Bishop Noonan reflects on celebrations of life

“Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.” 1 Cor 12:27

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.  The Christmas season has ended and we continue with the season of God Among Us!  The Scripture of the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time speaks to the mission of the Church:  Ezra calls upon the people to recognize God among them proclaiming the day holy; St. Paul reminds us that we are now one in Christ; and St. Luke tells us of Christ’s mission, to which we are all called to serve in holiness,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord (Luke 4:18,19).

During this month of January, our focus is on life, the life we receive from God and our life which we offer back to God in all that we are.  We recognize life as sacred in the birth of Christ and follow His life through our journey of Scripture.  We observed January 22 as a day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children, praying for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life and of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion.  St. Pope John Paul II wrote in Evangelium Vitae, “A great prayer for life is urgently needed, a prayer which will rise up throughout the world. Through special initiatives and in daily prayer, may an impassioned plea rise to God, the Creator and lover of life, from every Christian community, from every group and association, from every family and from the heart of every believer.”  Many of you pilgrimed to The Diocese of St. Augustine for the March for Life on January 12, praising God that all life – no matter the age – is sacred.

We honored the memory of Martin Luther King on January 13. We read and prayed about the words offered in the U.S. Catholic bishops new pastoral letter on racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love” which describes racism as an “ugly cancer (that) still infects our nation.”  It has been forty years since such a letter was offered, the first since 1979’s “Brothers and Sisters Unto Us.”  Mr. Henry Fortier, superintendent of the Diocese of Orlando Catholic Schools, focused on the document during a panel discussion about racism.

The faithful gathered to celebrate the annual Migration Mass on January 20 at Holy Cross Catholic Church, commemorating the diversity of the Catholic Church in Central Florida and recognizing each person as essential to the body of Christ.  National Migration Week 2019 took place January 6 – 12. For nearly a half century, the Catholic Church in the United States has celebrated National Migration Week, which provides an opportunity for the Church to highlight the presence and situation of immigrants, refugees, victims, and survivors of human trafficking.

We recognized the Orlando Diocesan Council of Catholic Women on Sunday, January 20.  These women have shown us truly the fulfillment of St. Paul’s words to the Corinthian people; to each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.  And, what marvelous benefits has the Diocese of Orlando realized through the Orlando Diocesan Council of Catholic Women!  The counsel of the poor, the baskets of thanksgiving, the celebration of the gift of life, the formation of faith among all God’s people, the hours of volunteerism to bring God’s Word to the brokenhearted, the prophetic nature of their daily offering are gifts of Emmanuel, God among us.

Pope Francis wrote in the Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et exsultate, “The Lord asks everything of us, and in return he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created. He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence.”  At the start of the new year, many of us think about a new year’s resolution.  Truly, the resolution must be to live as faith-filled Christians, honoring the sacred gift of life.  Only then will our earth be returned to God wholly and holy.

Bishop Noonan
Diocese of Orlando
January 2019