Circular Letter No. 9/14a
This year’s season of advent becomes even more relevant for all of us because the Universal Church has declared this new liturgical year as “The Year of Consecrated Life.” The Philippine Church has added to this significant theme by declaring this year also as “The Year of the Poor.” This should all the more make us realize that there truly is an unbreakable bond between our life of religious consecration and our life of service to the poor. Our consecrated life would not have its full meaning if it does not answer to the needs of the people around us especially the poor for whom a consecrated religious is called by God.
St. Luke proclaims, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed. (Luke 4:8).”
We realize that our life of consecration is a call of love. The Lord loves us and that is why He called us. We remember the moment we become conscious we have a religious calling. We felt so loved by the Lord; we felt that we are “precious in His sight.” (Isaiah 43:4) It felt then like a “walk in the clouds.”
The call however should not end with this feeling of being special, rather it urges the person called to take on the necessary exodus from himself to the very One who calls him. The beloved puts on the garments of the Lover. Shot by love’s arrow, he proclaims as St. Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). And so having been conformed in to the image of the One who loves and who calls, the consecrated person himself becomes the instrument of love for others specially the poor; the loved one in turn becomes the lover. The call of love becomes the call to love because much that the Lord loves the person He called to a life of consecration, the Lord loves His people equally as much.
It is not as if the One who loves imposes and impinges Himself on His beloved. But he humbly becomes like him, lives like him and incarnates like him so that in responding to the one who initially loved the beloved would have been transformed.
And so, though “beloved,” the consecrated religious is not to set himself apart from the experiences of those whom he is supposed to love and serve- the poor most specially; that in his living like them and his presence among them he may be the source of their joy, their hope and the strength for their faith and the agent of their transformation.
Our consecrated life becomes significant and relevant in this, that in this fragmented and secularized world there is still the space for God. Consecrated life points to the choice which is the “better part” (Luke 10:42). We hope it shall not be taken away from us.
The challenge then for us in this year’s season of Advent and in the days to come is ever more live authentically our life of consecration- fraternity, poverty, minority and prayer, our Capuchin Franciscan way of life. We should guard those which keep us away from living it faithfully; meticulously discerning consistently.
Our Gospel fraternal life is a sign and a means of Christ’s coming to us and to the people around us, let us keep alive burning relentlessly and let us truly witness to it!
A blessed Advent to all of you my dear brothers!
Br. Eugenio Juanilo P. Lopez, OFMCap.
Capuchin Philippine Province
December 3, 2014