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God’s Love Leads Us to Action

April 30th, 2012by Bill Tonnis

Psalm 27:13-14: But I believe I shall enjoy the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord!

It seems to me that many Christians are living in fear…trying to appease a God who is waiting for them to slip up. Jesus told His followers that if they know Him then they know the Father. How could anyone live in fear if they know Jesus?

John 12:32: “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”

For me, following Jesus is not about trying to make the cut in an evacuation plan to get to heaven one day. That is fear-based salvation. Jesus called on us to follow him now while picking up our crosses (whatever particular struggles or obstacles we are dealing with). Jesus wants us to experience God’s goodness now. He wants us to experience God’s love, mercy, forgiveness, and compassion now (“in the land of the living”).

It’s not about our goodness or earning God’s love…but God’s goodness poured out generously and unconditionally upon us now because God is good, generous, and loving. God is Love! God loves me as a son despite everything I’ve done to turn away. This is the kind of love that transforms and changes lives. It changed mine.

Romans 8:38-39: For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Let that knowledge sink in. Rest in it. And if you are not experiencing this amazing acceptance and love at the moment…take courage! Wait for the Lord! While you are consciously waiting…you are being present and in the present you will find the unconditional love of God.

And when we experience this love…action follows.

James 2:17: Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

As Catholics we are called to action now – not out of fear, but out of the joy of spreading the unmerited love that we have received.

Our Lady of the Visitation (where I work) signed a “Covenant” agreement with St. Leo the Great Parish in North Fairmount last January. It has given members of both parishes the opportunity to experience the love of Christ in the other. We witnessed it in the joyful dancing of the Burundi refugees from St. Leo’s in our sanctuary during our parish mission. We witnessed it when the Guatemalan immigrants from St. Leo’s performed their music in our sanctuary as part of my concert.

Our parishioners are tutoring Burundi refugees in English. We have had the privilege of sharing some of our monetary wealth.  We have had the opportunity to live out the Catholic Social Teachings of “Taking the Option for the Poor” and “Solidarity of One Human Family.”

Helping the poor and the oppressed is part of who we are as Catholics. Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah (Luke 4:18) in what has become known as His mission statement: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.” As followers of Jesus we are called to do the same.

Pope Benedict in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est (“God Is Love”) states:

“Jesus identifies himself with those in need, with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and those in prison. “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). Love of God and love of neighbor have become one: in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in Jesus we find God.”

And so the Advocates for Justice Collaborative, made up of over 30 parishes throughout the Archdiocese, is trying to help the “least of these” among us by continuing to focus on three major priorities: immigration reform; abolition of the death penalty; and calling attention to the plight of those with criminal records who are trying to find jobs.

During a speech given at St. Matthias Catholic Church in Forest Park to representatives of the Collaborative, the Director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, John Carr, quoted more from the Pope’s encyclical.

Carr pointed out that the pope states that love for widows, orphans, prisoners, the sick, and the needy are as essential to the Church as the ministry of the sacraments. He said this concept is especially important with a major election approaching. Carr said that we are all called to practice “faithful citizenship.” He said we are called to be political, not partisan; civil, not soft; principled, not ideological.  For more on this, check out (on the website of the National Catholic Conference of Bishops).


Bill Tonnis

Bill Tonnis is the Director of Youth & Outreach Ministries at Our Lady of the Visitation Parish. He is single and a parishioner at St. Monica St. George Parish in Clifton.