41st Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress
July 1-5 – Phoenix, AZ
Theme: “Chosen and appointed by God to go and bear fruit”
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In continuation of our series of reflections on the theme of our 41st Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress, “Chosen and appointed by God to go and bear fruit,” let us consider the question, “Where do we go?” It is very clear from the Holy Scripture in John 15:16 and throughout the Gospels and Epistles, that we are sent by God into the world with a message of His divine love and of the salvation that comes through Christ. By this message of truth and faith, offered through our worship, our ministry, and through all areas of our lives, we reveal the power and presence of Christ in all that we do. It is a witness of grace and redemption for a world that is burdened with sin and death. Where do we go? We go into all of the world, into our homes, communities, and workplaces, and into the lives of many who are searching for God and seek answers and meaning in the midst of the serious questions and challenges of life.
We must recognize that all around us are people who have needs, and meeting these needs with the presence and love of God will bear tremendous spiritual fruit. There are those who need comfort in a time of great loss and pain. Others are struggling with challenging emotional and spiritual burdens, needing wisdom and strength to find a way through. Many are blinded by the deceptive influences of the world, and they need the illumination of their minds and hearts with truth. Some are facing spiritual or physical death, searching for the assurances of salvation and eternal life. Others around us are burdened with failure and need a message of hope to renew their lives. Many live in sadness and need enduring joy, many live in guilt and need forgiveness.
When we see these great needs in the lives of people, so many of all ages and all walks of life, we realize why God has chosen and appointed us to go to them. The answers to their questions, the goal of their quests, and the relief of their burdens are found only in Him. So many people are seeking answers to the greatest challenges of our human experience. They need help, a way to make sense of it all, and assurance that there is more to this life. In response to their needs, God sends us to bear the fruit that leads them to Him. The fruit of comfort and wisdom, of truth and salvation, hope and joy, love and forgiveness will be produced in lives that receive Him in faith. We have to go and be His witnesses.
This means we will be searching for those in need. We will have an apostolic attitude, knowing that we are sent with a purpose, blessed with the gifts we need, and strengthened by the Holy Spirit who will guide us in what to say and do. When we see the needs of others, we will follow the example of our Lord and respond in compassion, not thinking of ourselves in a selfish manner, but showing genuine concern for the life and well-being of another. In addition, when we go and find others struggling in the midst of life’s challenges, we will commit ourselves to helping them. Fruit is not produced without cultivation. Spiritual fruit needs our time, our sacrifice, and our hard work—sacred work that will produce abundant and eternal blessings both in others, in our lives and in our communities of faith. When we obey the call of God, when we recognize that we have been chosen and appointed by Him for a holy task, when we respond to Him and go to those who need to hear, see and receive His grace, the fruit will be transformed lives, renewed purpose, the discovery of meaning, and eternal life and communion with Him.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America