"Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, in a recent homily for the eleventh World Day of Consecrated Life offers us a beautiful image of religious life. He reflects on the Gospel figures of Simeon and Anna, who long to see the Messiah and speak of him to others. 'So also in our time,' the Holy Father observes, 'especially among young people, there is a widespread need to encounter God. Those who are chosen by God for the consecrated life make this spiritual longing their own in a definitive way. In it, in fact, they have one expectation: the Kingdom of God, that God reign in our will, in our hearts, in the world. In them burns a unique thirst for love which can be quenched by the Eternal One alone.'
"In the marvel of God's plan each of us is called to walk with Jesus on the journey that will bring us to the experience of God in this life and to eternal joy with God in the life to come.
"None of us make our way through life alone. God is with us, beckoning us, prompting us, urging us in the Holy Spirit to respond to Jesus' gracious invitation to become his adopted brother or sister so that with our yes of faith, we can so change our lives that we are worthy to be presented to the Father as part of his family.
"We see all around us the fruits of holiness in the lives of truly faithful followers of Christ, even in an imperfect world marred by failure, compromise and sin. Our own era is not without its testimony to the holiness found in the lives of so many faithful women and men. one of the great gifts to the Church is the call to consecrated life. In the response to that call and in the religious life we find a manifestation not only of the holiness of the Church, but also testimony to the Kingdom of God already present in our world.
"Pope John Paul II, in the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Vita Consecrata, The Consecrated Life speaks of the religious life as a call from God 'to show that the Incarnate Son of God is the eschatological goal towards which all things tend, the splendor before which every other light pales, and the infinite beauty which alone can fully satisfy the human heart.'
"The same document reminds us that in the consecrated life 'it is not only a matter of following Christ with one's whole heart, of loving him, 'more than father or mother, more than son or daughter' (cf. Mt 10:37) -- for this is required of every disciple -- but of living and expressing this by conforming one's whole existence to Christ in an all-encompassing commitment which foreshadows the eschatological perfection, to the extent that this is possible in time and in accordance with the different charisms.'
"In the history of the Church the call to live and manifest the evangelical counsels has been articulated in a wide range of responses expressed in monastic life, the order of virgins, institutes completely devoted to contemplation, apostolic religious life, secular institutes and societies of apostolic life.
"The religious vocation is primarily a call to generosity of spirit, giving ourselves, our hearts, our wills, our natural desire for spouse and children, our plans and even our weaknesses to the Lord. It is a call to be radically faithful to the teachings of the Church, to work in union with the Holy Father and local bishops, and to serve our neighbor without counting the cost. Consecrated life is, Pope Benedict XVI remarks in his homily, 'by its nature a total and definite, unconditional and passionate response to God.'
"Religious invite us to pause and consider that reality, the Kingdom of God in our midst, a Kingdom of peace and light, a Kingdom of mercy and forgiveness, a Kingdom of life and love. like Simeon and Anna, they long for the Messiah and strive with God's grace to follow him closely and to speak of him to others. Their witness to his Kingdom is a precious gift for which each of us can be sincerely grateful.
"As we rejoice in the commitment and testimony of religious, we also need to pray that God abundantly bless his Church with the promptings of the Spirit to touch the hearts of our young people so that they will generously respond to God's call. In addition to our prayers, we can also actively encourage our young people to listen to the quiet voice of the Spirit who may be challenging them: 'Friend, come close' (Lk 14:10).
"Each of us has a responsibility to foster vocations to religious life and to encourage the next generation of witnesses to the coming of God's Kingdom in our world."