Jesus, Our Life-Giving Experience of God’s Love
"If we do not have a profound experience of and conversion to God’s love, and if Jesus is not the center of our lives, then we are inadequate and unqualified for carrying out Jesus’ mission, that is the Church’s mission of making God’s kingdom of love, justice, and peace present among our brothers and sisters here on earth." This was the first impacting message I heard on the last weekend’s archdiocesan, Spanish vocation retreat ("Vengan y Vean") here at Holy Name Retreat Center in Houston, Texas. In fact, the preacher made the above statement in reference to John Paul II’s Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio to encourage his audience, especially the young men and women who attended the retreat with the expectation of deepening their vocation discernment, to evaluate our experience of God’s love in our lives, families, and faith communities.
Today’s liturgical readings pose the same vocational question to us. For they want us to know that God’s life-giving love and covenanting relationship with us is not fulfilled in our sacrifices and rituals, but in the good and justice we do to our brothers and sisters, especially the needy and helpless ones of our society. God indeed wants us to "redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, [and] defend the widow" with the vital help of his grace, for God’s "saving power" will be shown to those who go "the right way" proclaiming and bearing witness to his loving mercy.
If we refer to Jesus as "Prince of Peace," then, how are we supposed to interpret today’s gospel? In light of the aforementioned, we may want to say that, to be an authentic disciple of Jesus, we have to love him more than anything and/or anyone else. For being with Jesus and spreading the Good News of his life-giving presence in our lives and faith communities means that we are to speak not only of and about him, but also with him. However, we cannot avoid the reality that not everyone accepts God’s incarnate word in their lives, which causes division in our families, our society, and even in our faith communities, because a faithful commitment to Christian discipleship situates Jesus and his mission above everything else.
Our faith in Jesus, therefore, invites us to reflect on the following questions: Does my love for Jesus surpass everything else, even my own will and life? Do I take up my cross and follow after him? Do I lose my life for the sake of God’s kingdom of love, justice, and peace? Do I expend my life doing what Jesus commanded us to do as witnesses of his paschal mystery? Do I make God’s redemptive love meaningfully present to others? Am I adequate and qualified for carrying out Jesus’ mission?
Fr. Alfredo Ocampo, C.P. preaches and is a member of the Passionist Community in Houston, Texas.