Sacrificial Love – December 2017

“Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, console one another with these words.”
1 Thes 4:17,18


My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

Are you ready? We are half-way through the month of December; we mark the time of the season of Advent as we await Christmas Day.  During the Advent season, we are called to stay awake, to make ourselves ready.  We await the birth of the Christ child and we have to be prepared!  During the time of St. Paul, as the newest Christians experienced persecution, there was a longing, an expectation of the immediacy of return of the Savior to the earth.  These words of St. Paul, ‘we shall always be with the Lord’, were words of consolation to those early Christians who experienced suffering for the sake of their faith.

We began this month with the announcement of the Jubilee Year, the Year of the Eucharist.  The theme of this year, ‘Stay with us, Lord’, commemorates our own longing for God; our desire to be in relationship with God.  As the early Christians took heart in these words of solace from St. Paul, so we are jubilant in the Gift of the Eucharist, for God is with us, through this Gift of sacrificial love.  In their 1987 “A Catholic Catechism for Adults” the German bishops wrote that the Church “exists because of a common sharing in the goods (sancta) of salvation, especially in the Eucharist.”  We receive these goods (sancta) and offer them back to God for the salvation of one another.

Pope Francis recently said, “At Mass, Jesus becomes truly present and allows us in some way, like the Apostle Thomas, to touch his flesh and renew our faith in him.”  We offer ourselves to God as gifts to Him and then these gifts are sanctified through the Eucharist.  Nourished, renewed and refreshed, we go forth from this temple to be as Christ to one another in our daily living.

The most important temple of God is our heart, where the Holy Spirit dwells. Pope Francis reminds us to keep watch over this interior temple.  He asked, “Do we talk to the Holy Spirit and listen to Him?”

The Holy Father said our interior temple can be ‘safeguarded and cared for through service.’ During this season of Advent, we make straight the path toward God for ourselves and our family through prayer, through participation in the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and through service. Pope Francis tells us, “When we come forward to serve, to help, we resemble Jesus who is inside us.”

We are acutely aware of the many opportunities to serve.  We realize the great needs of those who suffered difficulties during the recent storms.  We learn of those parents who struggle to provide food for their family meals.  We see the lowly whose age has caused them to be discarded and forgotten.  We know of relatives within our own families who suffer loneliness because of our own disregard.

It is a mighty responsibility and a true joy to participate in the Eucharist and to live as Christ among us. Mighty because we take on the sorrows of others to bring them comfort, to serve them.  A true joy because we are comforted in the knowledge that God is with us through this Bread of Life.

The saints, by their examples, help us to better understand the care of our individual temple.  This call to holiness is not relegated just to the saints; but also the living, you and me!  People like the prosecutor from Seminole County State Attorney’s Office who advocates for victims of human trafficking; or volunteers and staff from Catholic Charities of Central Florida who restore hope within those who suffer loss of jobs or sustenance; or men who respond to God’s call to discern and prepare for the permanent diaconate are some of the many whose lived faith allows us to partake in God’s presence among us.

May the richness of the Eucharistic banquet quench our thirst for God.

Bishop Noonan
Diocese of Orlando
December 14, 2017