July 17, 2007
American Bishop Gives
July 15, 2007, Sunday
Bishop Joseph Charron from the Diocese of De Moines, Iowa
Speaking in St. James Church in Medjugorje
Good afternoon to all of you. I am Bishop Joseph Charron from the Diocese of De Moines, Iowa in the United States and I’m here with a group of pilgrims from Iowa, from the Diocese of De Moines. My dear brother and sister pilgrims, I wish you many, many special blessings during your time in Medjugorje. May you receive special gifts from God that will help you to grow in your love of God, in your love of your neighbor and in the very love you have for yourself. I would like to propose for our reflection this afternoon, the question of the scholar of the law. I would hope it would be our question on this time of pilgrimage. “Teacher, what must I do to gain, to inherit eternal life?” In very simple words, the scholar was asking Jesus, how will I get to Heaven? I pray that’s the question in each and every one of our hearts and is part of the reason why we are here. For an answer, Jesus quoted from the book of Deuteronomy. It was a prayer that the scholar already knew. It was a prayer that we ourselves already know. Jesus said, how do you get to Heaven? By loving. Love. Love God completely. Love your neighbor carefully and love yourself tenderly. Now, my dear friends, isn’t that basically the same message that has been given time and again by Our Blessed Mother here in Medjugorje? As I understand it, the message that was given to those who experienced the Blessed Mother, it was “see how much God loves you and then in seeing how much God loves you, take that love, return that love to God and love your neighbor and especially love your neighbor in such a way that you will be an instrument of peace, an instrument of love.
Bishop Joseph Charron from the Diocese of De Moines, Iowa in the United States, was the main concelebrant for Sunday Mass for English speaking pilgrims on July 15, 2007. He has been present for the English Mass each day this past week in St. James Church, walking the steps of pilgrimage with a group of pilgrims from his De Moines, Iowa diocese.
You know, I think we are all familiar with Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a saintly person of our own time. In reflecting upon Mother Teresa, at one time I asked myself, how is it possible that she can go into the streets of Calcutta, day in and day out, and see all of these people in terrible suffering, in terrible conditions, with terrible diseases, and how can she embrace it day after day after day in such a seemingly tireless and loving way? And, of course, as a theologian I thought to myself, I know, it’s because she sees in them the image and the likeness of God. I believe that’s true. But, my dear people, I believe there is something more going on there. I believe it began for Mother Teresa when she experienced God’s love in her own heart. When she knew that God loved her without reserve, she then could go out and share that love which was a limitless love. It never ended from the moment that she realized it until the moment that she returned to God’s love. Isn’t that our call?
Immediately, in the Gospel, the scholar of the law asked the question that rises in our hearts too. Who is our neighbor? Is it the people who are around us? Is it the people we know? Is it limited? The story that we just heard of the Good Samaritan, Jesus’ answer is “no, no, no, it’s everyone.” No one is excluded from God’s love. No one may be excluded from our love. I always like to say each of us has a big measure of our love and then we have that little measure of our love. The big measure are those we love most, our spouses, our family, our friends, those whom we really look up to, and yes, that’s a measure of our love. But you know, we are called to expand that measure. Always. Then there’s that little measure. You know those people that we find difficult to love, whom we wonder if we ever can love. Those people who irritate us. Those people who offend and hurt us. There too, we are called to be instruments in the way of God’s love – to increase our love for those close to us, and to increase our love for those whom we find most difficult to love.
So today, and during these days of our pilgrimage, let us ask Our Blessed Lady’s help to live in love – to live in love of the God who loves us so much, and in the love of one another, who like each of us is created in the image and the likeness of God’s love. Let us also pray, fervently here, that each one of our hearts may turn to gold, the gold of God’s pure love. For when that happens, when our hearts are changed in the love of God, what we heard in Deuteronomy this morning will happen in us. When this Commandment, and we know that this is the great Commandment, the love of God, the love of neighbor, and the love of self, “for this great Commandment that I enjoin upon you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. No it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and already in your hearts. You have only to carry it out.”
My dear people, let us carry in our hearts the love that we have found, here in Medjugorje, and carry that love to our homes, to our families, to our friends, to all who need to know and experience God’s love.
Mary, Mother of God, Our Lady of Medjugorje, pray for us. Amen.
- Bishop Joseph Charron