Friday, October 5, 2012

The Humility of Christ and the Cross (25th Sunday in Ordinary Time B)

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

Today, if it were not a Sunday, is the Feast of St. Padre Pio, a Franciscan friar who lived in our lifetime and who was known as the priest who bore the sacred wounds of our Lord in his own flesh for 50 years. There are many devotees to this saint today because they consider him as a great miracle worker. But very few realize that this man taught us to love the Cross of Christ and embrace it in our own bodies.

As in last Sunday’s gospel, the Lord teaches us, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and 3 days after his death, the Son of Man will rise.” At the very heart of the mystery of Christ is the mystery of the Cross. It is Christ who is the Just One referred to in the Book of Wisdom – the One whom the wicked find obnoxious because “he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for our transgressions, and challenges us with violations of our training.” Jesus is the Just One who is put to the test “with revilement and torture…so that we may have proof of his gentleness and patience.”  And indeed, he was put to test. On the Cross, in the face of much cruelty and revilement, the Lord was the perfection of gentleness and patience. He is truly the Wisdom from above, as the Apostle St. James said: “pure, peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.” On the Cross, Jesus truly manifested himself as the Son of God. His gentle compliance to the will of the Father was the fulfillment of the 1st reading: “If the just One be the Son of God, God will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes.” On the Cross, Jesus truly became the last of all and the servant of all. He manifested this when on the night he was betrayed, he washed the feet of his disciples. He, who is the first born of all creation, lowered himself to wash his disciples’ feet.

It is the simplicity of the Son of God on the Cross that Padre Pio emulated. Even though he was famous on account of the stigmata on his body, Padre Pio continued to be a very simple man: “I am only a friar who wants to pray.” Padre Pio says: “Jesus likes to give Himself to simple souls; we must make an effort to acquire this beautiful virtue of simplicity and to hold it in great esteem. Jesus said: Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. But before He taught us this by His words he had already put it into practice. He became a child and gave us the example of that simplicity he was to teach us later also by his words. Let us empty our hearts and keep far from us all human prudence. We must try to keep our thoughts pure, our ideas upright and honest and our intentions holy." (From a letter to Padre Agostino from Pietrelcina, July 10, 1915. Diflumeri, Father Gerardo, ed. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, Letters, Vol. 1, Correspondence with His Spiritual Directors (1910-1922). 2nd ed. Vol. 1. San Giovanni: Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary, 1984. 677-678.)

As on the Cross, Jesus lowered himself to become last of all, so should we go with him into the depth of his self-abasement. "In order to succeed in reaching our ultimate end we must follow the divine Head, who does not wish to lead the chosen soul on any way other than the one he followed; by that, I say, of abnegation and the Cross." (August 14, 1914, Epistolario II, p. 155.) 

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

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