‘Where true Charity is dwelling, God is present there’

Published on 5th May, 2023
Cardinal John Dew

WelCom May 2023

+ John A Cardinal Dew

Archbishop of Wellington Archdiocese

Apostolic Administrator of Palmerston North Diocese

Many WelCom readers will know that for me, Easter 2023 was very different from all other Easters in my almost 47 years of priesthood.

Just a few days before Holy Week I underwent surgery on my spine, and thanks be to God, it has been very successful and has brought about much relief from what I have had to contend with for the last 12 months. This did mean that I was on my own most of the time, which also meant that I could try to take more time for prayer and reflection.

I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.
– John 13:15

I want to share with you a particular translation of the hymn ‘Where There is Charity and Love’. I share with you the three verses of the hymn I reflected on as I prayed about Jesus at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday night. The words are slightly different to those we normally sing. I think they are a great challenge and can be prayed with, to ponder what it means to be part of a Christian community, a member of a Catholic parish, and as people who try daily to walk the way of Jesus, tell the truth of Jesus, and live the life of Jesus.

The words are:

Where true Charity is dwelling, God is present there
By the love of Christ, we have been brought together
Let us find in him our gladness and our pleasure.
May we love him and revere him, God, the living
And in love, respect each other with sincere hearts.
So, when as one we are gathered all together
Let us strive to keep our minds free of division
May there be an end to malice, strife and quarrels.
And let Christ our God be dwelling here among us.
May your face thus be our vision, bright in glory
Christ, our God, with all the blessed saints in heaven
Such delight is pure and faultless, joy unbounded
Which ensures through countless ages, world without end. Amen.

I cannot go into details about each line of this hymn, but as I reflected on these words I did so in light of the fact that my time as Archbishop is drawing to a close. In that context I found the words of this hymn challenging and inspiring.

Do we always recognise and readily acknowledge it is Christ’s love that has brought us together? Do we find in Jesus our gladness and our pleasure, or is parish life just what we think a parish should be? If every single time we gathered in our communities we came together with the intention to love and revere the living God, we would also respect one another, regardless of age, ethnicity, theological perspectives, the length of time we have lived in a parish – we would ‘in love, respect each other with sincere hearts’.

Do we rejoice in ‘Christ our God dwelling here among us’? When we gather together as one in Christ, there is no place in our communities for division, strife, malice or quarrels. Over my 28 years as bishop, I have often quoted President Harry Truman who used to say, ‘It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit’. At the Last Supper Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and then said, ‘I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you’ (John 13:15). We are called to serve others, it does not matter who gets the credit, who is seen as leader; what matters is that we try to live in charity, when we do we know ‘where true charity is dwelling, God is present there’.

My time as your Archbishop is coming to an end, it has been a privilege to serve. It has been challenging and the issues to be dealt with have been relentless. Thank you for your constant support and your faithful prayer. One of the most surprising and humble things has been meeting people in parishes, people I often do not know who say to me with great care and respect ‘I pray for you every day’. Thank you, thank you all, for your love, prayers and constant support. I will pray for you.

‘May your face, thus be our vision, bright in glory
Christ, our God, with all the Blessed Saints in heaven
Such delight is pure and faultless, joy unbounded
Which endures through countless ages world without end. Amen.’

Cardinal John turns 75 on 5 May. Canon Law requires bishops to offer their resignations prior to their 75th birthdays. The Cardinal tended his resignation in January but is yet to receive a response from the Holy Father. Once his resignation is accepted, there will be a formal installation of Archbishop Paul Martin sm as the 8th Archbishop of Wellington.

Charity isn’t about pity, it is about love.

St Teresa of Kolkata

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