ROME — Men and women religious need to live out their mission serving people by having their gaze fixed on God, not on worldly things, Pope Francis said.

Keeping Jesus as one’s “first and only love” helps consecrated men and women be able, “as is our duty, to truly and mercifully love everyone we meet on our journey because we will have learned from him what love is and how to love,” the pope said in a written letter.

The letter was sent to men and women religious in Brazil who were celebrating the Week of Consecrated Life Aug. 16-22. Vatican News published excerpts from the letter Aug. 17.

In order to give oneself to others and serve them with joy, the pope wrote, it is necessary to “keep one’s gaze fixed on Jesus,” otherwise one risks seeing things with “worldly” eyes.

The best antidote, he wrote, is to make prayer a priority because “whoever keeps their gaze fixed on Jesus learns to live for serving” others.

To be authentic in one’s religious life is to live out a vocation that is built on a real, lived experience of knowing one is loved by God, he said in the letter.

Members of religious orders must be joyful, he said, and this comes by giving oneself to others.

It is important “to be vigilant in avoiding the temptation to have a worldly view, which hampers seeing God’s grace as the protagonist of life and which leads us to going to seek any sort of substitute,” he wrote.