Children, let us love not in word or speech
but in deed and truth.
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
Recently, Pope Francis released an Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, “Rejoice and Be Glad.” Pope Francis says that his goal of the document is to “repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks challenges and opportunities.” You and I have spoken about the call to holiness many times. We are created by God for God. Our call to holiness begins at our baptism in which we are consecrated as priest, prophet and king. The early Christians, as we hear proclaimed in Scripture, yearned for holiness and modeled their daily living through, with and in Christ. St. John reminds us that holiness, through God’s love, is not found in word or speech, but in deed and truth. Our words will be empty unless we truly believe.
Pope Francis calls our attention to the saints who encourage and accompany us in holiness. They are the witnesses of God’s extraordinary love. “The saints now in God’s presence preserve their bonds of love and communion with us.” These saints are also among us; next door neighbors who reflect God’s presence, parents who raise their children with immense love or in the sick and elderly whose gentle smiles are never ending.
Each of us is called to holiness. Holiness is not relegated to a certain class, for example only priests or religious sisters. We are holy as we live our lives within God’s love and by proclaiming God’s Word in all that we are, in all that we do. It is not hard to be holy, if we keep our sight on God. Think of the many moments made sacred by the gift of offering, extending a hug to someone suffering and listening to their tears of sadness; ‘paying it forward’ by treating a family to a needed meal; praying a blessing over the food served at a restaurant; relishing the banter of children as you drive them to school; or doing your daily routine in praise of God. We really can’t think about who we are without recognizing that we must respond to this call.
Pope Francis also says that there are many things in our world to tempt us away from God; to keep us from holiness. Perhaps we see these things as the obstacles to our holiness and therefore believe that we are not meant to be holy. For example, the technology which allows us to pray the Divine Office or listen to Faith Fit Radio is the same technology through which we may visit pornographic sites or text bullying messages to others. Pope Francis says, “Try to love as Christ loved us . . . In this way, our lives demonstrate His power at work – even in the midst of human weakness.”
In about one month, I will have the privilege, through the intercession of the Holy Spirit, to ordain two men to the vocation of priesthood, Blake Britton and Matthew Hawkins. These two men are not perfect, but they are holy. Their stories of faith which led them to enter the seminary and persevere, in spite of many misgivings and uncertainty, are remarkable. Their gracious care of the people of God, the body of Christ, is an example of love in deed and truth. Their self-sacrifice, through their own conversions and conversion of other family members, tenders the work of the Holy Spirit through the gifts of counsel and fortitude. They meet Jesus in the Scriptures for the Word has the power to transform lives.
As we continue our Jubilee Year, the Year of the Eucharist, let the Gift of the Eucharist sustain you to holiness. There, the living Word is truly present as it is Christ himself Who is offered. When we receive Him in the Eucharist, “we renew our covenant with Him and allow Him to carry out ever more fully His work of transforming our lives.”
My holy sisters and brothers in Christ, keep God first. May we love one another as He commanded us.
Diocese of Orlando