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Bishop Reilly: Love is God’s first and final word

Posted By March 1, 2012 | 12:50 pm | Lead Story #2

By Tanya Connor

CHARLTON – A mother and her daughters, aged about 7 and 9, came to a clinic. One of the girls always hid her face in her mother’s dress.
“The little girl knew she didn’t look too good, so she didn’t want anyone to see her,” retired Bishop Reilly said in his homily on charity Monday at St. Joseph Parish.
His was the first of three Masses the diocese’s bishops are celebrating there for a Lenten mission on the three theological virtures. At 7 p.m. Monday, Bishop McManus is to preach about hope. At 7 p.m. March 12, Bishop Rueger is to preach about faith.
Bishop Reilly illustrated how his topic – love (or charity) – changes the world, with stories from his visits to Haiti.
He continued his account by telling about attending the dedication of a clinic in Haiti.
“This little girl came running up to me and jumped in my lap, smiling,” he said. It was the child who used to hide her face. The cleft palate which had so marred her looks had been repaired, thanks to a dentist from Norwich who took surgeons from the United States to Haiti for just such a purpose.
“Thank you for helping to make the face of Haiti more beautiful – just like you did for this little girl,” the bishop of Jeremie told those gathered for the dedication.
“This is God’s love in action,” Bishop Reilly said. “This is charity in full bloom.”
Bishop Reilly also told about helping bring tins of ham to Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Jeremie. They didn’t have much food.
“Sisters, this is for you,” they were instructed. “Do not be giving this out to the people.” But soon they were caught making sandwiches with the ham – for the poorest of the poor.
“Mother Teresa said we should not have any more than three days food in the house,” they defended themselves.
Bishop Reilly asked to accompany one of the sisters for the sandwich delivery. She disappeared into a hole in the side of a hill, where she cared for a man dying of cancer.
A woman on crutches, thin as a rail, with a leg missing, let the waiting bishop know she was hungry.
“Sister, this woman would like a sandwich,” Bishop Reilly said.
“She can’t have a sandwich,” replied the sister. “She can get around. She can beg. We have to go to the people who have no one.”
In the end, there was a sandwich left, and the crippled woman was given it, perhaps more for the sake of the American bishop, who was getting a lesson about the poorest of the poor from one of their servants.
“That’s charity alive – alive,” Bishop Reilly said, as he concluded this recollection.
He had begun his homily with an instruction from the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” about the theological virtues – faith, hope and charity – the foundation of the Christian moral life. They are infused by God into souls so people can live their Christian lives on earth and merit eternal life, he noted.
“Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God, and all he has said and revealed to us,” Bishop Reilly said. “You can’t divide God and the Church.” Christians are called to bear witness to and spread that faith.
Hope directs people to desire the Kingdom of Heaven and eternal life as their true happiness, the bishop said. It responds to the aspiration to happiness God has placed in their hearts.
“That’s so beautiful when you have those virtues really pushing you ahead each day,” he said.
Love, Bishop Reilly said, is the virtue by which people love God above all things, for his own sake, and love their neighbors as themselves because they love God.
“If that really could take hold of our world, what a different world we would live in,” he commented. “For real living, charity must be truly alive in us. It is one thing to know the virtues, but the great challenge is to live them.”
Bishop Reilly read about characteristics of love from I Cor. 13: it is patient, kind, not jealous, doesn’t insist on its own way, does not rejoice in wrong, bears all things, etc.
“Faith, hope and charity abide, these three, but the greatest of these is charity,” he read, from I Cor. 13:13.
Bishop Reilly concluded his homily with another quote, “Love is God’s first and final word to the world about himself, and Jesus is that word.”