Taking Christ’s Love to the World, by Bishop James Conley
This is a re-posting of theJJune 23rd Bishop Conley regular column in the Southern Nebraska Register.
Last week, the bishops of the United States met in Indianapolis for the annual spring meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It was a busy meeting full of committee meetings and general sessions with all the US Bishops. We had vigorous discussions about the formation of young people, Catholic healthcare, immigration, marriage and family life and our pastoral leadership in these areas. We discussed our work to support religious liberty, and reaffirmed our commitment to that important cause. And we approved new guidelines for the inclusion and support of disabled people in the Church’s sacramental life. We ended our meeting with a Eucharistic Holy Hour and Benediction. Local priests were available during the holy hour so each bishop had the opportunity to go to confession.
During our busy week, we also took time to reflect on how the Lord might be speaking now to the Church in the United States. Dr. John Cavadini, director of the Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame, gave us a beautiful meditation on the meaning of baptism, the Eucharist, and the mission of the Church.
“The Church was born,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “from the pierced heart of Christ, hanging dead on the Cross.”
The Church is a communion of those who are baptized into the life of Jesus Christ: his incarnation, his passion, and his triumph over death in the resurrection. The true constitution of the Church, Dr. Cavadini reminded us, is found in “the Wounds of Christ from which His Precious Blood flowed, from which the communion constituting the Church flowed…. The Church was born primarily of Christ’s total self-giving for our salvation, anticipated in the institution of the Eucharist and fulfilled on the cross.”
When we are baptized, the mystery of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection becomes the central part of our very identity: we are baptized into the mystery of Christ’s life. Dr. Cavadini taught that “to be a baptized Christian means to be awesomely aware of this mystery in one’s own person and thus to find oneself called further.”
We are called, as members of the Church, to go further into the mystery of Jesus Christ. This is most especially expressed in our call to sacred worship—to participate in the Eucharistic sacrifice where we become present to Christ’s outpouring of love on the cross. For this reason, Dr. Cavadini taught, “the primary vocation of Baptism is to the Eucharistic life and Eucharistic communion, as a member incorporated into Christ and called to the unity of but one Body – and thus to participate in Christ’s triple vocation of love: priest, prophet and king.”
In short, we are baptized into communion with Jesus Christ, and his mystical body, the Church. We enter the mystery of this communion in worship, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and in reception and adoration of the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, we grow in love of Christ, and the communion of the Church.
Through our love of mystical communion with Christ and the Church, we are “not distanced from the rest of the people in the world, but brought closer to them and to all of their ‘joys and hopes’ and to everything that is human. The one who loves the Church loves the love that had no contempt for anything human, but did not spare Himself.”
We must love the love that does not spare itself, in Christ Jesus. And we can, and must, love with that same love. Because the Church is borne of Christ’s sacrifice for the world, and we join that sacrifice in worship and the Holy Eucharist, we must go out into the world in joy and freedom, taking upon ourselves the mission of love Christ undertook on the cross.
Because we share in Christ’s own life, we must go out into the world as missionary disciples of love. Next week, 20 Catholics—priests, religious, and laity—will join me for a gathering called the Convocation of Catholic Leaders in Orlando, Florida. More than 3,000 Catholic leaders from around the country will meet to pray with one another, together with over 160 bishops, to share in the communion of the Church in the Eucharist, and to discern how God is calling each one of us, as the Church, to the work of evangelization in our country.
Editor’s Note: read more about the convocation here.
Leaders will share from the experience of their work as evangelists and teachers, and call one another to new missions and new apostolates. We’ll grow in friendship with the Lord, and with one another, in our common commitment to the work of Jesus Christ. And it is my hope that the leaders attending from the Diocese of Lincoln will foster deeper unity with Christ in the Eucharist in our diocese, and foster a new fervor for apostolic and missionary work in our diocese.
Please pray for the Catholic leaders attending the Convocation of Catholic Leaders from the Diocese of Lincoln. And please join me in thanking God for the communion of the Church, for the gift of the Eucharist, and for his life-giving and selfless love.
The sculptures are from the 17th century Spanish school – wood, polychrome (ie painted in many colors!)