Celebrating an Oct. 24, 2020 Mass to mark the 63rd anniversary of St. Luke Parish in Washington, D.C., -- on the day before Pope Francis named him as a cardinal -- Archbishop Wilton Gregory told parishioners there that love of God and love of neighbor is “what is most important to God’s design and according to God’s plan.”

“Jesus speaks to us… right here in this local Church with its urban, rural and small-town concerns,” Cardinal-designate Gregory said. “Jesus tells us what will be on the final exam of life: We will be judged on our love of God and love of neighbor – free from racism, injustice and hatred. That will be the test. Those will be the questions. Those will be the terms of our evaluation.”

Cardinal-designate Gregory was referring to the Gospel reading for the Mass (Matthew 22:34-40) in which Jesus tells the Pharisees that the greatest commandments are to love God and to love one’s neighbor.

“We better pay close attention because what the teacher says is really important,” he said, urging the faithful to love God and their neighbors “so completely, so absolutely, so thoroughly.”

He pointed out that loving God and one’s neighbor is “a challenge is well beyond most of us.”

“We know that the presence of racism in or society, in our community and in our neighborhood remains a reminder that much more still has to be done,” Cardinal-designate Gregory said. “We know all too well that such devotion to God and neighbor is the most difficult undertaking any of us ever faced in life.”

He called love of God and neighbor the “most important among the many practices, prohibitions, exhortations and recommendations of the law” and “the meaning and purpose of life (that) demand our full-hearted devotion.”

Cardinal-designate Wilton Gregory smiles as he is greeted with applause during his Oct. 24, 2020 Mass at St. Luke Parish in Washington. Just one day before Pope Francis elevated him to the College of Cardinal’s, Cardinal-designate Gregory celebrated Mass at St. Luke’s to mark the parish’s 63rd anniversary. (CS photo/Mihoko Owada)

The Mass was offered one day before Pope Francis announced that Archbishop Gregory would be elevated to the College of Cardinals during a Nov. 28 consistory at the Vatican. Cardinal-designate Gregory – making his first visit to the Southeast Washington parish since his installation as archbishop of Washington last year – called it “a special privilege to visit this parish family for the first time as you mark your long heritage of faith, and your familial love for one another.”

“This afternoon St. Luke’s Parish celebrates its 63rd anniversary, and I visit you on this happy occasion to congratulate each and every one of you,” Cardinal-designate Gregory said. He also praised the parish staff and priests “who serve with kindness, with zeal and with compassion.”

Josephite Father Cornelius Ejiogu, pastor, noting that the parish is home to Cameroonian and Igbo (Nigerian) Catholic communities, told the prelate that the diverse communities there “welcome you to your house, to the house of God, to St. Luke Catholic Church,”

“Thank you as we celebrate our 63rd anniversary of serving God and serving humanity,” Father Ejiogu told Cardinal-designate Gregory.

At the end of the Mass, the parish presented Cardinal-designate Gregory with a statuette of Jesus washing the feet of one of His disciples. The plaque accompanying the statuette read, “Jesus said if anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last and the servant of all.”

“Ordinarily people wouldn’t celebrate a 63rd anniversary, but I am glad you did,” Cardinal-designate Gregory said. “You are 63 years old, and to me you look marvelous.”

At the end of the Mass, the parish presented Cardinal-designate Gregory with a statuette of Jesus washing the feet of one of His disciples.  (CS photo/Mihoko Owada)