Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 99
“For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
We are all called to love. The formation process to be ordained a permanent deacon is 5 years. It takes place in Springfield at the Villa Maria. Classes begin Friday evening and conclude usually before noon on Sunday. Prayers, Holy Hour, Mass, and Liturgical preparation all are part of the weekend. A candidate must leave his home parish for the purpose of gaining new experiences and knowledge. I was allowed to spend my last year with my family here at Blessed Sacrament. Our Bishop has reassigned me to Saint Peter Parish effective July 1st. My journey did not begin just 5 years ago.
Before this I needed a desire, the desire to follow Jesus. There was one person, Robin, my sister-in-law, who planted this desire within me. She gently showed me and taught me about her religion. I was less than 10 years old, and yet she patiently explained things, and she did so in a loving manner. My time with her was often short, typically during my summer vacations. I wanted to stay and learn more from her, but I needed to return home to go back to school, to be with my mother and father.
I chose to become Catholic 37 years ago. Then, instruction was given by a priest, for there was no Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. Fr. Charles Hart, a Franciscan at St Francis, completed the necessary training and he administered the necessary Rites for me to become a catholic.
I have been married to the love of my life for 35 years. Gina continues to teach me how to love, how to love myself so that I could love others. She shows me kindness and patience when few others would have. She continues to complete what was started in my youth. Together, we have shared the good and bad times. God blessed us with 5 children, of which 2 are alive today. We have grown together to become one. She is my love. Gina was with me for almost all the formation process, only being absent to help with my mother or when our son was home and she needed to spend some time with him.
She helped me in whatever way she could, even reading my papers and marking them with her red ink pen. She was there then as she is today. God has truly blessed by allowing me to be married to her. My mother passed away in October of 2015. A few weeks before she died she called me and said she wanted to tell me something. So, being the obedient son, I went to meet with her. When I entered her room at the nursing home, I could tell she had been crying. She first asked if I would forgive her. Of course I said yes, then she told me of her past. Things that she had held in secret for my entire life. I continued to forgive her while I was with her that evening. Later, she insisted that she tell Gina and she did that day.
For 56 years, my mother loved me so much that she protected me by not telling me about her past. She did not want me to feel the shame and hurt that she felt. A few weeks later my mother died, knowing that she was forgiven and that she was loved. 22 years ago, my family moved back to Quincy. We went to Mass at all the Parishes in Quincy. Saint Marys, today Blessed Sacrament, was where we felt most welcomed. This was not because of the Pastor, but because of you the parishioners. My family and I felt your love almost immediately after we entered through the doors. It was so strong that it was obvious to us, that this was to be our parish.
Your love for us has continued to grow, and you taught my family how it should be shared with others. You became our family. Today, looking out, some faces are missing, some faces are a little older, and there are some new faces. But the love we felt long ago is still present and stronger than ever.
All of you, in your own way, have taken Jesus’ commandant to heart “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” I have quietly watched and observed, and I see it, each of you personify in so many ways this great commandment that Jesus gave us. I will forever be in your debt for the teachings you have provided me and my family often unknowingly. And I will take this with me, always.
We all are on our journey. Some are just beginning their journey, while for some theirs is coming to an end. Jesus is always calling us to follow him. My brothers and sisters, Jesus instructed us to love one another. I have shared what I know about love. I know that love comes in the form a teacher, teaching about her faith and her beliefs. Her love being so strong yet so gentle that she can teach a child, a child that she barely knows, about the love of Jesus. I know that love comes in the form a protector, protecting her child the best she can from all the evil that exists and loving and patiently explaining God’s blessings. Then, at her life’s end she comes to her child and asks for love, the love to forgive her. I know that love comes in the form comfort and security. A love that is unguarded, open and honest to all things. A love that combines to form one body, and together the pain and hardship of their lives journey with Jesus as their guide has become a very beautiful experience. I know love comes in small groups, a small group that is so close that one individual from the group feels comfortable enough to blurt out to me “you should become a deacon”! A statement of love, love for me, for she believes that I may be able to serve others.
I probably would not be here had it not been for the love I have received from my family and from all of you. Our journey is long and hard. It is easy to get side tracked and forget what we should be doing. Fortunately, for all of us, here and now, there is love. Love is is right here among us, I see it in your faces, for I see Jesus. My brothers and sisters, we are the best examples of the love that Jesus talked about and we have been loving each other to some degree all along.
When we leave today, take this love with you, go out and share this love, either as a teacher, as a protector or as someone who is providing comfort. Remember Jesus’ words “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
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Jeff Wolf was ordinaed a Permanent Deacon by Bishop John Paprocki at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield, Illinois, on June 25, 2016. He is a member of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.