Labor of Love – October 2017

We give thanks to God always for all of you,
remembering you in our prayers,
unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ
Thessalonians 1:2,3

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

Grace to you and peace. St. Paul speaks to the people of Thessalonica, a young community, quite recently founded; yet, despite the difficulties and the many trials, it is rooted in the faith, and celebrates with enthusiasm and joy the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

Living as followers of Christ was not easy during the time of St. Paul.  The early Christians were persecuted for their beliefs and were not accepted by their own people. They eagerly awaited Jesus’ Parousia, His return among the people. God’s love unfolded before them with joy from the Holy Spirit. St. Paul’s sentiment of gratitude for the faithfulness of the Thessalonians is my own for you as I give thanks to God always for each one of you, remembering you in my prayers. Similarly, your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope are the breath of the Holy Spirit upon this earth.

These are not simply words, but the Word lived by you. Just a few weeks ago, I visited our sisters and brothers in our Sister Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana in the Dominican Republic. I had a chance to visit the schools which you helped to build; to speak with the students filled with eagerness to learn; and to pray together with the faculty, staff, students and their families. After Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, I saw your labor of love as you offered your own sustenance to benefit Catholic Charities, carried food to collection sites, and continue to offer your prayers for those suffering after the storms. I am encouraged by your endurance in hope as our prayers joined with the prayers of people throughout the world for the dead, injured and their families of the shooting in Las Vegas that they might find His Peace. On October 14, I celebrated Mass with the religious sisters who have chosen the path of consecrated life, dedicating their lives in service to God. I know you join me in praying with gratitude for their steadfastness to God’s call and especially for our jubilarians whom we honor as they celebrate 25, 50, 60 and 70 years of service this year.

God calls each one of us by name, in Baptism giving us a title of priest, prophet and king. It is the gift of a beautiful covenant, an extraordinary love bestowed upon each one of us. We are chosen to be in friendship with God; fulfill His covenant by our embodiment of His Word. From our first moment in our mother’s womb to our last breath, He made us, we are His. Each one of us is essential to prosper the kingdom of God.

As we enter into the month of November, we encounter two beautiful solemnities, the Solemnity of All Saints (November 1) and the Commemoration of All Souls (November 2).  The communion of saints stands with us as we grow in our faith and through their own stories, offer us courage and encouragement to realize our potential in blossoming the kingdom of God. We remember those who have gone before us on the Commemoration of All Souls, a day to honor the dead.

Pope Francis said, “Each time we face our death, or that of a person who is dear, we feel that our faith is put to the test. All our doubts emerge, all our frailty, and we ask ourselves: “But will there truly be life after death…? Will I still be able to see and embrace again the people I have loved…?” The root and foundation of our faith teaches us how much God offers us in Jesus Christ and what our death means.

As Catholics, we express Christian hope in eternal life and the resurrection of the body on the last day. Our funeral rites are a privileged opportunity to return to God the gift of the deceased, hoping to usher them into God’s heavenly Kingdom with the aid of our prayers. Our love for the departed is expressed after death, above all else, in our prayers for them.  Catholic funerals express the Christian’s union in Christ’s death and our hope to share in His resurrection. The life of grace, born at Baptism, is returned to God in thanksgiving at death.

The Gospel did not come to us in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction. May we live life as we have been chosen.