Category Archives: Columns

Do You Allow Incarnation?

by Mike Van Vranken

Unfortunately, December is sometimes the only month we talk about Incarnation. I say unfortunately, because as Christians, we have no visible representation of God without Incarnation. “He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation” Col 1:15. The author of Colossians is attesting that the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity is the image of the invisible God.

“For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and invisible, . . . all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together” Col 1:16-17.  Again, it is very clear these verses are about Christ since the beginning, not just about the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

But my purpose with this article is not to determine if Incarnation happened 2,000 years ago at the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ become man, or 13.7 billion years ago with the creation of the universe. Instead, I want to propose the image and reality that Incarnation is present today; present in our lives; present when we allow it.

Meister Eckhart, the 14th century Dominican, taught that Incarnation is always continuing as the “Word” of God (another name for the “Son” of God) and is always seeking to be birthed and expressed in creation – especially birthed in you and me. “In one sermon, Eckhart wondered, Why do we pray? Why do we fast? Why do we do all our works? Why are we baptized? Why (most important of all) did God become man? I would answer, in order that God may be born in the soul . . .” Mysticism and Prophecy by Richard Woods, OP.

Can you spend time each day this month reflecting on Incarnation in this sense:  That the Son is waiting to be born, made visible and manifested in you on a daily basis, each and every day? Just as the Word was made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth in Bethlehem, and was the physical manifestation of God, are you willing to allow the Word to be made flesh in you as the physical manifestation of God every day of your life? Not that you become God, but that you allow Him to be birthed and represented and manifested within you? More from Meister Eckhart on “Christ Continuing to be Incarnated in Us:”

“What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself?

And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace and if I am not also full of grace?

What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to His Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and in my culture?

This, then, is the fullness of time; When the Son of God is begotten in us.”

(Meditations with Meister Eckhart,
Matthew Fox)

My recommendation is to reverently, and with trust in Him, ask God for the grace to open your mind and heart for the desire to give birth to His eternal Son over and over again (a new understanding of being “born again).”

Once you experience that desire, sit with God in the quiet and ask Him to show you ways this Incarnation can take place in you. Maybe it manifests as a newfound love of those who frustrate you. Maybe it is the birth of extravagant forgiveness for someone in your past – maybe even yourself. It could be a new creation of love for refugees or the poor. Perhaps it evolves as compassion for a family member who has disappointed you. And, like many Christmas surprises, it may be some new way that you can be the physical image of God that you have never dreamed of.

This may all be a very new way to view Incarnation for you. Be gentle with yourself and remember, new perspectives take weeks and even months before they become our normal reality. But when you begin to see Incarnation as part of your daily discipleship, the infant Christ within you will leap “for joy,” and Incarnation will be something you proclaim and experience all year long.  •

From the Editor

by Jessica Rinaudo

You may have noticed that the cover of this issue of The Catholic Connection magazine looks a little different this month – it is an illustration of the five priests who died in serving the sick in the Shreveport Yellow Fever epidemic of 1873. These are the same priests who are depicted in the stained glass windows inside Holy Trinity Church in downtown Shreveport.

This cover is the first of many illustrations you will see in The Catholic Connection in the coming months. The Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, most notably Fr. Peter Mangum, Dr. Cheryl White and Ryan Smith, have embarked on a project to commemorate the 145th anniversary of the Shreveport Yellow Fever epidemic, and help make the faithful of our diocese more aware of the importance of these five martyrs, as well as the three Daughters of the Cross who died in the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1873. As part of their project, they have commissioned comic book artist and illustrator, Deacon Andrew Thomas, to draw a comic book of the events surrounding the lives of these priests in 1873, including their faith, service and deaths. One to two of those pages will be released each month in The Catholic Connection magazine as a serial, telling this important piece of Shreveport Catholic history. This project is sponsored by the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, and we are grateful to be able to share it with all the people of the Diocese of Shreveport.

With that in mind, there are several other articles in this issue that relate to this topic: an interview with the illustrator, Deacon Andrew Thomas; a story on St. Joseph Cemetery, where two of these priests are buried; information on martyrs in the Catholic church; and, of course, the main feature, which details the stories of these priests and how they shared their lives with the faithful of Shreveport in 1873. And don’t forget our Kids’ Connection this month ! There is also information about an upcoming podcast series on these priests that will debut the first weekend in November.

We hope you enjoy this special issue of The Catholic Connection, timed to print in conjunction with All Saints and All Souls days, and that you remember these martyrs in your prayers, especially during the month of November. •

Kids’ Connection: Shreveport Yellow Fever Martyrs

Click to download and print this month’s Kids’ Connection on the priests who died in the Shreveport Yellow Fever epidemic of 1873.

Vocations View: Overcoming Obstacles to Seminary

by Chris Dixon

Have you ever planned for a big event, and in the end felt something was still missing? I’m all too familiar with this process – it’s been the story of my life! I’m happy now to have found what I’ve been missing for almost 30 years. After growing up Baptist and finding my way to the Catholic Church, I now feel that God is calling me to be a priest!

That definitely wasn’t my initial plan. I had the dreams many young people do after college: a career, family, friends, success. I was brought up well and had the foundation I needed to make it in life. I achieved much of what I set out to do, but something was still missing.

I will never forget finding the missing piece to my life on Christmas Eve at a midnight Mass at St. Joseph Parish in Mansfield. As a Southern Baptist, when I was invited to the midnight service, I didn’t know what I was walking in to. I heard the rumors and was certainly skeptical of the Catholic faith. Something nudged me on. I’ll be forever grateful to my friend for inviting me, because that night my life changed forever when I experienced the “True Presence of God.”

After that experience I did lots of research and began learning about the Catholic Church and her teachings. Over the course of a few years, I reached out to RCIA directors at a few churches. I found just the place to begin my journey of faith at St. Matthew Parish in Monroe. Deacon Scott Brandle and the entire parish were so very welcoming. Towards the end of my RCIA journey, a seminarian spoke to our class about vocations. It was during this conversation that I first experienced God’s call in my life. At first I told God, “Not me! I have plans I’m living out!” But God continued to call, and I reluctantly began to listen.

After I was welcomed into the Church, I began to seriously consider what my vocation was and what God was asking of me. During prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament, God again tugged my heart and I felt He was calling me to the priesthood. I spoke with several of my new friends about this experience and they encouraged me to speak with the Vocations Director.
Vocations Director Fr. Matthew Long told me I needed to practice my faith for a few years to be considered for the priesthood. I was eager to do just that. I moved to Shreveport and joined Holy Trinity Parish. A new job, a new faith, I was ready! I couldn’t have asked for a better guide to this faith than my pastor, Msgr. Earl Provenza. We quickly became very good friends and he showed me the gift and sacrifice of the priesthood. I became more and more in love with the Church and service to others. I was active in the church inside and out, especially with service to those in need through the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

I found a routine and was becoming comfortable with my new Catholic way of life when I was invited to attend an ACTS retreat. I had never been on retreat before and didn’t know what to expect. I went in with an open mind and heart and with an intention to understand what God’s plans were for me and for my life. It was there the Holy Spirit moved and spoke to me in such a real way. I was kneeling at the foot of the bed, praying while looking at the crucifix, I heard Jesus ask me three times, “Chris, do you love me?” I knew without a doubt that God was calling me to His priesthood. I couldn’t wait to get back and speak with Fr. Long again.
I completed my application and turned it into the diocese. I met with Fr. Jerry Daigle, current Vocations Director, to discuss my application and fill him in on my journey up to this point. Upon review of my application, there appeared to be one thing that hindered me taking my next steps: my educational debt. I wasn’t sure what the next steps were or how I would overcome this hurdle.

Many hours of prayer and adoration were answered with an introduction to the Labouré Society. The Labouré Society has answered the call of assisting men and women in their journey of discerning a vocation by helping them overcome educational debt. I’m now part of a class of 16 other men and women who are raising money for church vocations. Any donation made in my honor gets me and my classmates closer to our vocation. Approved by the Catholic Church, this organization has helped over 300 people enter formation.

I’ve learned to consult with God through prayer and active listening now before making changes and decisions in my life. I know that Christ and the Blessed Mother are watching over each of us and I truly feel the Holy Spirit is guiding and encouraging me in this journey. We all must follow our vocations, and even when they seem impossible, God is ready to show us nothing is impossible when He is directing the way.

It is good for us all to pray for each other. I appreciate your prayers for me as I continue to discern God’s call in my life, and rest assured of my prayers for you as you similarly try to discern God’s call in yours.

If you have questions about my vocation story, my work with the Labouré Society, or would simply like to visit, please feel free to contact me. May God continue to bless each of us!

chrisd@laboureaspirant.org
https://labouresociety.org/christopher-dixon

Martyrs and Saints: A History of Witness & Holiness in the Church

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by Cheryl H. White, Ph.D.

The earliest centuries of Christianity are punctuated by periods of severe persecution of the faithful in the Roman Empire, beginning in earnest under the reign of Emperor Nero, when the Church was just decades old. The very first persecution was of Jesus Christ, followed of course by the Apostles. The word “martyr” in Greek was applied to describe the Apostles, both who they were, and what they had done, for the word literally translates as “witness.” By their deaths, they provided the ultimate witness to the Truth they had seen and known in the person of Jesus Christ.

In the pagan culture of the Roman Empire, there was a civic expectation that people would recognize the gods worshipped by others, and the refusal of this in Christianity naturally made its followers suspicious to Roman authorities. Through the first three centuries of the Church, generalized edicts condemning Christianity were common, and resulted in many Christians going to what was often a sentence of horrific torture and death. This did not deter or discourage the faithful. In fact, martyrdom became the model and ideal for the Christian, as it has been likened to “the narrow gate” by some scholars. Tertullian of Carthage, a prominent theologian of the second century, expressed this concept well when he wrote, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” The persecuted Church only grew in numbers.
Martyrdom became such an identifiable aspect of the faith that when active persecutions ended during the reign of Constantine the Great in the fourth century, Christianity sought new ways to find the highest possible calling in other expressions, such as asceticism and monasticism. Still, to die a martyr’s death remained an ideal for centuries to come, as Christians continued to identify with the sacrifice of the persecuted faithful of the earliest era. Those early martyrs quickly became recognized as the first saints of the Church, and the willingness to lay down one’s life for Christ became a clear path to holiness.

In the first centuries of the Church, there was no formal process of canonization as there is today, with elevation to sainthood usually occurring at the level of the local bishop. By the sixth century, the names of the most well-known of these were being commemorated in the liturgy, evidenced by the Roman Canon. Martyrdom, while the first ideal of the Church, eventually gave way to the recognition of other models of exceptional holiness, heroic virtue, and rigor of life, as equal potential for sainthood. By the tenth century, it became standard that all such canonizations took place at the level of the papacy, and the formal process known today has existed since the sixteenth century creation of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

The stages of the canonization process are defined as: Servant of God, Venerable, Blessed, and Saint. To be recognized as a Servant of God states that the Church has begun the process of official investigation into the life of a potential saint; to be declared Venerable is to have been associated with heroic deeds; to be Blessed (beatified) is to have one miracle confirmed through the intercession of the person in question; and finally, to be a Saint (the final step) requires the confirmation of a second miracle.

In 2017, Pope Francis articulated another way to beatification in an apostolic letter, Majorem Hac Dilectionem, or “greater love than this,” drawn directly from the Gospel of John. The pope stated that besides martyrdom and heroic deeds, the offering of one’s own life out of charity is yet another pathway to the Church’s recognition, with the same requirement of at least one miracle for beatification. “They are worthy of special consideration and honor, those Christians who, following in the footsteps and teachings of the Lord Jesus, have voluntarily and freely offered their lives for others and have persevered until death in this regard.”

Pope Francis went on to say in the apostolic letter, “It is certain that the heroic offering of life, suggested and supported by charity, expresses a true, full and exemplary imitation of Christ, and therefore deserves the admiration that the community of the faithful usually reserves to those who have voluntarily accepted the martyrdom of blood or have exercised in a heroic degree the Christian virtues.”

From the persecutions and martyrdoms of the earliest Christians, to the countless heroic and selfless acts on the part of many other saints throughout history, the Church has always formally recognized holiness. By the new guidelines offered by Pope Francis, the Shreveport “martyrs to their charity” of 1873 seem particularly worthy of this consideration, as they all knowingly offered the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives in the service of others.

Picture: St. Stephen is considered the first Christian martyr. The objects around his head and body are the rocks, which were used to kill him.

Catholic Campaign for Human Development

by Fr. Rothell Price

Collection Dates: November 17 & 18
Announcement Dates: November 4 & 11

he Catholic Campaign for Human Development Collection occurs annually in the month of November as our country prepares for our nationwide day of thanksgiving. We intentionally pause to give thanks to our loving and gracious God for the many blessings we have received from Divine Providence in the course of the year. We express our gratitude over a bountiful meal prepared in the unique tradition of our individual and national families. We place God’s bounty to us on our home table in a visual display, which becomes a feast for our body and soul. Our five senses delight in this thanksgiving as the bounty before us becomes a magnificent feast for our eyes, ears, nose, fingers and taste buds.

“Working on the Margins” is a fitting theme for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development Collection.” The European colonists, who were the fore fathers and mothers of this fledgling nation, were themselves working on the margins of the New World. There were numerous obstacles for them to meet and successfully manage for their spiritual and physical survival. Their success was due in significant part to the Native American peoples who helped the colonists overcome some of those obstacles. The first Thanksgiving was the colonists’ act of gratitude to both God and the Native Americans who helped them survive and flourish. “Working on the margins,” is precisely the work of the U.S. Bishops in the Catholic Campaign for Human Development Collection.

Through the work of this campaign, the bishops of the United States work to permanently change the lives of impoverished people for the better. Our bishops’ long-term goal is to eradicate poverty and its root causes here at home, in our own country. This work is accomplished through grants that allow work to be done locally to bring about lasting and systemic change where it counts the most. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is our unified effort to end poverty right here at home. Just as our faithful God and the indigenous peoples of the New World helped our fore fathers and mothers, so we, in our turn, can help our struggling brothers and sisters identify, meet, and overcome obstacles to being self-sustaining and contributing members of society.

“Working on the Margins” is where Jesus, our Savior worked. We, his modern-day disciples, also work in and on those margins. The mission of the Church and the aim of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development is to bring people into the kingdom and society. Through this collection, you are giving those on the margins a hand up, not a hand out. What relief and hope our fore fathers and mothers must have felt as they saw and feasted on God’s bounty through the help of those who reached out to help them! We provide that same uplifting vision of God’s loving concern when we contribute to this campaign to develop human persons into fully capable and functioning members of the Kingdom and our great society.

Thank you for your generous participation in the second collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Domestic Church: Taking Little Ones to Mass

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by Katie Sciba

I have a confession to make: I haven’t always liked going to Mass. There have been some lengthy periods when the idea of going to Sunday Mass with my family made me want to head for the hills. Our kids were challenging and obnoxious in Mass, so much so that I was resolved that Andrew and I would attend Mass separately each Sunday just so we could avoid hauling our traveling circus into parish-view. We’ve received fantastic advice and insight from veteran parents that made going to Mass as a whole family not just possible, but enjoyable. It’s taken tears, fits and persistence to get us where we are, but we’re grateful for the wisdom passed to us.

1. Up your pre-game.

We’ve learned there’s no such thing as getting ready for Mass “real quick” for our family. It has to start 1 ₂ to 3 hours ahead of departure time, and it takes a divide-and-conquer approach from Andrew and me. Teamwork from us parents is a must if we want to arrive on time and stave off mutual resentment. The kids’ Mass attire is presentable, but it has to be comfortable, too. Uncomfortable shoes, pants and shirts make it hard for the kids to deliver good behavior. To avoid further disruption and tears during Mass, every child takes two trips to the bathroom an hour before and immediately prior to our departure. Though things can be pretty chaotic at our house, we try to keep Mass prep slow to avoid the stress of rushing.

2. Check and voice expectations.

Regardless of how terribly or well our preparations go, the ride to church is a behavioral pep talk. We’ve been going over the same rules every Sunday for years, and now every little Sciba can recite them. They know there won’t be any trips to the bathroom, they have to be prayerful with their bodies – folded hands and upright posture – and they have to pray along, saying the responses. Three simple rules. When our kids slip in any area, we give them a nudge and then model what we want them to remember.

3. Sit up close and talk.

This one is counter-intuitive. It’s tempting to sit toward the back in case we have to make a quick exit with a fit-thrower or potty-goer; but it turns out that kids with comfy clothes and empty bladders are more likely to behave, and with the added bonus of being able to see, the whole family has a shot at making it through Mass, sanity intact. There in the front pews the kids experience every part of the liturgy in plain sight. For our younger ones, we hold them and whisper what’s happening on the altar, “See how Fr. Dan kisses the Gospel after he reads it?” “Watch the servers when they ring the bells. They do it because Jesus is here.” We talk almost the whole Mass to our little ones learning so we can help keep them focused.
4. Respond to behavior.

For the children with angelic manners during Mass, there are stickers or check marks on a chart at home; high fives for the older ones. Whatever we use to reward, the kids get psyched for it. For the kids whose behavior needs tweaking (or revolutionizing), there is a conversation about what they need to work on with follow-through the next Sunday. Really bad behavior gets bigger discipline.

Above all, the biggest, most important tip I’ve received was to KEEP GOING. Practically speaking, parents and kids need consistent practice for behavior and experiences to improve; but even setting this aside, there is nothing more powerful than bringing our families before God. Wild kids will at least be in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, as well as their tried and tired parents. The Lord sees our persistence, our struggles and victories with our families, and loves us in both.

Faithful Food: Groans Too Deep for Words

by Kim Long

Last month I received a text message that a woman I had known growing up was killed in an automobile accident. It hit me hard, harder than expected as we were friends, but not “besties,” and with the exception of the great digital gathering place Facebook, I hadn’t laid eyes on her in years. The news set me on my heels and I cried for a good two hours. Later, I puzzled at what I was truly mourning. The answer came from two friends and a cousin: I was mourning “home,” the place where I came into the world, the associations which continue to form me as I move through the days and weeks of my life.

When I consider other things which have had their hand in forming and shaping me, this is how they rank up: family, scripture and church. Those may sound self-explanatory, but things are seldom as simple as first believed. Here is a scripture I read, quite by accident, on the same day I received the unwelcome news of my friend’s death: Paul writes in Romans: “but the Spirit intercedes for us with groans too deep for words.” (8:26).

“Groans too deep for words” blew me away with comfort and wonder. I realized I had felt that feeling a little before in my life, at those liminal moments which define us in our eyes and the eyes of those who hold us. All that day I sat with that text, prayed those words and saw them gathering around me to keep me upright until I could move past my sadness for this latest loss to the bright light we so bravely profess and in which we so fervently hope.

And now we are in November, a truly tricky month combining saints, souls, ghosts, giving thanks, counting blessings and, last but not least, feasting all in one 30 day time frame. November is not so much a month of remembrance, as it is a month of celebrating those memories. There are two Masses on the first and second days of the month to set the tone: All Saints and All Souls. Everyone is covered, so to speak. Oscar Wilde has a wonderful quote “Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future.” It’s good to know I have a future!

November also holds the celebration of Thanksgiving, the feast when we take a day and we are still and know that He is God, and in Him all our lives originate. This is the light and hope we pray for, we count on, and in November we recall and remember those who first shared that with us.

What did my friend share with me? I can tell you easily and quickly: life, a sense of “joie de vive,” a delight in being alive! She had long red hair, a huge beautiful smile, and sartorially she could hold her own against anyone choosing bright bold colors over my more modest palette. When I was in fifth grade she strode confidently into the classroom to deliver the daily school bulletin to our teacher, inviting us into the grace in which she lived. We little fifth grade girls soaked it in.

In the week before Thanksgiving I am typically self delusional, believing with an absolutism that I have more hours than I do and I end up clinging to the myth that I work better under pressure so I will do it “tomorrow.” This year I will let go and let Thanksgiving unfold. I will be thankful that I have seen joie de vivre in action, and I will try to let that flow through me.

My sister-in-love, LaJo, gave me this recipe some years ago, and it has been a staple since then. I share it with you now.

May we find peace and joy in our days and may we all throw ourselves into the love of a God whose spirit intercedes for us with groans too deep for words.

La Jo’s Green Bean Casserole

Ingredients:
• 2 cans (17 oz) green beans
• ¼ chopped onions
• 1 stick butter
• 10 oz package of cream cheese
• 1 can cream of chicken soup
• 1 sleeve of Ritz Crackers

Directions:
1) Warm green beans.

2) In a separate pan, sauté onions in butter until translucent.

3) Stir cream cheese and soup into green beans.

4) Remove onions with slotted spoon and mix with green beans.

5) Crush Ritz crackers and mix with butter.

6) Spread beans into a buttered casserole dish and top with cracker mixture

7) Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

In Review: From the Dust of the Earth – Who, Me? by Michelle Chopin

reviewed by Kelly Phelan Powell

Local Catholic author, Michelle Chopin, was inspired to write her first book, From the Dust of the Earth – Who, Me? A Study for Reflection, after a bout with a serious illness. Though she had originally envisioned a manuscript entitled Hopes, Dreams and Realities, it wasn’t until her body “shut down,” as her doctor phrased it, that this busy wife, mother, grandmother and professional was able to spend time discerning the nature and topics of her long-dreamed-of book. What resulted is an uncomplicated yet profound collection of quotes, scriptural quotations, excerpts from sermons and a myriad of other treasures that provide fertile ground for study, reflection, insight and prayer.

From the Dust of the Earth is organized into sections: “Meditations for the Heart and Mind,” “Melodies for the Soul” and “Nourishment for the Mind and Body.” Each section contains “themes,” as Chopin calls them, such as “Creation,” “Gratitude” and “Accomplishment.” Within each of these themes (organized alphabetically so the reader can easily return to any of them for further study) are poems, stories and quotes by a myriad of people ranging from astronomer Carl Sagan to local parish priest, Fr. Karl Daigle. Throughout the book are plenty of lined pages on which the reader can jot down notes and questions, making this an ideal devotional or material for a discussion group.

Within the theme “Journey,” Chopin writes, “Thoughts were streaming, flying, of course not at light speed, but almost. With so much going on inside of me, a real sense of urgency absolutely had developed. I realized I had so much to say, so much to share. Not only thoughts, but also words, phrases, sentences, examples, analogies and themes were coming to mind so fast that at times I actually felt dizzy. I felt excited and enthusiastic to have a writing project.” Her passion is evident throughout From the Dust of the Earth, and it gives her manuscript a sense of the personal nature with which she approached the work of writing and collecting a literal lifetime of wisdom.

One of the things I most enjoyed about From the Dust of the Earth is that the reader is able to approach it in a nonlinear fashion. As a wife and mother of two small children, I frequently find myself in need of copious amounts of encouragement and wisdom, and it was nice to be able to turn to practically any page in this book and find something uplifting and thought-provoking.

The newly-installed Bishop of Baton Rouge, Michael G. Duca, said in a dust-jacket excerpt for the book, “[The] power to inspire is the real gift Mrs. Chopin gives us in this collection of wisdom from her life. I thank her…for reminding me that an attentive spirit can find wisdom and inspiration from many sources: The Bible, for sure, philosophers, parish priests, friends and even, at times, fortune cookies.”

From the Dust of the Earth is available through Amazon.com, or by contacting the author at 318-505-8350, or professorec@bellsouth.net.

Mike’s Meditations: One Commandment is Enough

by Mike Van Vranken

Many of us learned as children that there are Ten Commandments of God. He gave them to Moses for all of us to obey. And, while they may be difficult to keep, our humanity likes commandments or rules. They give us boundaries to live in. Of course, we usually ask for exceptions for each commandment, but we like them just the same.

In one of the gospel stories, someone asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. This man too was looking to make sure he was following the rules. Jesus began by saying: “You know the commandments…” (Matthew 19:16). Of course, in this particular story, Jesus ends by explaining that it’s who we become, not what we do, that really matters. In this case, it is to be a follower of Jesus; be his disciple; that’s who Jesus commanded the man to be.

If we study Jewish history, we learn that they followed around 613 laws or commandments. Wow! That seems like a burden to keep. But again, the more rules we have, the easier it is to say “we are doing it right!” Our egos absolutely LOVE to do it right. So, how confusing it must have been for those attending Jesus’ last supper when he gave them only one commandment to follow. That’s right, only one. He said it twice, but it is the same commandment. Here’s how John the Evangelist quoted Jesus:

“This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). “This I command you: love one another” (John 15:17).

One God, one Body of Christ, one people, one commandment. We really don’t have to worry if we are following the seventh commandment, or the fourth commandment or the 612th commandment. There is only one that Jesus left us: “Love one another.” Why have we made it so difficult?

You may be thinking: “But what about loving God above all things with our whole heart, mind and strength?” Didn’t he say that too? Yes, and more than once. But, if we think about it, when we love one another, we are loving the God who lives within us. It is such a reality that Jesus could declare that whenever we do something or neglect to do something to anyone, we are doing it or neglecting to do it to him. How we treat another human being, is exactly how we are treating God at the same time. While the other person is not God, because God’s real presence lives in all of us, whatever we do or don’t do to another person, we do or don’t do to God.

Genesis 1:27 declares that God made humans in His image and likeness. Psalms 8:6 teaches that God made mankind a little less than “elohim.” My Jewish study bible translates “elohim” as “divine.” We are made a little less than divine. So, any way we can understand all of this, our conclusion has to be: when we love another person, we are loving God at the same time.

Jesus makes it very easy for us to follow him: “Love one another.” And, to what degree do we love one another? He goes on to say: “as I have loved you.”

Reading all of these scriptures in prayer recently, I felt an overwhelming sense of awe, but also conviction. I asked God: “In spite of knowing all of these Bible verses, why is it so hard for me to be conscious of you in every other human being on the face of the earth? God, why don’t I always recognize you in others?” Then I sat in the quiet and allowed Him to enlighten me.

He reminded me of Mother Teresa’s words when she was talking about the poor and helpless: “Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.” He asked me how I would treat others differently, no matter who, if I realized each one was Jesus in disguise. I began thinking of everyone who is different than I am: race, age, gender, philosophically, spiritually, socio-economically, enemy – everyone. We continued to sit quietly for an extended period of time. I could feel myself changing, but would it continue once I was back in my daily routine? I prayed for the grace to be constantly aware that God is not only in all things, He is especially in all people.

In your personal prayer time this month, take Jesus’ one commandment to contemplation and prayer. Ask God for His perspective about “love one another as I have loved you.” Then, sit still in the quiet and wait for His loving and compassionate response. And whatever that response is, pray for the grace to be able to become whoever He is asking you to be. It will change your heart. It will transform your life. And you only have to remember one commandment. It alone is enough.