Dear Parishioners,

Jesus gives us a commandment in today’s gospel, and it is not an easy one. We are to love one another as He has loved us. Now loving others in general is a noble and beautiful ideal. But loving particular people can be a challenge. When someone irritates us at work or at school or in our family, loving that person seems unreasonable. When someone ignores us or hurts us, loving that person can seem impossible. So, it is understandable that we try to wiggle out of Jesus’ command. We say to ourselves, “That person is selfish or manipulative. That person does not deserve to be loved.” But Jesus has anticipated our objection and shaped His command accordingly. He says, “Love one another as I have loved you.” And how has Jesus loved us? He has loved us even though we at times are selfish and manipulative. He has loved us even though we do not deserve His love. So, Jesus gives us no room to escape from His command. We are to love others, even though they do not deserve to be loved.

So how do we pull off this seemingly impossible way of loving? Jesus shows us the way. In the gospel, before He gives us the command, He shows us how we can follow it. Before He tells us to give love, He tells us to take love. And the love that we are to take is Jesus’ own. He says, “Remain in my love. Then my joy will be yours, and your joy will be complete.” Jesus is telling us that we must first take His love in order to give love to others.

Now what does it mean to remain in Jesus’ love? It means that we are to remember and to embrace all the ways that He has loved us. Jesus has loved us by giving us life, by giving us abilities, and by giving us family and friends. Jesus has loved us by walking with us on those difficult days when we struggle to hope. Jesus has loved us by giving us the wisdom to make good decisions and the strength to carry them out. In all these ways and more Jesus has loved us. And when we remember all those blessings, we remain in His love. Once we remain in His love, we are able to follow his command. Surrounded by the love that we have received from Him, we are able to love others, even though they may not deserve it.

So do not despair when Jesus asks you to love someone who has hurt you or someone who annoys you. First surround yourself with His love. Draw strength from the love you have received from Him, and then try to love someone who is difficult. If we try to love based on our own love, we will often not succeed. But if we draw strength from His love, we may find that it is possible to accept the people who irritate us and to forgive those who have hurt us.

Fr. Monteleone


Dear Parishioners,

Wishing you are doing well; I address you with a heart full of gratitude and a spirit stirred by anticipation. As I prepare to take the final step toward the priesthood, I wanted to take the time to write to you before completing my pastoral assignment here at St. Philips.

Every moment shared, every Eucharist celebrated, every activity I have participated in, and every prayer we raised together have been cornerstones in my path of formation and commitment that started more concretely on May 20, 2023, the day of my diaconate ordination.

Now, just a few weeks before my priestly ordination, my heart experiences a mix of emotions. There is nervousness, yes, like what a groom might feel before his wedding, worried about the details of the Ordination, about those who will be present or absent, about logistics … external things. However, beyond the distractions, there is a depth that overwhelms me with great joy: the awareness of being about to become a priest forever, or as the Curé d’Ars would say more beautifully, to “prostrate myself conscious of my nothingness and arise a priest forever”, and then serve at the Table of the Eucharist, to preach the Word, celebrate the Sacraments, but ultimately to be aware of the task of winning souls for the Lord.

With a prostrate heart, I hear the promise of the Ordination Ritual resonating strongly: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion”. This strengthens me and gives me peace, knowing that, despite the fears and challenges of following the Lord, His presence accompanies me precisely because He has promised us so: “I am with you always, until the end of the age”.

I sincerely want to thank Fr. Monteleone, Fr. Nico, the deacons, staff, and each and every one of you for your support, your prayers, and your kindness during this time. You have been a true source of strength.. Although the future may take me to new responsibilities and challenges, I will always carry with me the memories and lessons learned in your community of faith. I commend myself to your prayers as I continue preparing myself for the Priestly Ordination, and I invite you to my Ordination this coming June 1st at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist at 10 AM. All of you are welcome!

With hope and love in Christ, who always calls us to follow and serve Him,

Deacon Sebastian

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