My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
It is June. The media announces the start of the hurricane season and Catholic Charities of Central Florida has begun to prepare organizationally with its care providers throughout the state. Our ordination ceremony is concluded, and we have a new priest — Father Derek Saldanha. We have celebrated this year’s Sacrament of First Communion and Baccalaureate Masses. School is out.
All of these are indicators to me that it is the beginning of summer. What does the word, summer, conjure up for you? Perhaps it is embarking on a planned vacation, going to the beach or relaxing by a pool, exploring God’s creation on a hike through the Ocala forest or the Appalachian Mountains, participating in a family reunion, or mowing the grass and trimming the landscape. Thinking of summer conjures up activities of enjoyment and rest.
What does an ideal summer look like for God? I imagine it would make a priority participating in the celebration of the Eucharist during Mass. During the Mass we participate joyfully and receive rest in the Lord. We are given mercy as we acknowledge our sinfulness. We praise God. We profess our beliefs. We enter into sacred Scripture. We prepare the table. We consecrate the gifts. We go into the world to tell others of what we just heard. The celebration of Mass guides, strengthens, and forms us to be transforming agents of what we have received.
This is what God would want of us this summer — to become what we have received. He calls us to relate each moment out of this identity, of being a member of the body of Christ. Our vocation is what Jesus offers each one of us, to be reconciling, unifying and loving. We live our communion with God in all places, events, and persons.
Vacation is not an opportunity to step away from this vocation, but it is our time to enter into it more deeply. When you travel, visit a Catholic church and participate in the celebration of Mass. The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, right here in our own diocese, is a sacred destination for pilgrims seeking God. Take a day trip to walk the Rosary Garden, partake in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, view the art designated to honor Mary, the mother of God, and pray. Talk with your pastor or a representative of Catholic Charities of Central Florida or the Mission Office or Bishop Grady Villas to discover opportunities for volunteerism during the summer months. Check out the summer schedule at San Pedro Spiritual Development Center to learn about spiritual retreats and other offerings for youth and adults. Set aside quiet time for prayer with your family.
Talk each day about the blessings you have received and those which you have given. Take time during Religious Freedom Week, June 22-29, to pray, reflect, and take action on religious liberty, both here in this country and abroad. Religious freedom gives us the space to carry out the mission, to teach all nations, which Jesus has entrusted to the Church. Religious freedom means that Catholics are free to seek and live in the Truth to strengthen our common life as a nation.
Pope Francis said, “Ours is not an absent God, sequestered in a faraway heaven. Instead he is a God impassioned with mankind, so tenderly in love that he is unable to stay away. Jesus assures us He not only waits for us at the end of our long journey; but accompanies us every day. God will always be concerned and take care of his children, even to the end of all time. And why does he do this? Quite simply because he loves us.”
What comes to mind when you hear the word, summer? I pray that we will be mindful of our vocation, “go and teach all nations,” and live through, with and in God. May our love of God fill the earth.