I am in love. Deeply, madly, shamelessly in love.
I recognize the symptoms because I have fallen in love before.
I have loved a woman. Many of you knew Cynthia. The fruit of that love you have seen here in the lectors and cantor, our sons and one of our daughters; our six children gathered here today with us, their spouses and our grandchildren.
I’m not the only person here who has experienced love. Many of you know what it feels like to be deeply committed, hopelessly in love, and you know the results of that love.
Recently I had an interview with our bishop, an interview that is required of all seminarian deacons about to be ordained to the priesthood. The bishop must ask us about our beliefs regarding obedience, celibacy and simplicity of life (how we will live with money and possessions). This is just as important a discussion between a bishop and those whom he is about to ordain as between fiancès before they marry. Fiancès need to have serious conversations about fidelity, chastity and with how much simplicity they will live their lives together. These are necessary topics of intimate conversation for people who are deeply in love, and who are preparing to make their commitment permanent and public.
For me the answers to the Bishop’s questions come from my heart, naturally, much as they did when I fell in love with Cynthia. I was in love then. I am in love now. My reply to Bishop Vasquez was — that I am hopelessly in love with God and His Church. When you are in love, you place the one you love ahead of everything else. This kind of love can make some afraid of love, as if this commitment will take the person away into an unknown realm. The beautiful mystery of this love is that I won’t stop being Dad, or Grandad or friend. This is the mystery of True Love, much like the love Cynthia and I shared. It enriched us and prepared us to be loving parents. My love for the Church enriches everything else in my life. Divine, Sacramental Love doesn’t create conflicts, it transforms, enriches and renews everything.
For my entire adult life I have been in love with the Church. This kind of love is contagious. It reorients everything else you do in life. I learned this kind of love from another son of the Church, and son of the Blessed Mother, my best friend, David. He learned this love from his family and he always shared this love openly, with all who would listen. It is not unusual when you see someone who has something truly special to say, “I want what you have.”
Once I came to know her, I also fell in love with the Blessed Virgin Mary, through David, and the Church to which she gave birth with her Son, Jesus Christ. I learned the Rosary from him, and it has been my strength ever since. This is the fruit of faith in a friendship.
Today I am deeply thankful for this love and all the fruit it has provided me. I cannot imagine life outside of this love. And now, God has given me the freedom, the time and the health to continue to live my life deeply in love. And I also long to share this love with whomever I meet. That is what is happening here, today.
Today, the feast of the Holy Trinity, is the perfect day for me to celebrate my ordination with you, my family, my friends and this parish community that gave birth to my vocation as a deacon.
The lesson of the Holy Trinity is to live with complete abandon, free, head over heals in love, as the Father lives and loves in the Son and the Son in the Father with the Holy Spirit. God is love. And in their consuming love for one another, as we heard in that first reading, “… they found delight in the human race.” God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit love one another and they love us. You can study theology and Scripture all you want, but it doesn’t get more complicated than this. This is our faith.
This is what priestly vocation and marriage are all about, to share God’s transforming love with us. When we share openly our deepest love for, and commitment to one another, without conditions, without reservations, we imitate Jesus, and draw near to the Father in Him through the Spirit. We become like Him, when we abandon ourselves in love for one another. When we live in the Spirit of God, we speak Truth to one another. Love doesn’t permit anything else.
If you want to live your life in love, it is simple. It’s not easy sometimes, but it is simple. All it takes is to allow yourself to fall madly in love with another, and to have the courage to live it in total commitment, and to share it, faithfully, in Truth. This is how we make Church happen, the same way we make marriages happen and raise families, deeply, madly, unconditionally in love.
St. Paul tells us, “… the love of God has been poured into our hearts.” For this love I am thankful, because I am loved.
I invite all of you lovers to join me now in this thanksgiving, in this Holy Eucharist, my first Mass.