12th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Caritas Christi Urget Nos

This was my first homily at my new assignment, St. Raphael. So there’s a bit more about me in here than I’d usually go for, but the nice part is that it fit in so well with the readings.

In the Deacon Chapel at Mundelein Seminary, the institution where I spent the last five years, there is an inscription over the sanctuary that reads in Latin, “Caritas Christi Urget Nos.” The translation of this Latin phrase is found in today’s second reading: “The love of Christ impels us.” I have also seen that phrase translated, “The love of Christ compels us,” or maybe even better, “The love of Christ urges us on.” And we know this is true, don’t we? The love of Christ fills us up and the love of Christ sets us on fire and the love of Christ moves us into action. The love of Christ begs to be shared because the love of Christ cannot be contained. The love of Christ, if we let it, takes over our lives and empowers us to do things that we never thought we could do.

I reflected on why Cardinal Mundelein would have put those words over the sanctuary of the Deacon Chapel at the school. I think it’s there as a reminder of what brought us there and what we were there to do. For those of us studying to be priests, it’s good to remember that it wasn’t our own initiative that brought us to the seminary. Sure, we had to cooperate with God’s grace, but it was that love of Christ that moved us to be there in the first place. And, coming to the chapel, we were there to celebrate the great power of Christ’s love in the sacrificial meal that he left us as a remembrance of him. We were there to remember that Christ died for all of us, as St. Paul tells us today, and that because of that we are made new creations.

On the inside of my door at Mundelein Seminary, posted so that I could see it on the way out each and every day, was an 8 ½ by 11 inch sheet of paper that bore that same inscription: Caritas Christi Urget Nos. That sheet of paper wasn’t posted by Cardinal Mundelein or anybody else. I’m the one who put it there. I put it there as a reminder, too, of what it was that brought me to seminary. Because, in all honesty, some days I needed to be reminded of why it was I was doing what I was doing. Why was I studying a particularly difficult piece of theology? Why did I need to immerse myself in formation? Why did I need to do more to enliven my prayer life? Why was I studying for the priesthood at a difficult time in the Church’s history? Well, because the love of Christ impelled me to do it. I’ve found that’s the only reason that is ultimately satisfying, and that it’s only by going where the love of Christ takes me that I’m ever really happy.

Today’s Scriptures paint a picture of a God completely in control. God is the one who sets the boundary for the sea and clothes the sky in the garments of the clouds. God is the one who overcomes death through the death of Christ and God is the one who creates the world anew through his Resurrection. God is the one who pilots the voyages of our lives and God is the one who calms our storms. If even the wind and the sea obey him, then we who are filled with his love are certainly impelled to do his will.

Because the love of Christ impels all of us to do whatever it is we are called to do. The love of Christ impels some of us to raise children and create families where faith and love are priorities. The love of Christ impels some of us to live single lives with purity as a witness to the Gospel. The love of Christ impels some of us to be business men and women of integrity as a witness to God’s justice. The love of Christ impels some of us to priestly and religious vocations as a witness of faith. All of us are impelled by the love of Christ to do something to share that love with others and to show that love to a world which desperately needs to see it.

We all could take a lesson from that inscription over the sanctuary of the Deacon Chapel at Mundelein and somehow put those words where we will see them each day. Because we all need to be reminded from time to time why we give of ourselves or deny ourselves or do more than what we’re expected to do. We need to remember that it is the love of Christ that impels us to live as examples and witnesses of the faith, so that others might see and believe. We need to remember that it is only by giving ourselves to our Lord, and trusting him to calm our storms, that we can ever be truly happy. The ultimate fulfillment in life comes from doing what Christ’s love impels us to do.

As I begin my time here at St. Raphael, my prayer is that we will all use this time to grow in holiness together. We are all a people created by God and baptized into his Church. We are all a people of talents and gifts and faith. We are all a people loved by God and urged by that love to do great things in the name of God. We will do that by supporting one another, by praying for one another and by praying together, by celebrating the Eucharist and the sacraments together, and by sharing our faith and our lives together. I look forward to the time that we will spend together and pray that it will be a fulfilling time for all of us. I am grateful for the welcome you’ve already shown me in many ways, and for all of your prayers and support. Please know that you will be in my prayers every day. Let us rejoice in our being together, and let us all, as the psalmist tells us today, give thanks to the Lord, whose love is everlasting.