October 16, 2009

Seeking the Face of the Lord

We all share the fundamental vocation to love

Last week, I wrote about notes or letters from grade-school students and their questions about my being archbishop.

Matthew from St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis asked: “What is it like to have so much responsibility and power? Is it fun to have that much power? I don’t have much power in the Church. I wish I could be you.”

I answered: “Matthew, you have it right, an archbishop has a lot of responsibility in the Church. I don’t look at that as a matter of power, but a strong obligation to serve God and the people of God.” I was ordained to serve, not to lord it over people. I said maybe he could be archbishop some day.

Jesus teaches that if anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all. Let’s put that in context.

When we were baptized, each of us received a call to do three things: 1) proclaim the Gospel of Jesus in word and in deed according to our station in life; 2) we are to participate in and receive the sacraments of the Church, especially the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation; 3) we are to participate in the Church’s mission of charity, to serve others according to our state in life.

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, made this statement in his first encyclical letter “God is Love” (“Deus Caritas Est”): “The Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her threefold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God, celebrating the sacraments and exercising the ministry of charity.” He said “these duties presuppose each other and are inseparable.”

On Oct. 1, the archdiocese launched a program of awareness about our mission of charity: “Spreading Hope in Neighborhoods Everywhere” (SHINE).

In the Gospel, Jesus emphasizes our duty to love, and to do so with simplicity and humility. Perhaps one of the greatest witnesses of the simple love in our mission of charity is Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

She was a woman of enormous power, but that way of thinking wouldn’t even register with her.

Once, while a guest of mine in the Diocese of Memphis, before she boarded a flight to Washington, D.C., she pulled me aside and said, “Bishop, during Mass when you pour a drop of water in the chalice of wine, pray that like that water I may be dissolved into Christ.”

We all share the fundamental vocation to love. We don’t see a lot of generous love in our culture.

Mother Teresa told of an experience of visiting a lovely, well-kept nursing home. She noticed that almost to a person the elderly women and men sat facing the entrance to the home. It dawned on her that they were waiting for someone who cared. They were longing for and watching for love. We all know folks of all ages longing to be loved.

It’s not about power. It’s about simple and generous love; maybe often, sacrificial love. Let’s look beyond ourselves to notice those watching at that door for someone who cares. And yes, sometimes we may be the ones watching at that door.

As good people with the vocation to love, we have so much to offer to God and to the people of God. Our Church wants to offer hope to anyone “watching at that door.”

I think of the prayer requests in response to my invitation at the end of this weekly column. I get them daily, and I place them in my chapel. A lot of our people carry a lot of sorrow and heavy burdens, and they ask for prayerful support.

A wife and mother asks for prayers for the healing of her 55-year-old husband, who has grave kidney problems. They have five children, and he is unable to work.

An 87-year-old man wrote to ask for prayers because he hasn’t seen any of his four children in three years. He worries about them and, of course, misses them.

A young woman asks for healing for her fiancé, who recently found out he has a grave cancer. These are recent requests. By now, I have a box full of sorrows in my chapel.

Soon, our local Church in central and southern Indiana is launching a new way of looking at our annual parish and archdiocesan stewardship opportunity.

We want to look at our participation in a new approach to our mission as a way in which we offer Christ our hope.

All of us are given the opportunity to offer Christ’s compassion to other members of our community. We call our new annual initiative “Christ our Hope: Compassion in Community.”

I invite all of you to help us be that hope for those folks who carry heavy burdens and need us. †

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