HOMILY OF JOHN CARDINAL NJUE, ARCHBISHOP OF NAIROBI AND PRESIDENT OF THE KENYA CATHOLIC BISHOPS CONFERENCE ON THE OCCASION OF THE LAUNCHING OF THE YEAR OF CONSECRATED LIFE IN KENYA

27 NOVEMBER 2014
A Section of Brothers and Sisters in the Consecrated Life at Resurrection Gardens during the Mass

A Section of Brothers and Sisters in the Consecrated Life at Resurrection Gardens during the Mass

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

As many of you are already aware, His Holiness Pope Francis has announced that the Year of Consecrated Life would be celebrated from the 30th of November 2014, the First Sunday of Advent, until the 2nd of February 2016. However, we are taking the occasion of our gathering as a family of Christ’s Faithful in Kenya to launch the Year of Consecrated Life here in our country. On this day, we are also culminating the two days of intensive preparation for the Year of Consecrated Life which several of you have attended as delegates from the various dioceses of Kenya.

Unlike other celebrations declared by our Church, the Year of Consecrated Life is an activity that is calling those of you who have formally consecrated yourselves to God through the religious vows or through similar bonds acknowledged by the Church to a fourteen-month period of intense reflection. Of course, it will be an occasion for those of us in the diocesan clergy and the lay faithful to rejoice with you and acknowledge the wonderful contributions you have made in the Church of Kenya.

To those of you, our dear nuns, who live a monastic life within the confines of your cloisters – we thank you for strengthening our activities with your prayers and for reminding all of us that the life of prayer is essential for anyone who seeks to follow Christ.

To those of you, our dear missionaries, who have left the comforts in your countries to work here in Kenya – we thank you for accepting the invitation of past and present popes to contribute to the development of our local Churches.

To those of you, our dear religious priests, sisters and brothers, who work tirelessly in our curial offices, parishes, schools, hospitals, dispensaries and other institutions – we thank you for your selfless dedication in “bringing the Good News to the poor, opening the eyes of the blind, setting the prisoners free, and proclaiming the salvation of all.”

Our dear consecrated women and men, we know that your work in the harvest of the Lord has not always been easy. Given the challenges you are facing today because of the decline in vocations to the religious life, We know that some of you are struggling with the issues that make you doubt the future of your religious congregations in particular and of the Consecrated Life in general.

May the words of the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ – He to whom you have dedicated your entire selves – bring you the consolation you need in your journey towards the Kingdom: “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Bear in mind, however, that this Year of Consecrated Life has been provided for you by the Holy See as a time of intense reflection regarding the way you had been faithful to the religious life you profess to live. In her teachings, the Church has acknowledged that when you, consecrated women and men, are truly faithful to the vows you have publicly pronounced before the Faithful, you become effective signs of the Kingdom of God to other Christians and to the world. However, this Year of Consecrated Life was not meant for your self-glorification – rather, the next fourteen months have been given for you as individual religious and as communities to examine yourselves. In the first reading, we saw how the first Christians showed the way for following Christ. They held steadfastly to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship. They lived together and had all things in common. Day after day, they attended the temple together and broke bread in their homes. While the example of the first Christians should be one that all followers of Christ today should uphold, you, consecrated women and men, are called to be more effective signs to the world of such discipleship. Thus, I invite you to examine yourselves:

 Are you truly living in communion with your local hierarchy – or have you set yourselves apart and choose not to collaborate in their undertakings for the sake of the People of God?

 Are you truly living in communities where you treat each other as brothers and sisters – or are you living in communities that have become dysfunctional and tense because of jealousy, competition, individualism, ethnic tribalism? Do you value each member in your community, not because of how much one brother or sister earns, but because you are truly sons or daughters of the same founders?

 Are you truly worshipping God and breaking bread together – or have you reduced your lives of prayer to monotonous routines? Are each of you too busy to come together in praising God as a community?

The Gospel also presents a challenge to all you consecrated women and men today. Our Lord Jesus glorified the Father in this manner: “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding, and revealed them to infants.” A life of simplicity and docility to the Spirit makes each of us children before God, attentively listening to His counsels and paying attention to the gifts He had gratuitously given to us for the sake of the Kingdom. More than any other member of Christ’s Faithful, you, consecrated women and men, are supposed to be informed and constantly challenged by the religious charism of your respective congregations. However, the Church is all too aware that many of you have reduced such a precious gift from the Spirit into meaningless slogans. Perhaps you have become too busy with work or become too focused in professionalization that you have no time or, worse, lost the desire to examine your charism more intensely.

My dear brothers and sisters in the Consecrated Life, I present these challenges to you without any expectation that you will give them an immediate answer. It is because of this that Holy Mother Church has given you this Year of Consecrated Life to ponder with clear hearts and minds over these questions. Throughout this year, your religious conferences – RSCK and AOSK – in collaboration with the Committee for the Clergy and Religious of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops and institutes of higher learning like Tangaza College will provide you with ways and means to engage with the questions that the Holy See is asking you to examine deeply. We, your brothers and sisters in the diocesan clergy and the lay faithful, assure you of our continued prayers so you may harvest well the fruits of this Year of Consecrated Life. May this launching of the Year of Consecrated Life be a blessed beginning for your period of self-examination so that, at its end, you may proclaim to all the world the invitation in today’s psalm:

Mfanyieni Bwana shangwe, dunia yote;

Mtumikieni Bwana kwa furaha;

Njoni mbele zake kwa kuimba!

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