By Pam Tinsley, reprinted from Living God’s Mission.
“How do we teach love?” was the provocative question posed by 16-year old Maria Gonzalez as she addressed the House of Bishops during General Convention. Despite her soft-spoken voice and age, Maria’s wise words are powerful and reflect her passion as an advocate for others. Not only was Maria part of the Official Youth Presence, this past spring Presiding Bishop Michael Curry had selected Maria to represent The Episcopal Church at the 62nd Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York City in March.
The members of the General Convention Official Youth Presence addressed the House of Deputies on July 9. The Official Youth Presence was established by an initial resolution in 1982. The members are permitted seat and voice by the rules of the House of Deputies and participate in committee hearings and floor debates. Maria Gonzalez appears on the front row, wearing red.* Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service.
Maria tells us that her baptismal promises have strongly influenced both her worldview and beliefs. Her promises ground her when she observes the lack of love she sees, especially in human rights abuses in the world around us. They also inspire her to challenge injustices by urging The Episcopal Church to be more loving and inclusive in order to change the world.
How do we teach love? Maria’s impassioned address reminds us that our children and youth learn not only from what they specifically are taught at home, in school, or in church, but also from what they hear and see around them – love, hate and indifference. It’s apparent from Maria’s words and actions that she has been nurtured by adults who witness God’s love by living into their baptismal promise to continue in the Apostles’ teaching. As Maria reminds us, in order to walk in love and to share and teach God’s love, we need to be loved and be loving – in word and actions. In other words, love and compassion teach love and compassion.
Maria’s life-giving words reflect her baptismal ministry of transforming our world into a more loving place. Her address reminds us that we, too, make those same promises: to seek and serve Christ in all persons; to love our neighbors; to strive for justice and peace among all people; and to respect the dignity of every human being. These promises are borne out of God’s love for every human being.
Maria’s message of love and of hope for the future – not only of the Episcopal Church, but also for our country and for humankind – is one that we all can learn from. I encourage you to watch Maria’s thoughtful and inspiring YouTube presentation. Her blog offers a summary of her talk.