Recently I read a reflection that said the most radical words Jesus speaks in the Gospels are: “Love our enemies.” The last thing we want to do with those who we consider “enemies” or those who anger or aggravate us is to love them. Jesus goes even further in the Sermon on the Mount as He says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-45).
Besides people we see as enemies there are also those who make us feel threatened because they ask for or want something we can do for them but we do not want to get involved. It is so easy to protect our time and resources because we feel we work hard and deserve them. But there is a line between prudence and selfishness. The fact is all we are and have are blessings. Joy does not come from protecting and guarding, but from willingly and generously sharing who we are and what we have. In John 15:9-12: Jesus says, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” To love as Jesus loves us is the way to true joy in our lives. Without joy real Christ-like love does not exist. Without joy we give because we have to, are forced to, or feel guilty if we don’t, or we succeed in convincing ourselves that we have already done enough or we would be wasting our resources.
Jesus gave His life on the cross for us because He knew the joy both He and we would know if we allowed His love to become part of who we are and what we have. What more could we give that Jesus has not joyfully given to us? Last week we celebrated the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ and reflected on the gift of Jesus Himself in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. When we receive this Sacrament, when we eat the bread that is His Body, we have a truly Holy Communion, a truly holy union with God Himself. His joy in loving us fills us with gratitude and inspires, strengthens, and impels us to experience that same joy as we reach out in love to one another.
This weekend at Mass we are watching a video from the Catholic Ministries Appeal, a yearly appeal that seeks support from all the people and parishes of our diocese to reach out to those in need. I believe in the Appeal and donate to it every year. The funds collected enable many people who would otherwise be left needy and unassisted to find not only help and support, but also to experience God’s love through us. As the Church we are the Body of Christ, the presence of Jesus in our world. The more aware, concerned, and generous we are the more joy we experience and the more the words and love of Jesus bring hope, love, gratitude, and joy. Some of the recipients of this Appeal are those who are addicted. Every Tuesday afternoon I have the privilege of going to Talbot House, a facility near MacArthur Airport that welcomes those addicted to drugs and alcohol, to celebrate Mass with them. Talbot House is their initial step to begin the journey to rehabilitation. As they come in for Mass there is hope in their eyes. I greet them all and ask their names. After Mass, I invite who wish to receive the Sacrament of the Sick to come forward and I anoint them with the Holy Oil of this Sacrament, praying that they will find healing from this addiction. After celebrating these two Sacraments with them there is even hope in their eyes. It is evident that they are touched by the loving consoling, healing power of God’s love in this Sacrament of Healing. Yes, it is an initial step on a journey that will not be easy.
In my homily at the Mass there each week I tell them of our love for them and how we pray for them at every Mass in our parish in the petition where we seek God’s healing for all those who are suffering from sickness and addictions. This is another way we the people of St. Patrick’s parish are expressing our love and touching those who so need God’s help and our concern. The opioid crisis is very much in the headlines of the media. I have celebrated the funeral rites of some of the victims and have seen the sorrow of their parents. Each parent asks me to pray for their child and then goes on to say how their deceased child was such a wonderful, beautiful person. Like God, those who love us see far beyond any fault, failure, or addiction to the good that we are and the joy our love for them brings. Love can be frustrated, but the words of Jesus on the cross inspire, encourage, and sustain us in our sorrow. Our donations to the Catholic Ministries Appeal show not only our concern but in a very real way make a difference.
Another area where our donations to the Catholic Ministries Appeal bring hope and encouragement is the support it gives to the Seminary where young men are preparing to become priests to serve our diocese. Once again this year we are blessed to have a seminarian, Chris Heller, with us for ten weeks as part of his training for the priesthood. I look at him and see a good, spiritual young man who is touched by the goodness and love of the people and staff of our parish. He is a source of hope for us and the Church in our diocese. There are far fewer priests than when I was ordained in 1971. St. Patrick’s used to be a four-priest parish, now it is a three-priest parish. There are more than forty parishes with just one priest assigned in our diocese of 133 parishes. More than ever we need young men to discern God’s call to serve as priests. At every Mass in our parish we also pray for an increase of vocations to the priesthood and religious life. I am truly grateful that God has called me to be a priest and have been blessed with all the people in the parishes I have been assigned to. Each day I begin my prayers saying to God, “Thank you for the gift of life, the gift of faith, and the gift of priesthood.” May more and more young men come to know my forty-seven years of joy and humble gratitude. You, the people of our parish, are a blessing to me as I pray for and with you every day. Please join with me in helping to support the Seminary through the Catholic Ministries Appeal. May we all find the joy Jesus calls us to through our generosity and loving concern for one another.BACK TO LIST