“Repeating the Life of Christ: The Gift of Consecrated Life in the Church”

Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time
February 4, 2024
Readings from Year “B”: Job 7:1-4, 6-7; 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23; Mark 1:29-39
Homily delivered at St. Mary’s Cathedral
on the occasion of
The Archdiocesan Celebration of the World Day of Consecrated Life


We hear from the Gospel of St. Mark throughout the current liturgical year, and we are early on in his Gospel. The passage we heard today is still within the first day of Jesus’s public ministry. So, this is right after his baptism. Then you recall, he goes into the desert, where he is tempted, and then he picks his first disciples. In Mark’s version here, he picks as his first ones the two sets of fisherman brothers, Peter and Andrew, and James and John.

And then Jesus goes forth and he begins his work of preaching and healing and teaching. He begins by preaching repentance. The very first thing that he does is proclaim a call for repentance because the Kingdom of God is near. And then he goes about doing healings and exorcisms. This was all on the first day.

Identity and Mission

And with these miraculous healings and exorcisms, we see immediately manifested that he has a special power. We see signs of Jesus’s divine origin.

Two-Fold Identity

Right before the passage we heard today, Jesus casts out a demon from a man in a synagogue, immediately showing the power he has over evil spirits. Then, we hear about his healing powers in this Gospel passage, the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. And then we hear about how people are constantly seeking him out because they see he has these special curative and restorative powers. And as Mark tells us, he cured many who were sick with various diseases and he drove out many demons.

But if we read between the lines, we can also see into Jesus’s humanity. Certainly, we can see that humanity in the compassion he had for those who were suffering, but there is another factor as well. And if we continue reading on, we see how he keeps trying to get away. He wants to find some solitude to pray, to spend time alone with his Father.

But the people keep tracking him down and they catch up to him because they have needs.

And so even here, as Mark tells us, Jesus rose, as Mark puts it, “very early before dawn.” So, there is this kind of double emphasis: “very early” and “before dawn.”

He left to go off to his deserted place to pray, but the people nonetheless caught up, and Simon and those other disciples pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” So, we see this pattern repeated throughout the first part of St. Mark’s gospel. Jesus keeps trying to get away, then the people catch up, and he always takes care of them, but he also does not give up on trying to find some time to be alone with his Father.

Coming Attractions

We also see hints here of what is to come later, especially in the way Mark describes the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law: “he approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.” Her rising from the deathbed is already a hint at Jesus’s own resurrection, which is still to come. And then Mark notes that as soon as the fever left her, “she waited on them.” She immediately turns in service to others, just as Christ in his Resurrection: he appears to those first disciples, but he continues to be our Savior from heaven.

We also see hints of things to come in the sense of sort of dark clouds looming on the horizon because after all, he had to pass through his Passion in order to arrive at the Resurrection. Note the word Mark uses here, that the people “pursued him.” It literally has a sense of “hunting down.” We find this word used in the Old Testament about the Israelites being “pursued” by Pharaoh’s forces. We see it in the Psalms when they speak about how the innocent sufferer is “pursued” by the unjust.

The Life of Religious

So, we see hints here of how Jesus will be pursued by the unjust because they misunderstand him. But this all is an early lesson in what his mission will be and continues to be for us. In this sense, it is the pattern of the commitment, I would say, of the vocation of consecrated religious, whom we celebrate today.

Of course, the entire Church has a mission inherited from her Lord, and we received his marching orders, right? – the Great Commission to go forth and make disciples of all nations. However, within this family where we all have some role to play, consecrated persons occupy what Pope Francis refers to as “a specific role and a particular gift.” In his message to consecrated persons on the occasion of the World Day for Consecrated Life last year, he said:

All together we are members of the Church, and the Church has been on a mission since the first day, sent by the Risen Lord, and will be until the end, with the strength of his Spirit. And in the People of God, sent to bring the Gospel to all humanity, you consecrated persons have a specific role, that derives from the particular gift you have received: a gift that gives your witness a special character and value, for the very fact that you are fully dedicated to God and to his Kingdom, in poverty, virginity and obedience. If each person is a mission in the Church, then each and every one of you is a mission with a grace of your own, as a consecrated person.*

That mission of the consecrated person is above all to be with Jesus, just like those first disciples, who sought him out, always wanting to be with him. Yet, I think that for consecrated religious, their experience can often be like that of our Lord as St. Mark describes it, looking for solitude with him. You want that peaceful time of prayer and those special moments, but then you are pushed in all kinds of directions, getting very busy, because of the particular gift, what in the Church we call the “charism”: the gift that God gives to the founder of the community, that the community shares in for the service of the Church.

I wonder how often you consecrated religious have found yourselves in that situation. A young person sets out on the vocation with a burning desire to serve Jesus, to be with him, to know him, and to serve him through the charism of the congregation, thinking that it is to teach and spend time with the Lord or to take care of the sick, to feed the poor, but there is always a business side to it. You have to manage finances, you have to manage personnel, you have to manage property. There are all kinds of business type issues that come up that can sometimes drive religious in all kinds of different directions.

So, I see it kind of like this pattern of the people keep catching up with our Lord, and he always takes care of them but does not give up on seeking time for prayer. Above all, for consecrated religious, their consecration makes this more than a social service. It is more than teaching. It is more than taking care of the physically ill. It is sharing the love of Jesus, which is exactly his approach. Jesus attended to the material needs. It was those material needs – their illness, their demonic possession, they always had some kind of urgent need that drives them to seek him out – and he cares for them in order to get to the soul, to arrive at the true eternal healing, which is the spiritual healing. This is who consecrated religious are for us, caring for the needs of the people in order to share the love of Jesus so they might know him, encounter him, and come to be saved.


Which brings us to the true value of that specific role and particular gift to which Pope Francis refers – this is a particular gift they have in the mission of the Church, and that is the very consecration itself – this is the greatest gift. The very presence of consecrated persons in the life of the Church is the greatest gift. It goes far beyond what they do for others, which is so great indeed, but as great as it is, it goes beyond that. It is who they are – consecrated to Jesus to repeat in their lives his very being as the poor, chaste and obedient one.

In this sense, they also repeat in their lives the example of St. Paul. What does he tell us that we heard in our second reading? “What then is my recompense? That when I preach, I offer the gospel free of charge so as not to make full use of my right to the gospel.” He had to emphasize this because he was misunderstood, that he had a right to some recompense, but he turned it down. So, there were people who were accusing him of not being confident in his preaching as if he were not worthy to be paid anything for it. But he emphasizes that is not why he refused the compensation. He did so in order to convince his listeners of the truth of the gospel. He did it all to win them over to Christ.

Is not this the vocation and love of the consecrated religious? It is all for the love of Christ and for the sake of his gospel, forsaking all else for that. Like St. Paul, like our Lord himself, consecrated persons are often misunderstood, even underappreciated. Many people do not understand what this commitment is all about. They may think it is a waste or even something negative. The only answer to explain this commitment is love, love of Jesus Christ and the desire to make him known to others through their charism, that particular gift that God gave to the one who founded their community and continues to be shared throughout that community.


The consistent and steady witness of consecrated persons presents a challenge to the world. It presents the unavoidable question, the question of the existence of God and what happens after death, and therefore, how one will regulate one’s life accordingly. The world often does not like to be reminded of this, but it cannot be avoided because we will all face death someday. We will all face the four last things, whether we think about it or not.

But consecrated persons are there as a constant reminder: there is no hiding from God. The radicalness of their decision to set all aside to pursue Jesus Christ and to proclaim and live his gospel, free of charge and without any encumbrance, is a stimulus for all of us to seek greater perfection in him through our own proper vocation.

To our dear consecrated religious, and especially those of you celebrating milestone anniversaries of your consecration this year, we express to you a resounding and emphatic “thank you” to match the resounding and emphatic “yes” you gave to Jesus Christ in accepting this extraordinary call in your life. And we pray that many young people will follow your example of courage and conviction and give their “yes” to Christ by responding to his invitation to identify uniquely with him and so become all things to all for the sake of the gospel and the salvation of souls. Amen.

* https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/consecrated_life/documents/20230202-messaggio-gm-vitaconsacrata.html