In a moment we will witness the last vows of Fathers Hrvoje and Mate, and Brother Ivan, through which they will be definitively incorporated into the Society of Jesus.
This is happening here in the Basilica dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is hard to imagine a better place, because the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, cannot be understood and faithfully fulfilled, without reference to the mystery of God’s heart, which means without reference to the mystery of God’s love.
Today’s readings, which lead us through Lent to the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection, show us two images of God’s love: which is not discouraged by weakness or even sin, sometimes by terrible sin, of man; and which needs generous people in order to achieve its plan for all humankind.
The first picture is the story of the sons of Israel, the progenitors of the people who God chose to give his blessing. This is not a story of ideal people. The love of the father becomes a reason for jealousy, which blinds and destroys the bonds of brotherhood. This is not a distant story, because, unfortunately, in so many of our families we can experience both love and tragedy caused by jealousy and sin.
God does not forsake the sons of Israel. In a mysterious way, through Joseph, whom they got rid of by selling to Egypt, God prepares a mysterious plan through which he will save their whole family from hunger and will reconcile the conflicting brothers. The first generations of Christians quickly recognized in person of Joseph the Egyptian, the figure of Jesus, the Son of God offered to reconcile us with himself, with our brothers and with the whole world.
The difference between Joseph and Jesus is only that Jesus offered Himself willingly to offer His life in our reconciliation with God and the world.
Hrvoje, Mate and Ivan, who make their last vows in the Society of Jesus today, do so –by offering their lives in the footsteps of Jesus– to join in the great work of reconciliation between man and God, among men and between man and all creation. They make their last vows to join in the work of God’s love that moved them and inspired them with generosity. What allows you to be faithful to your religious vows once made? Only the constant renewal and persistence in this first love that comes from the heart of God himself, enables you to truly accomplish your religious vows.
How to explain this voluntary renunciation of marriage, of all exclusive relationships, of the right to possession, of the right to dispose of oneself, if it is neither natural nor forced? Where can the motivation to give up such a beautiful marital and family love, the right to possess and to dispose of oneself come from? After all, we are striving for all these values so much – and rightly so?
There is no other explanation than this: it is the answer to the love of God, the One who offered his Son to us, the one who takes us on his shoulders, teaches us to walk and moves us.
It is a delight with God’s love, with the heart of God that provokes a great desire to proclaim it with one’s life, not only with words. To proclaim it to all, pure without one’s own additions; through poor means, so that its richness may be visible; obediently, that is, by letting to be transformed by this love.
Dear Hrvoje, Mate and Ivan, at the end I would like to wish you always to be faithful to this love of God, which attracted you with human ties, ties of love and brought you here today.
So that you will never succumb to the temptation to reduce your vows to keep the commandments and norms. That is, chastity should not be merely a sexual abstinence, but a proclamation of God’s pure love, not yourselves. In order that poverty not to be turned into accounts of the standard of living, but that it be a trust in God’s power and an abandon to his love. So that obedience is not just a compromise, but a transformation of your heart into the model of Christ’s heart.