July 13, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I have always been inspired by those who achieve a level of intellectual, athletic, artistic or economic superiority. You know that it took a great deal of work and effort; rightfully, the society holds them up as role models. However, without a doubt, the most influential impact on my life has been by those who exercised kindness in any field I was engaging in. It’s not that any of the achievements of role models in various fields are less important, but without kindness, those achievements lose a sense of connectedness.
It has been through the kindness of others that I was encouraged to strive for goals. Embedded in the sense of kindness is the care of others. In college, it was the kind teacher who encouraged me to consider law studies and did so to the advantage of the Church that I love. In high school, it was the kind English teacher who took the time to critique my creative writing and share his passion for literature that this LOA, as well as many of my homilies, respect the written word and its influence. It was the kindness of a college baseball teammate who consoled me after a two error game to shake it off and come back the next day, helping me to get over my self-pity and see the larger responsibility to the team. In my priesthood, and as a bishop, I have been the recipient of many acts of kindness by women, men and children, which has shaped my priestly ministry and made me a better Christian.
I believe at the root of our Christian faith is kindness. Kindness is more than empathy. Empathy identifies with another person, but with kindness, there is outreach and an act of goodwill. Kindness moves one to speak or act on behalf of another person, who really has no obligation to do so.
I imagine that one of the attractive traits of Jesus was His kindness. You hear in the Gospels that He was moved to pity for the crowd; he cured them, he fed them and he preached to them. He owed them nothing; in fact, they owed Him. Kindness doesn’t always receive a thank you. Did the couple at the wedding feast send Him a note of gratitude for the wine? Even on the cross, Christ did not think of Himself but of Dismas, reassuring the good thief of his place in paradise.
Our society could use a strong dose of kindness. We are so politicized that we are unable to give simple praise for a job well done or support for leadership efforts on behalf of our nation without accusations that bespeak partisan politics.
Part of evangelization starts with a sense of kindness. There is a balance in kindness. We want to be a member of a Christian community that reflects a sense of kindness that contributes and builds up rather than wastes or tears down. We can easily practice kindness by the way we LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee