Love is a language. Not just another language among many, but a specifically universal language. Love is the only language that is spoken and understood across ethnic, national, generational and gender differences. Love is the peculiarly human language.
Yet, as a linguistic reality unique to humans, love always requires another language to give it voice. Love is always mediated. The nuptial love between spouses finds its voice in sexual intimacy; the sacrificial love between parent and child is spoken and heard via a familial grammar. And the affectionate love between friends is mediated through signs and gestures of communion.
God is love; and God speaks in each of these mediated languages. God is Parent; God is Spouse; God is Friend. We have just heard this in our Gospel reading today.
So, as Jesus spoke the greatest of the commandments: "love one another as I have loved you", he mediated that love in the various ways that would enable it to be heard by every person, and each person: whether sacrificially; or spousally; or befrendingly. There is no language greater than this; it is life-giving to the very end.
A couple of days ago, we celebrated the feast of St Francis Xavier, that priest who came to our region of the world to speak the language of God among the peoples of Asia. But he could not do so without learning how to mediate this love in a language they could hear and understand. Francis was mute without it.
The ordained priesthood is a mediated reality. Priests are – as our teaching reveals – mediators between God and humanity. This mediation is after the image of Jesus Christ, who was not somehow ‘separate from’ or ‘above’ people, but forever intimately bound to all human beings.
In Jesus, God is now made of our human stuff; and his language of love is in the same peculiar form of all human love: mediated, so as to be understood by each.
Brothers, who soon will be permanently configured in this way of love that Jesus took to himself, your mediation does not separate you or set you apart, but binds you and sends you into the lives of those you are to serve. The language by which you are to listen and speak is the language of father, and of bridegroom, and of friend.
For your love is always to be mediated; it will not be heard, nor understood, unless it is spoken into the reality of the lives you will encounter. It is they who are to give you the voice you need. There is no one way in which this is to be done, for it is not your language by which you are to listen and speak, but the language of God enfleshed in this place, at this time, among these people.
Today, I commission you to go out and to bear this fruit of mediated love, the only fruit that will last.
Archbishop Comensoli delivered this homily during the Ordination Mass of Fr Jude Johnson, Fr Jude Thaddeus Ezeme, Fr James Baptist and Fr Simeon Anthony on Saturday 5 December 2020 at St Patrick's Cathedral.
Archbishop Peter A Comensoli27 January 2021