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One obeys what one loves

Archbishop Wenski's homily at Florida Knights of Columbus convention 2023

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily while celebrating the opening Mass at the Knights of Columbus’ annual state convention in Orlando, May 26, 2023.

In an Instagram post May 25, 2023, Archbishop Thomas Wenski is seen setting off on a Knights of Bikes "Vocation Run," "riding up center of State to Orlando" for the Florida Knights of Columbus annual convention. "We're fueled by Cuban coffee," the archbishop wrote.

Photographer: Via Instagram @thomaswenski

In an Instagram post May 25, 2023, Archbishop Thomas Wenski is seen setting off on a Knights of Bikes "Vocation Run," "riding up center of State to Orlando" for the Florida Knights of Columbus annual convention. "We're fueled by Cuban coffee," the archbishop wrote.

It’s great to be here in Orlando with the Knights and your wives. I look forward to this annual state convention – not only because it gives me a good excuse to ride my motorcycle but also because it affords me the opportunity as the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Province of Miami to thank the Knights for all you do for the Church, especially in the promotion of life, family and marriage, and vocations to the priesthood. You have always supported your bishops – and we are truly appreciative.

During the Easter Season, our first reading is taken from the Acts of the Apostles, which tell us of the Church’s beginning after the event of Pentecost, the feast we will celebrate this Sunday. Today’s reading tells us of one of Paul’s arrests and explains how he ended up in Rome. He is sent to be judged by Caesar. The Acts of the Apostles will end with both Peter and Paul going to Rome where they will be martyred.

In the Gospels, Jesus describes the disciple as the one who loves him. The disciple follows Jesus not because of some marvelous manifestation or theophany. He follows Jesus because he loves him. And if anyone loves him, he will obey his teachings or, as Jesus says, "keep my word".

After his resurrection, Jesus asked Peter three times: Peter do you love me? And three times, Peter replied: Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. This triple affirmation of his love for Jesus contrasts with Peter's triple denial of him on the eve of Jesus' Passion. After Jesus' Resurrection — and certainly after the Pentecost experience — Peter and the other apostles were filled with the promised Spirit who would remind them of all that Jesus told them. They and Peter were never the same. And Peter's love, as did Paul's love for Jesus, led them to Rome where they preached the Gospel and where they died at the time of the persecution of Nero.

Peter's love for Jesus and his obedience to him is illustrated by a legend surrounding Peter's martyrdom here in Rome. It was also the subject of a famous novel by the 19th century Polish author, Henryk Sienkiewicz entitled: Quo vadis? Quo vadis? means, where are you going? According to the story — or legend — Peter was fleeing Rome when along the way he encounters Jesus heading towards Rome. Quo vadis? Peter asks Jesus — who then replies I'm going to Rome to be crucified again. Peter understands. And he returns to Rome — to be crucified.

The teachings of Jesus are not just some interesting thoughts about God and the world. Rather Jesus has revealed to us God and opened for us the way to share in God's life. The commands of Jesus are not just a set of rules like a traffic code — they are a description of a pattern of life that reflects God's own life transposed into human circumstances. Love for Jesus involves both an attachment to him and a oneness with him and his interests, which naturally leads one to obey him and walk as he walked and walk where he walked. One obeys what one loves. In fact, our patterns of obedience reveal what we really love.

Today, the Church also celebrates the feast day of St. Philip Neri, a Roman priest of the 16th century. He would give this advice to those who sought his counsel. “Cast yourself into the arms of God and be very sure that if he wants anything of you, He will fit you for the work and give you strength.”

These are wise words for all of us, especially those with special responsibilities in your councils or in your parishes: if God wants anything of you, He will fit you for the work and give you strength.

For Philip Neri and for both Peter and Paul, Jesus' love was enough; it was the source of their joy and their "pattern of obedience"; it led them to indeed walk as he walked and to walk where he walked. Peter died crucified, upside down, and Paul was beheaded. By the way of keeping Jesus’ word, obeying his commands, they came to share in God's life. And this way must be our own.