John the Baptist, who is to be born of Zechariah, a priest from the division of Abijah, and to Elizabeth his wife who is from the tribe of Aaron, is himself born into a priestly clan. Thus, like Samson of the Old Testament, “this boy is to be consecrated to the Lord from the womb.” To be sanctified by the Holy Spirit in the womb of his mother Elizabeth, John will perpetually live “in the tent of meeting”, that is, he is a priest not only at certain moments, but with his whole existence. Consecrated to the Lord, John the Baptist belongs to the Lord and only to him.
This year is the Year of Consecrated Life for the whole Church. This is a year of thanksgiving for the countless men and women who have decided to follow Christ more closely by living out the evangelical counsels of Poverty, chastity, and obedience. Like John the Baptist, religious men and women are consecrated to the Lord. When we talk about consecrated people, we often have the impression that we are dealing with very serious, long faced people. And yet, Pope Francis tries to change this false impression by emphasizing that the beauty of consecrated life is joy. “There is no holiness in sadness.” He reiterates that consecrated people must always be seen as happy people. Their lives must radiate the joy and beauty of living the Gospel and following Christ to the full. “We are called to know and show that God is able to fill our hearts to the brim with happiness; that we need not seek our happiness elsewhere; that the authentic fraternity found in our communities increases our joy; and that our total self-giving in service to the Church, to families and young people, to the elderly and the poor, brings us life-long personal fulfilment.” (Apostolic Letter to all Consecrated Persons on the occasion of the Year of Consecrated Life, II, 1)
John the Baptist was a prophet. Like him, consecrated persons are also called to be prophets “since the distinctive sign of consecrated life is prophecy.” (Letter, III, 2.) “’Radical evangelical living is not only for religious: it is demanded of everyone. But religious follow the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way.’ This is the priority that is needed right now: ‘to be prophets who witness to how Jesus lived on this earth… a religious must never abandon prophecy’ (29 November 2013).” Thus, the Pope calls on the religious to “wake up the world.”
Who are the prophets? “Prophets (are people who) receive from God the ability to scrutinize the times in which they live and to interpret events: they are like sentinels who keep watch in the night and sense the coming of the dawn (cf. Is 21:11-12). Prophets know God and they know the men and women who are their brothers and sisters. They are able to discern and denounce the evil of sin and injustice. Because they are free, they are beholden to no one but God, and they have no interest other than God. Prophets tend to be on the side of the poor and the powerless, for they know that God himself is on their side.” (Ibid.)
To be prophets of joy: this is our task. Our joy is to bring God’s consolation to a world where there is a lack of joy: “We are not called to accomplish epic feats or to proclaim high-sounding words, but to give witness to the joy that arises from the certainty of knowing we are loved, from the confidence that we are saved.” Bearers of the consolations of God, we speak of his Divine Tenderness. “Every Christian, and especially you and I, we are called to be bearers of this message of hope giving serenity and joy, God’s consolation, his tenderness towards all. But if we first experience the joy of being consoled by him, of being loved by him, then we can bring that joy to others.”
Jesus, I trust in you! O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!