The following is Father Tom's farewell message to the parish on June 28, 2009:
“All You Need Is Love . . .”
Ancient writers tell the story of John the Apostle, as an old and frail man, being carried on a stretcher into the Sunday assembly of his community at Ephesus for the celebration of the Eucharist. He was the last living eyewitness of Jesus, and the young people of the community were eager to hear stories of Jesus and final words of wisdom before he died. Week after week, all he would say to everyone, young and old, “Little children, love one another.” When the people badgered him for more, eager to hear the many things about Jesus that had to be in his memory, he simply replied, “Little children, love one another. When you have heard that, and do it, there’s nothing more you need.”
Today, as I bid farewell to you, the wonderful community of OLA, and prepare to live among a new community of faithful whom God has placed in my care, I leave you those words as my own as well. The “love” that John (and Jesus, and Paul) speaks of embraces but infinitely surpasses the idea of love expressed in the Beatles’ 1966 song, whose title I adopted above.
Jesus gave the example of love in his total other-centered self-giving in sacrifice on the cross. A true follower of Jesus can’t be satisfied with anything less. Perhaps, as you prepare to welcome your new pastor and associate pastor, Fr. Charles Ramirez and Fr. Chris Troxell, you may want to spend some time reading and reflecting and praying that wonderful hymn on the qualities of genuine love that St. Paul gives us in 1 Corinthians 15.
In 1994, when I first came to Our Lady of the Assumption as your pastor, Monsignor Bill Barry told me a story about when he first came as pastor thirty-one years earlier. He followed Fr. Don Strange, a wonderful and much-loved pastor who had built the parish community from very humble beginnings. And he was facing the same problem I was facing, following in the trail of an immensely popular pastor. When he talked to Fr. Strange about this, the older and wiser pastor simply said, “Bill, just love your people, and tell them often that you love them, and everything will fall into place. That’s all you need.” That’s why he adopted as his theme song, “You’ll Never Know Just How Much I Love You,” and would sing it whenever the occasion seemed right – which was very often.
I have tried to follow that advice as well. And now I can do no other than to leave it up to you to decide how well I did that.
And so my parting words to you, as well as my welcoming words to Fathers Charles and Chris, can only be, “Little children, love one another.”
However, unlike Jesus, who told his friends as the Last Supper, “Where I am going you cannot come,” you are always most welcome to make the westward journey to Beverly Hills to come and visit.
Here’s my contact information:
The Nazareth House
333 Manning Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90064
I love you, and, as I begin to love another community, I will not stop loving you.
Father Tom Welbers