Fifth Sunday of Easter
JN 13:31-33A, 34-35
May 19, 2019
This past Wednesday evening, the Diocese of Saginaw celebrated the jubilees of four women religious who live and serve among us. Our own Sr. Laurene Burns marked 70 years in religious life. The occasion took me back to another event a number of years ago.
It was the 60th Jubilee of Sr. Marianita, who had spent the majority of her life passing on our faith to over three generations of Catholic school students. The faculty of the parish school where she concluded her teaching career but continued to minister through her presence and prayer wanted to celebrate with a surprise party. It was agreed that since it was her 60th Jubilee, a “’60s theme” was in order. The gym was decorated with balloons as well as Peter Max posters, peace signs, and the like. The DJ was given instructions about the playlist, and the potluck dinner was all arranged. Everyone understood, however, that for this holy little woman, no celebration would be acceptable unless the focal point was Eucharist. Appropriate thought was given to preparing the liturgy.
On the big night, people were encouraged to arrive for Mass just before the opening hymn so that the jubilarian would already be in her usual seat in the front of church, deep in prayer. We did not want her to notice the tie-dyed t-shirts, bell bottom jeans, head scarves, vests, and “love beads” that were the recommended attire. (Later, Sister did remark that as she noticed people going up for Communion, she thought they were definitely not in “church clothes.”)
In spite of the casual attire, the liturgy was celebrated with great dignity. However, after the final blessing, but before departing the worship space, there were a few brief words of tribute to Sr. Marianita. And then, by way of explaining how a young girl could leave home and family and entrust her future to the leadership of a religious order, the guests broke into a very enthusiastic chorus of the Beatles song: ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE!
Clearly secular, the song was nevertheless most fitting to the occasion. Those words ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE tell the entire story. Because of her love for Christ and His Church, Sr. Marianita, like the women our Diocese honored Wednesday evening, was able to embrace a life of service. Their own dreams and ambitions were subject to their vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. How could they make such a great sacrifice? ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE! LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED!
On May 31, the Church of Saginaw will again have occasion to gather in our Cathedral. Three young men will be ordained to the priesthood for service in our Diocese. In an age of rampant materialism and greed, it must confound most people to think of how much these men are foregoing. How can they make such a great sacrifice? ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE! LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED! Love for Christ and His Church…the kind of love that surpasses love for the fleeting things of this world…the kind of love that is greater than love of self.
Really, this is not remarkable; at least it shouldn’t be. It is simply one way…certainly a very special way, of following the new commandment that Jesus left us as He was about to express His unparalleled love for creation by suffering and dying.
Clearly, not everyone is called to religious life or Holy Orders. In fact, it seems that at least in recent years, the Holy Spirit is inviting fewer and fewer to this vocation. However, ALL who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ must make every effort to distinguish themselves by responding to life’s choices and challenges in a selfless and loving way.
St. Thomas Aquinas summed it up in a few poignant words: The things we love tell us what we are! So then, no matter what your vocation might be, or your station in life, if you want to be an authentic disciple of Jesus Christ…IT’S EASY…ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE…LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED…LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED…LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED.