Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest,
23 September 2014, Königstein
Readings from Tuesday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time
Deduc me, Domine, in semitam praeceptorum tuorum.
“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”
In this wonderful world of ours, I become ever more convinced (ever, as in every day more convinced) of two things: that the path to holiness is the narrow one; it is the one less traveled; and that the Kingship of Jesus Christ, His power to save, His rule does not generally inspire all that much confidence, even in people who claim to be believers. People do not readily seek the Face of God or count on the Great and Terrible Day where we will stand before Him in Judgment. Neither love nor fear seems to drive us into His outstretched arms.
These two convictions, about the nature of holiness and about God’s power over all, when taken together and chosen or appropriated with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength translate in my everyday life into real power, real freedom. Let it be said, first off, it is not easy to live free and empowered as a mother or father, brother or sister of Jesus, as an individual and as a community which “…hear(s) the word of God and act(s) on it.” It is not easy, but it is great. Sadly, most of our world not only is missing out on the challenge and opportunity, but people don’t even pay lip service to such values today.
Why, for heaven’s sake, do we turn our backs, why do we walk away from glory? For the same reason Israel in the desert wanted to go back to the leeks and the melons, to the fleshpots of Egypt. How few are the movers and shakers of our world, who embrace the great wisdom of the Book of Proverbs! “Whoever makes a fortune by a lying tongue is chasing a bubble over deadly snares.” Real power, real freedom, lasting joy comes along a quite different path.
But we all know that it is more than not lying to get ahead to which we are called by God; it is about believing and trusting in God in Jesus Christ. By design, we were made for more than we could ever ask or imagine. We are invited to so live in this life as to be happy with Him forever in heaven.
Thinking of our saint for today, Padre Pio, just last week a good young priest told me of an incident which occurred on the pilgrimage he helped organize to bring a first class relic of our saint (a vial of his blood) from San Giovanni Rotondo back to Ukraine for the Cathedral of Ivano-Frankivsk. He told me, “Excellency, we experienced a miracle!” At some point on their voyage back from Italy a woman asked them to bless her son with the relic, as the boy had never spoken from his birth. Father told me that no sooner had he drawn close with the reliquary than the boy let out a string of expletives and curse words: quite evidently the Devil had his tongue. I recounted the story to someone else, who was not quite so eager as my priest friend to admit demonic possession. With that listener, as with many other people, there was an unwillingness to recognize that sanctity lived out to the end, in this case in the life of Padre Pio, had shown itself in power and that God’s positive judgment had shown forth like lightning from end to end.
Which is harder? To obey God’s Word or to have confidence in His Rule and Power? The question is not so important as we need both. If I had a wish or a prayer for you today, for the Church throughout the world today, it would be that we might not exclude for ourselves that longing for zeal in seeking the Face of God for being holy as the Heavenly Father is Holy. May we not despair of achieving great things under His Lordship!
Rich people pay at political fundraising events before elections to rub elbows with personalities. It is said that Padre Pio eagerly watched through the night until it was time each morning for him to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. May we too be seized by such a yearning, confident that we can do nothing better than bring ourselves and our world to the feet of Christ.