Some days it is difficult to be optimistic about anything. Violence surrounds us not only in war-torn parts of the world but also in most urban cities throughout the United States. Shootings and murders seem to jump out at us in almost every newscast we watch. We are constantly hearing about the inhumane treatment immigrants at our southern border are subjected to day by day. Despite the fact that many soup kitchens and overnight shelters are provided by Catholic Charities and other organizations, we still have many homeless people begging our assistance as we walk to and from work each day.
Even though our economy has been growing better over the past eight to ten years, we hear of the possibility of a recession in the months ahead. Class warfare is raging as our government leaders and political candidates call each other names, and peace—both at home and abroad—is more elusive than ever. Today we need Christian optimism and the theological virtue of hope.
What would be the source of this hope? Surely not the political process. Surely not the false glitter and empty promises delivered to us by the media. Sometimes the cable programs thrive on the latest stories that are circulated to catch our imaginations and to feed our desire for the latest “news” that can often serve as gossip and scandal mongering.
And yet, Christians are called to proclaim Good News. We are challenged by virtue of our baptismal promises to reach out to others—especially those who have the least reason to believe us—and assure them that we have all been saved in Jesus Christ. This is what recent popes have called “the new evangelization.” It is what Pope Francis calls “missionary discipleship,” the commitment to share our joy with people who have lost all hope on the peripheries of modern society.
In order to share our joy, we first have to uncover it, to release it from the layers of gloom and doom that overlay it, and to allow it to break through authentically and enthusiastically for all to see. To be successful, missionary disciples must be joyful people whose hope is grounded in the person of Jesus Christ. The purpose of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is to help us uncover our joy, to strip away layers of sin and guilt that prevent us from experiencing and sharing the power of Christian hope. It helps us to clean house and to recover the roots of authentic Christian joy.
We are able to reflect on the essential relationship between Christian optimism and our belief in God’s unconditional love and mercy. Scripture shows us, again and again, that there is no real hope for us as individuals or as communities without faith in a benevolent and merciful God. Christians are realists. We acknowledge our sinfulness and the tendency toward corruption that exists in every social program no matter how well-intended or effectively designed. We trust in the Lord.
Christians believe that God humbled himself and became one of us in order to show us that true strength is not found simply in the absence of weakness. By his words and example, Jesus taught us that genuine love is never self-serving. Our hope is not in the strong man or woman who promises to liberate us from corrupt social systems. Our hope is in the One who provides us with the grace we need to change our hearts so that we can work together to change our world.
Christian optimism is realistic, not ideological. It focuses on virtues such as prudence, temperance, courage and justice. It relies on the spiritual values of faith, hope and charity, and it takes seriously our fallen human nature without ever questioning the power of God’s grace to heal us, make us whole again, and set us free.
This is the purpose of Christian asceticism to help us open our hearts to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, who alone can liberate us from the burden of sin that weighs us down and blinds us to the truth about ourselves and our world. With this perspective and the reality of God’s love flowing within us, we can truly make a difference in our world and change it for the better.
TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The liturgy’s readings today challenge us to view our world through God’s eyes. Paul’s First Letter to Timothy contains valuable advice worthy of deep reflection. Firstly, Paul calls on Timothy—and by extension us—to pray for our leaders so that we may live a peaceful existence. Their authority has one goal: our peaceful existence. Secondly, Paul reminds us that God wills the salvation of all people: “God our Savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.” Finally, as Son of God and Son of Man, Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and us. Jesus is the one to whom we owe sole allegiance.
The prophet Amos speaks out against those who oppress the poor. Because the poor have no voice, God becomes their advocate. God is the God of the poor.
The Gospel reading continues the prophet’s stance as Jesus draws attention to the dishonest use of wealth. This parable is disturbing since at first it appears that Jesus is praising dishonesty when he says, “I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth.” A deeper look at the parable helps us discover its true meaning. The manager is a smart operator, and to save his situation he makes his master’s debtors an offer they cannot refuse and acquires the money his master is owed.
Jesus uses this story of the dishonest manager to teach that just as those in our materialistic world work so hard and sacrifice so much to attain material results that last only a few years, so Jesus’ followers should work and sacrifice even more because they have as their goal eternal results. Nothing could be greater than the inheritance promised Jesus’ followers, so they should be dedicated and willing to sacrifice everything for it.
The reading from the prophet Amos states that the Lord will never forget the actions of those who abuse the poor. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that all are to be respected. It notes that one of the implications of faith in one God is “knowing the unity and true dignity of everyone: Everyone is made in the image and likeness of God” (#225).
In the Prayers of the Faithful at Mass, petitions are made for both Church and civic leaders. Those petitions echo Paul’s words in the Second Reading that direct prayers be “offered for all in authority.” The Catechism states that “the fourth commandment also enjoins us to honor all who for our good have received authority in society from God. It clarifies the duties of those who exercise authority as well as those who benefit from it” (#2234).
For Your Reflection: If God raises up the lowly, how can you do that also? Do you pray for community and church leaders as well as for people who have requested your prayers? Why would God promise eternal life if a person cannot be trustworthy with the earthly things that God has given?
SAINT PADRE PIO
Monday, September 23, 2019
St. Padre Pio was born Francesco Forgione on May 25, 1887 in Pietrelcina, Italy. His parents were peasant farmers. He had an older brother and three younger sisters as well as two other siblings who died in infancy. As a child he was very religious and by the age of five he reportedly made the decision to dedicate his life to God. Fortunately, his parents were also very religious, and they supported his Catholic development. His family attended daily Mass, and Francesco served as an altar boy at his local parish. From his tender age, Francesco had a peculiar ability: he could see guardian angels. This was not something taught to him but occurrted so naturally that he assumed other people could see them too.
Francesco’s family was very poor, which required that he work. He spent many years as a child tending to a small flock of sheep owned by his family. Unfortunately, the work meant he was unable to attend school regularly, so he quickly fell behind other children of his age. He also was sickly as a child. He suffered an attack of gastroenteritis at age six and typhoid fever when he was ten.
After three years of schooling, Francesco expressed to his parents that he wanted to become a friar. His parents travelled to a nearby community of monks and asked if he could join them. He was evaluated, despite his young age, and was told he needed more education before he could join. To prepare him, his parents decided to hire a private tutor. To pay the cost of the tutor, Francesco’s father travelled to America to find work, and he sent the money back home.
At the age of 15, Francesco was finally ready to enter the novitiate of the Capuchin friars at Morcone. He took the name of Pio in honor of Pope Pius I, whose relic he often saw at his local chapel. At the age of 17, Brother Pio became extremely ill and could only digest milk and cheese. He was sent to the mountain for better air and, when this did not work, he was sent home to his family. There he continued to study for the priesthood and was ordained in 1910.
On September 20, 1916, Padre Pio was hearing confessions when he felt pain in his hands and feet, and he noticed the stigmata—the wounds of Christ—appearing on his hands and feet. The experience was painful. Bleeding occurred, but the wounds smelled of roses, and although they continued to weep, they never became infected. Doctors who later examined the stigmata were amazed at their perfectly round shape.
By 1919, word began to spread about Padre Pio’s stigmata, and people came from far away to examine him. He became popular with the people he encountered, and soon they began to attribute supernatural things to him, e.g., levitation and miracles. His popularity became a source of concern for the Church, and the Vatican began to restrict his activities to minimize public interaction. A church investigation into his stigmata concluded his condition was not faked. By 1934 the Vatican changed its attitude towards him, and he was once again allowed to perform public duties such as preaching. Pope Pius XI encouraged people to visit him.
Padre Pio became internationally famous. He was known for his piety, charity and the quality of his preaching. Padre Pio died on September 23, 1968. His funeral was attended by over 100,000 people. Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio as a saint on June 16, 2002.
SECOND COLLECTION THIS WEEKEND
The second collection this weekend is for the education of seminarians for rhe Archdiocese of Chicago. Cardinal Cupich mentions the following:
“The men we acknowledge this weekend are the future leaders of our Church. Your past support of this collection has made a significant impact on each seminarian, and I ask you to join me again this year in contributing to the Seminarian Education Second Collection.
“The critical education and training needed to successful shepherd parishes, administer the sacraments, and strengthen our Church is made possible by both your prayers and financial support. Your contributions to this collect alleviate monthly expenses such as tuition and fees, room and board, and health insurance for each seminarian and will be used solely for the formation of new priests for the Archdiocese of Chicago. You may either contribute by putting your donation in the second collection at your parish or you may contribute online at www.archchicago.org/seminarianfund.”
The second collection will be taken up immediately after Communion at all this weekend’s Masses.
A SUMMERTIME CHUCKLE
An airline pilot was scheduled to take a flight from New York to Los Angeles. The weather was too bad in New York to allow his usual on-time departure. The weather finally cleared, and the pilot asked for his departure clearance. He was very dismayed to hear that he had another delay due to the increased traffic now leaving New York.
Sometime later he finally received his clearance and decided he would try to make up the time lost by asking for a direct route to Los Angeles. Halfway across the country, he was told to turn due south. Knowing that this turn would throw him further behind schedule, with some agitation he inquired to the controller about the reason for the turn off course. The controller replied that the turn was for “noise abatement.”
The pilot was infuriated and said to the controller, “Look, buddy, I am already way behind schedule with all the delays you guys have given me today. I really don’t see how I could be causing a noise problem for pedestrians when I am over six miles above the earth!”
The controller answered in a calm voice, “Apparently, Captain, you have never heard two 747s collide!”