Saturday, 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Cycle I

Published: September 12, 2015

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during the 2015 Religious Jubilee Day at Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church in Little Rock on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015.

Bishop Taylor

Every year we gather to celebrate the jubilees of those who mark their 25th, 50th, 60th, 70th, 75th and even 80th anniversary of the day they first vowed formally and publicly to consecrate their entire life to the Lord in a specific religious community, with a specific charism and a specific way of life.

But what practically all religious communities have in common, whether contemplative or active, whether societies of apostolic life or institutes of consecrated life, is a period of novitiate, which serves as the foundation for all that follows. During your novitiate you were formed as a member of your community; you were invited into a deeper relationship with Jesus; you were provided with intensive spiritual direction to assist you in your struggle with sin and to help you discern better the movement of the Holy Spirit in your heart.

You learned the discipline of your community — sometimes the hard way. Your bonds with fellow members were developed and strengthened — including with those whom you didn't especially like and who exasperated you and even drove you nuts! In a word, they became your family. Your novitiate laid the foundation for all that followed.

You will face some excessively dry periods in which if neglected, your spiritual life could shrink and your foundation crack due to lack of spiritual moisture.

In today's Gospel, Jesus says that laying a solid foundation is even more important for a healthy relationship with God. And that to be solid, this foundation has to be based on two things: 1.) listening to Jesus' words, and 2.) acting on them. One without the other is not enough. So while our contemplative orders may focus more on listening to God's word, their foundation is not solid unless they also act on that word — obviously within the parameters of the charism of their community.

And while the active orders focus more on the apostolate, on activity in the world, their foundation is not solid unless they first spend a great deal of time in prayer, listening to God's word. Otherwise, how are they supposed to know what to do? During your novitiate, you were taught to listen to God's word and then to act on it, thus laying your foundation on rock. In this way, should adversities of any sort come your way — discouragement, mid-life issues and so on — you will not be shaken because you have built your life on a solid foundation.

But you know, houses need constant maintenance and if neglected, even a good foundation can crack. For instance, during an exceptionally hot, dry summer in which the soil under the house gets excessively dry and shrinks for lack of moisture. And the same is true for you once novitiate is over. You will face some excessively dry periods in which if neglected, your spiritual life could shrink and your foundation crack due to lack of spiritual moisture.

It is a risk we all face. And that too is part of the witness that our jubilarians offer to the rest of us today. The importance of spending a lifetime building on the solid foundation laid during novitiate, seeking each day to listen to God's word and act on it. Jubilarians, we thank you today for listening to God's word so many years ago, and for then acting on it, saying "yes" to his invitation to dedicate your entire life to him and to us. And we thank you for all the ways in which you have continued to listen to his word and act on it ever since.