Dear Followers of Jesus,
Our Sunday gospel, Matthew 22:34-40, invites us into the profound connection of God’s love and living out that love toward all people. I believe this gospel is the core of the Church’s mission and integrity in our world. We love God with heart, mind and soul and our neighbors as our selves.
Many people have dismissed Pope Francis’ emphasis of love and mercy. They do so because they believe Pope Francis is soft on the rules of the Church. I hear in conversations nearly every week that only adhering to the rules and laws of the Church will revive our sagging institution worldwide.
God’s emphasis on the beauty and mystical qualities of the dignity of all life are important to adhere to no matter what happens. However, the way we invite people into the Church must be based on love and integrity. Love never ends. Love is the ingredient that is so often lost in the Church. Love is the most important reason Jesus gave us the Eucharist and the Sacraments. Love is the reason Jesus died and rose for us sinners.
Love has changed the Pope’s heart. I believe there are two reasons for this. First of all, Pope Francis is a professed religious and a Jesuit priest. His prayer and his education are very different from his predecessors who were diocesan priests.
Second, Pope Francis has befriended many people in poverty during his entire ministry. This is the real reason how Pope Francis found love. What happens when we befriend powerless people is that we, too, need God. The ache, rawness and emptiness of a difficult life help us all turn toward the love God has for us. All we need to do to find this truth is to read the lives of the Saints.
Jesus asks us two things in life. He begs us to be open to receiving the love the Father has for each of us. He also asks us to live this love among our neighbors. We are stubborn to receive God’s love because it encourages us to change. We never want to change. We are hard pressed to let go our bloated egos. We are reluctant to let go of our culture power.
However, when we finally rest in God’s love for us, we live differently in our world. We can befriend deep pain, diversity, ambiguity and powerlessness. We can enter into the mystery that all people need God, the profound love that sets us free.
One of the ways in which we enter into a prayerful bond in our three church communities is to pray for the dead. This week we celebrate All Saints and All Souls. We also will gather on Friday, November 3 at 6:30 pm to pray with all the grieving of our parish communities for the loss of their loved ones. We celebrated nearly 40 funerals this year and we stand with the grieving in the love that God has for us all.
Blessings to you,