Thank you all for your singing of Happy Birthday and the many wonderful birthday well-wishings last weekend at the pancake breakfast at Saint Bridgets or at Mass at Holy Ghost. Such an expression of love and support was really humbling and a great source of consolation. Thank you all. I joked with some that the last three years were spent with the university students on their silent retreat. My birthday would always land right in the middle of the silent retreat, so the last three years have been relatively quiet birthdays. This year was something completely different. Thank you.
Going back to our discussion, I have basically two weeks to wrap it up, because with the upcoming Year of Mercy, I would like to talk about Mercy and the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
We have been working on the ideas of the dignity of the human person and the fulfillment one finds in making a gift of oneself, on the one hand, and the complementarity of love and life, on the other. Maybe we can relate these four with four characteristics of free, total, faithful, fruitful. "Free" does describe something very unique about our dignity. The philosophical tradition describes free will as an interaction between our thinking and choosing. It is ordered to a good. We are truly free when we can choose what is really good for us without hesitation. That good is what will truly make us happy and so is the true "freedom for" rather than "freedom from".
That our happiness is wrapped up with a total gift of self, then, suggests this second characteristic of total. We are really only fulfilled with a total gift of self, as it relates to our vocation in Christ to be married, single, consecrated, or ordained. If we hold back something, if our gift of our self is not total, then we stunt our happiness.
While all the four characteristics of free, total, faithful, and fruitful can all describe love, perhaps faithful describes love best. Thick or thin, easy or hard, good times and bad, ups and downs, love really shows its strength when it is faithful. Why come to Mass Sunday in and Sunday out? Because that faithfulness reveals a committed love for God. Why attend to the needs of our spouse (in my case the Church) or the needs of our children or the needs of our parish year in and year out? Because that faithfulness is the proof in the pudding of our love.
Finally, "fruitful" is best associated with "life." We are called to be live-giving. This openness to life is again related appropriately to each vocation, but unless we are life-giving, giving of ourselves, we limit our fulfillment. By considering these characteristics of free, total, faithful, and fruitful, then we can understand a lot of the Church's teachings on priesthood and marriage.
Last week's Homily Suggestion: Be a generous giver this week, and try and take note how the Lord has blessed your giving.