my entire life.’ And in this way she becomes a living example, a living sign, an actual living presence of the Lord’s reign – the Kingdom of God. When people see this their hearts should be stirred, even if sub-consciously, to the truth that ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand.’ The consecrated woman proclaims the reality of God’s reign of love in which she lives and moves and has her very being. She becomes a witness to hope, a witness to ‘a life that is truly life,’ a ‘witness to destiny.’
Destiny… Kingdom of God… Eternal Life… Heaven… Home