(Homily of Archbishop Valerian Okeke @ final Profession of immaculate Heart Sisters, Basilica of the most holy trinity, onitsha. 5th September 2020)
The life of the Consecrated is a blessing to the church. It is one of those charisms that shows, different blessings, and different colors with which the Church is beautified, and the community of humanity is blessed by God himself.
According to the Literature experts, a thing of beauty is a joy forever and we know as the elders will tell us that Goodness is attractive, goodness has a beauty, an inherent beauty in it that makes it glow, that holds an attractiveness, that draws you to admire, that gives joy and fulfilment. Goodness is attractive! the Joy of it all is that goodness is attractive and the greater the good, the more attraction it holds. That is why God who is the highest good holds the strongest attraction and fascination. This is the mystery of God because you don’t exhaust knowing it, you can’t explain enough why you are fascinated by it. All you know is that this beauty, invisible as He is, is drawing you towards it. It fascinates in such a way that you would want to come closer like Moses.
The beauty of the Consecrated life, why is it beautiful? Why is it attractive? Why is there splendor?
The Consecrated life is the life of Christ. It is the life, Christ himself chose to express his relationship with his heavenly Father as the only Son of the Father. when you try to live this life of the Consecrated, when you are privileged to have been called to live it. You are moving closer to the life of Christ, so the beauty of Christ, the strength of Christ and the Spirit of Christ shines out through you, so what is fascinating people is not you, it is not your height or your physical beauty, It is because you are doing what Cardinal Arinze calls “the most radical way of living the message of the gospel” the most radical way of following Christ, the most radical way of imitating his life. When you are imitating his life consciously and with all sincerity, the Spirit of Christ enters you and that beauty of Christ who is all good will shine out in you and the splendor/ the beauty of that life will hold the attraction that can only come from God. It will be drawing people like a magnet. It will give joy, it will give life, it will make a sad person come back to happiness, it will make even the dying to come back to health, it will make the quarrelsome to embrace peace. It will make people to follow you to go to God.
The beauty of the Consecrated life comes from the fact that it is the life of Christ and our blessed Mother Mary. It is life of poverty, chastity, and Obedience. It is the life of love, the life of prayers, it is the life of total filial submission and bonding with our heavenly Father. When you bond with our heavenly Father, the power of God will reflect through you, the love of God will come out through you, the strength of God will come out to empower his people, and the healing love of God will be healing his people and giving them life through you.
It is a privilege to be called and it is a beautiful life to live. But there is something you must know. In every action, there is what is called the moral object and the moral motive. Do not lose sleep over the terminology, it means that there is what the action naturally tends to and the intention of the doer. So, every action on earth has these two things. What the action naturally tends to and the intention of the doer.
My dear Sisters, as candidates taking their final vows, what is your moral motive; what is your own intention now?
It is not late to make up your intention, the Consecrated life is to live the life of Christ who was chaste, poor and obedient to the father who lived the life of total love, who lived the life of prayer, if you have not made up your mind that this is what you intend and what you want, do it now. If you have another motive, you are missing the mark. Our problem sometimes is that when you were a child you had wonderful intention, your intention tallies with what action naturally tends to. The religious life naturally tends to living the life of Christ, that’s what you want, and what you wanted when you entered.
Now mid-way, you change your mind, when you start choosing what you want to be, you want to be a counsellor, you want to be a mother- general, you want to teach in the university and not in the secondary school. You want to be a doctor and not a nurse or you want to be posted to Abuja and not Onitsha. Or you want to go to Lagos and not to Kano, then you have changed your motive.
When you change your motive, you have entered the wrong road, it is like somebody going somewhere and the person almost approaching his destination, suddenly changes to another route. When you now decide the type of sister you want to be, where you want to be posted, what you want to do, how you want to do it. You have missed the mark.
What do you then? Always renew that your intention. Always renew it to tally with the intention of the church and the reason for coming to become a Consecrated person.
How will the strength come? It comes through prayer, through meditation, through calling on our blessed mother for assistance, through telling God “without you I can do nothing! be with me, do not withdraw your grace from me! I want to follow you!, Never allow me to be separated from you!.”
What about us the brothers, the sisters, the relatives, the friends of the Consecrated?
We have a duty to pray for them. To support them through good advice. Never become an obstacle to their living this life. Whenever you are helping them to live it well the grace of that life will be coming back to you, the blessing from that life will be coming back to you. The joy of that life will be reflecting in your family.
My prayer is that all the relations both those here and those at home, all the family who have the Consecrated taken from their midst by God that you be blessed in body and in soul. That the promises made by God to those serving him will also come down upon us because of the positive support we have given and this is my prayer for you through Christ our Lord.
And for the Consecrated, we pray for the grace of perseverance, so that what you have stepped out to do, the life you have embraced, you will embrace with Joy and Live it out in Joy so that your life will be a glory to almighty God and a blessing to God’s own people through Christ our Lord. Amen
Peace be with you!