On the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Pope Francis met with priests, deacons, consecrated persons, and seminarians in Kinshasa’s Cathedral of Our Lady of the Congo. Reflecting on the encounter between Simeon and the Christ Child, which is commemorated in the feast, the Holy Father drew out the lesson: “When we place Jesus at the centre of our lives, our outlook changes, and despite all our efforts and difficulties, we feel enveloped by His light, comforted by His Spirit, encouraged by His Word, and sustained by His love.”
He reminded those with religious vocations that, despite “enormous challenges,” there is nonetheless “great joy in the service of the Gospel.” Clergy and religious, the Pope said, are called to be witnesses of God’s love, by anointing His people today “with the balm of consolation and hope.
Pope Francis emphasized that priests, sisters, missionaries, and others called to religious service are called to be servants of the people, “to act as signs of Christ’s presence, of His unconditional love, His reconciliation and forgiveness, and His compassionate concern for the needs of the poor.”
But this service, he said, will always be lived in the face of challenges and difficulties, including spiritual mediocrity, worldly comfort, and superficiality. These challenges can be overcome, he said, through prayer, both public and private; through forgetting oneself and devoting one’s life to others; and by being “educated, well-trained, and passionate” witnesses of the Gospel.
“These challenges have to be faced” he continued, “if we want to serve people as witnesses of God’s love.”
“To be good priests, deacons and consecrated persons, words and intentions are not enough: your lives must speak louder than your words.”
Acknowledging the difficulties faced by the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pope Francis reminded the clergy and religious of Jesus, the Good Samaritan, pausing to care for the wounds of the oppressed. “Brothers and sisters, the ministry to which you are called is precisely this,” he said: “To offer closeness and consolation, like a light that keeps shining amid the encircling gloom.”
Offering his heartfelt thanks to priests, deacons, religious men and women, and seminarians, Pope Francis urged them not to be discouraged “because we need you!” Speaking in the name of the whole Church, he insisted “You are precious and important.” And he invited them to “always be channels of the Lord’s consoling presence, joyous witnesses of the Gospel, prophets of peace amid the storms of violence, disciples of love, ever ready to care for the wounds of the poor and suffering.”