January 7, 2011

Religious Vocations Supplement

Loving as Christ loved

By Fr. Eric Johnson (Director of the archdiocesan Office of Priestly and Religious Vocations)

“This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:12-13).

These familiar words come from the final discourse that Jesus gave to his disciples at the Last Supper. He had just washed his disciples’ feet and commanded them to do the same.

Now, as he faced his own Passion, Jesus issued this final commandment to love. “Love one another” (Jn 13:34) were his parting words.

Although this commandment to love is well known to us, in our language and culture love can mean many things. So often, love can be ambiguous or abstract to us, an ill-defined feeling that is hard to apply to the concrete relationships and circumstances of our daily lives.

Jesus qualifies the commandment to love in clear terms, however. He tells his disciples to love as he loves.

In his love, Jesus emptied himself of the glory of his divinity and humbly embraced our humanity.

In his love, Jesus spoke the truth with charity, proclaimed glad tidings to the poor and set prisoners free.

In his love, Jesus looked with compassion on the crowds, healed the sick, forgave sinners and gave life.

Finally, Christ’s love found its ultimate expression when he laid down his life so that you and I might live.

The command of Jesus reminds us that if we love him, then we will love what he loved and we will love how he loved. This is our call and the essence of all Christian vocations. At its heart, it is a love that involves a decision to will the good of other people. To love as Christ loved means responding concretely, in sacrifice and service, to the needs of others.

This love rejoices in the truth and speaks it with charity. It nourishes the goodness of others, challenges and consoles. It is manifested when we enter into other people’s joys, sufferings, hopes, fears and longings.

This annual Religious Vocations Supplement contains the stories of men and women who have responded to God’s call by embracing vocations to the priesthood, the permanent diaconate or the consecrated life. As in years past, these stories offer us an opportunity to remember gratefully those who have served among us in these unique ways.

Most of all, I believe that these stories remind us that vocations to the priesthood, the permanent diaconate and the consecrated life, like all vocations, are ways of living out Jesus’ call to love as he loved.

Priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters live and minister among us in a wide variety of ways. They serve as teachers and catechists, administrators and pastors, counselors and confessors.

In their lives and ministry, they proclaim the Gospel, care for the sick, serve the poor and comfort the dying. They lead us and keep us in prayer, celebrate the sacraments and call us to holiness. They stand with us in the midst of life’s challenges, joys and tragedies, and point to the presence of Christ that stands with us as well.

Behind all of this is Christ’s commandment to love as he loved, manifested in a lived commitment, and animated by lives of generous sacrifice, service and joy. This witness provides us with a unique image of Christ’s own love. It invites us to consider how we are to live out Christ’s commandment in our own unique vocational call.

For this, we can be grateful. In our gratitude, may we nurture and support this gift of loving as Christ loved. May we also encourage those who choose to live out the call to love as priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters. †

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