The following homily was given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde Februar 23, 2007, during the Discernment Weekend at Christendom College in Front Royal.
Recently, Pope Benedict XVI sent a message to the youth of the world. His words are addressed to you, young adults participating in this Discernment Weekend here at Christendom College. "My dear young friends, I want to invite you to ‘dare to love.' Do not desire anything less for your life than a love that is strong and beautiful and that is capable of making the whole of your existence a joyful undertaking of giving yourselves as a gift to God and your brothers and sisters, in imitation of the One who vanquished hatred and death forever through love" (cf. Rev 5:13).
Yes, "dare to love." How? In giving yourself to God and to others. Recall the two-fold commandment of love: love of God and love of others. Jesus said: "Do this and you will live."
When you and I were baptized, we were consecrated to live out this two-fold love. Now, we must admit that we have not always lived this way. We have forgotten, neglected and even denied loving both God and others; this is the essence of sin.
Each year, we are invited to make the annual Lenten retreat in order to relearn this two-fold commandment of love, to come back to the Lord and to the community of the Church, to love more fully and more deeply both God and others. By prayer, penance and almsgiving — the three principal works of Lent — we seek to be transformed more into the image of Jesus Christ, the very sacrament or visible sign of this two-fold love.
Now, early in this Lent, you find yourselves taking part in this Discernment Weekend. Pope John Paul II repeatedly reminded us that when we were created, God gave us our own individual unique "life project" — our individual calling or vocation. You have come here to discern what His call is for each of you. To discern entails listening attentively to the Lord, going within your heart and soul to discover what the Lord is asking you to be and to do. Is it the priesthood, diocesan or religious? Is it the consecrated life of a sister or brother? Is it marriage? Is it the single life lived chastely for the sake of the Kingdom? Within this context, is it belonging to a secular institute?
Whatever the particular vocation to which the Lord is inviting you, love is at its center: love for God and love for others. As a priest, you act in the person of Christ — Head, Shepherd and Spouse of the Church — revealing His love by teaching, sanctifying and leading God's people. As a consecrated person living the life of a brother or sister, you make present the love of Christ the chaste one, the poor one, the obedient one. As husband or wife, you make present in a visible manner the loving union of Christ and His Church. As a single person living chastely, you reflect the love of Christ through living generously and sacrificially for the sake of others in the world, and as a member of a secular institute you sanctify with love the society in which you live and work. Yes, in each vocation, you "dare to love" united to Christ.
The Word of God today points to fasting. Through the prophet Isaiah, God tells us that the fasting most pleasing to Him is reaching out in tangible and realistic ways to the poor and the needy, whether the need be of body or soul. "This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, … setting free the oppressed, … sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless, clothing the naked. …" In this kind of fasting, we deny our wants, the selfishness which dwells within us, often very subtly. This kind of fasting reveals to us a certain emptiness within, or put differently, our need for Jesus, who alone can fill us with the love which will satisfy our hearts and lead us to reach out and "re-give" His love to others, as Pope Benedict XVI reminded us in his Lenten message.
The name "Polycarp" sounds strange to us, but it is the name of the saint commemorated today in our Lenten liturgy. He was filled with love of God and others, ultimately giving his life in witness to Jesus, the sacrament of this two-fold love.
I do not know the particular vocation — "life project" — to which the Lord is calling you. But, I do know this: in the one He chooses for you, He desires you to reveal love of God and love of others. My prayer is that this discernment weekend will help you to remain open to the Lord's guiding light as He leads you to discover His Will for you. As the poet Dante tells us, "In His Will is our peace!"