In this Year of Consecrated Life, Archbishop Christian Lépine publishes a message to the faithful of the diocese.
"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5, 48)
This call to perfection that Jesus addresses to those who are following Him resonates with us like an echo. It is through the Baptism we received that we are invited to configure ourselves into the Son as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus. The sacrament of Baptism made us children of God and members of the Body of Christ which forms the Church. Some baptized women and men heard in a particularly intense way this call of Jesus and interpreted it into a very specific vocation to follow Him and try to imitate Him. These people responded to their vocation with patience and perseverance by living the evangelical counsels and meeting together in communities in order to live the endless search for perfection through charity. They often discover new and varied ways of heeding the Lord's call. "Like a tree which has grown in the field of the Lord, various forms of solidarity and community life, as well as various religious families have branched out in a marvelous and multiple way from this divinely given seed. Such a multiple and miraculous growth augments both the progress of the members of these various religious families themselves and the welfare of the entire Body of Christ." (Lumen Gentium, no 43).
From its inception, the Church has answered with solicitude those who were trying to live an authentic and committed Christian life. By coming together, these men and women shed light on a specific charism of the Church, missioned by the Master to make disciples. It is with gratitude that we look back at the past to see a multitude of works of charity and prayer that brought more humanity into the heart of the world and in the peripheral areas of misery and distress. These witnesses of faith who are committed to living according to the evangelical counsels bring in their wake additional civility and conviviality to our social life. Closer to home, while some contemplatives were carrying in their prayers the needs of our society, sisters, brothers and priests responded to all kinds of important needs to the best of their abilities. How many consecrated people have in actual fact given their life to others and become reflections of the invisible God? Nowadays, the landscape seems quite different to us. The scarcity of responses to the calling of consecrated life and the challenges of the renewal of their communities remind us of the circumstances surrounding their initial promises. Just as when we first discover the love of God, as baptized people, we are invited to live the present with passion and join in mutual support of the Church, as a community of communities. Through the testimony of our faith, we provide a little bit of the "salt of the earth". With our questions and uncertainties and the challenge of making the Lord's call better heard, we are turning towards the future with serenity, confidence and hope: God will still provide many disciples who will continue the journey that we have undertaken. For we believe that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).
During this year of 2015, we want to rekindle, in prayer, these feelings of gratitude, love and hope. We want to live a year of grace in line with the grace that God continues to grant by arousing in the heart of baptized people this desire to follow in the footsteps of his Envoy, Jesus his Son. Since the first Christians who gathered to listen to the Word, to sing praises with one heart, to break a same bread around a table and to share their goods in common (Acts 2,42), Jesus has fulfilled his promise to remain in the midst of those who gather in his name (Matthew 18:20). May this year of Consecrated life be for us the opportunity to meet, to pray together and to engage again with the people who are awaiting the warmth of a radiance lit up by the Gospel. May this year of Consecrated life enrich our "search for perfect charity" in order to renew our response to the invitation of the Lord who is repeating like an echo:
"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48)
May God, in this year of 2015, fill with his blessing all those who devote their life to the Sequela Christi. We pray to God so that the face of the Church may appear illuminated with the full light of the Gospel that radiates with the testimony of the people who are faithfully devoted to putting evangelical counsels into practice.
+ Christian Lépine
Archbishop of Montreal