Bishop’s Letter: I give you a new commandment

Mar 3, 2022

I give you a new commandment, says the Lord:
love one another as I have loved you
(John 13:34).

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

Think about the people who have formed you in your faith and how they love you as Jesus loves.  Those who come to my mind immediately are my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, teachers, religious sisters, clergy.  They taught me about God’s love and lived what they taught so that I experienced real examples of what Jesus asks of me, of each one of us.

First, I express awe and wonder at the few words Jesus chose to communicate God’s tender love.  Throughout our living, we strive to understand the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love, fulfilled through the ages, from Creation to the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus to the formation of the early Church.  What Jesus offers to us in these very few words is the core of His being.  He claims us as His own and asks us to love as He loves.

God’s love renews and redeems broken relationships.  He invites us to acknowledge our sins and failings—yes, He tells us it is ok to know who we are—and He enfolds us in His loving embrace so we are changed by His generous mercy.  Pope Francis said, “As a loving Father, God helps us to see the truth about ourselves, in order to make us grow to spiritual maturity in Christ.”

Just like those who formed each one of us in our faith, we are called to live justly so that our living reflects who we are as Catholics.  Jesus spent His public ministry teaching the apostles and His followers about how much we are loved.  He invites us in this commandment to carry forth that love; to be His embrace to all the people.

Before His public ministry began, His parents, Mary and Joseph, fed Jesus physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Jesus was nurtured in God’s ways as much as humanly possible so that Jesus grew daily “in wisdom and in years and in divine and human favor” (Luke 2:52).

Jesus helps us to understand tenderness as He ministers to the forsaken and the forgotten.  When Jesus lived on the earth, (the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us (John 1:14), there were difficulties throughout the world as there are today.  He embraced those in front of Him, those whom He met on the roads He traveled.

Who do we need to embrace today with God’s tender love?  In this embrace, how are we teaching about God?  The religious sisters, whom we just celebrated on February 2, World Day of Consecrated Life, taught us and teach us how to embrace with God’s tender love.  They settled our communities for the sake of the Lord and as they met with people in their communities, whether immigrants or slaves or children in classrooms or couples about to be married or growing families or the sick and dying, the religious sisters did not question the need.  They, like our Blessed Mother, point to Christ and lead us to Him.  Their embrace of each one with God’s tender love is welcoming and dignifies each person through, with and in God.  Their heritage is one with God.  Their only legacy is to be an instrument of God.  They don’t deny our weaknesses; rather, walk with us toward God.  I ask you to pray with me in gratitude for each religious sister who has served or serves in the Diocese of Orlando and for those from whom you have learned in your diocese of origin.

Pope Francis said, “Tenderness is the best way to touch the frailty within us.”  We encounter this frailty as we approach the altar to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.  Jesus gives us Himself so that we are able to give Him to each other.  He welcomes, embraces, sustains and forgives us and asks us, in our small way, to do the same with each other.  Then, the earth will become a heavenly Kingdom.

May what is weakest in us become a strength through, with and in Christ that we might love one another as He loves us.