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Bible Reflections View Comments

What Does It All Mean?
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, January 19, 2014
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The Christmas season ended last Sunday with the Baptism of the Lord. We celebrate the incarnation with a fitting combination of childlike wonder, nostalgia, feasting, and merriment. But the cycle of the church year and the lectionary readings remind us that our faith is more than a commemoration of the birth of a baby in Bethlehem. That baby, like all babies, grew quickly. The adult Jesus who appears in today’s Gospel will begin changing people’s expectations and challenging the status quo. If we profess to follow this man, then we better be ready to expect the unexpected.

The most determined new parents soon discover that babies and toddlers can’t be programmed and that domestic chaos will become a way of life for many years. The most organized Type- A managers learn that they have to be able to handle the unexpected calmly and graciously if they’re going to succeed and help the people around them succeed.

In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus through the eyes of John the Baptist. According to John the Evangelist, the Baptist is the main witness to the divinity and mission of Jesus. John the Baptist was a man with a single mission. He’s calling people to repent of their sins and prepare the way for the coming Messiah. He’s baptizing them as a sign of their being washed clean of sin. He is, as a business or marketing consultant might say, “on message.”

Then Jesus appears and he says, “Behold the Lamb of God.” And yet twice he reflects wonderingly on the fact that he didn’t know Jesus at first. He says, “I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” His idea of who and what the Messiah would be seems to have been upended by the actual appearance of that Messiah.

Sometimes, even for the most focused among us, it can be hard to know how the things that we do day to day fit into a bigger picture. Like someone working a difficult jigsaw puzzle, we get so caught up in how one or two pieces fit together, or we get frustrated when another piece doesn’t seem to fit at all, that we forget to look once more at what we’re trying to achieve in the long run.

Our Scriptures remind us we don’t always have to be certain of every step and every implication of the things that we do. Life is much less an elaborate battle plan than a quest into the unknown for a cause we believe in with all our hearts and minds. It helps if we can take time out to see the big picture, to reflect on why we’re doing what we’re doing.

Today we begin once again to explore what discipleship means in our life, how we live our faith in our daily lives. Our faith often needs to grow quickly to meet the unexpected challenges of a secular and sometimes hostile world. And sometimes we might feel blindsided by challenges coming from God’s own movements in our lives.

God’s spirit speaks to us in many ways—through the Scriptures, through other people, even through the evening news. We need to be flexible enough to bend when our ideas don’t fit God’s message, but firm enough to hold to that message in the fickle winds of culture. If we’re alert to the signs around us, we will know how to respond.


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Pio of Pietrelcina: In one of the largest such ceremonies in history, Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio of Pietrelcina on June 16, 2002. It was the 45th canonization ceremony in Pope John Paul's pontificate. More than 300,000 people braved blistering heat as they filled St. Peter's Square and nearby streets. They heard the Holy Father praise the new saint for his prayer and charity. "This is the most concrete synthesis of Padre Pio's teaching," said the pope. He also stressed Padre Pio's witness to the power of suffering. If accepted with love, the Holy Father stressed, such suffering can lead to "a privileged path of sanctity." 
<p>Many people have turned to the Italian Capuchin Franciscan to intercede with God on their behalf; among them was the future Pope John Paul II. In 1962, when he was still an archbishop in Poland, he wrote to Padre Pio and asked him to pray for a Polish woman with throat cancer. Within two weeks, she had been cured of her life-threatening disease. </p><p>Born Francesco Forgione, Padre Pio grew up in a family of farmers in southern Italy. Twice (1898-1903 and 1910-17) his father worked in Jamaica, New York, to provide the family income. </p><p>At the age of 15, Francesco joined the Capuchins and took the name of Pio. He was ordained in 1910 and was drafted during World War I. After he was discovered to have tuberculosis, he was discharged. In 1917 he was assigned to the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, 75 miles from the city of Bari on the Adriatic. </p><p>On September 20, 1918, as he was making his thanksgiving after Mass, Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus. When the vision ended, he had the stigmata in his hands, feet and side. </p><p>Life became more complicated after that. Medical doctors, Church authorities and curiosity seekers came to see Padre Pio. In 1924 and again in 1931, the authenticity of the stigmata was questioned; Padre Pio was not permitted to celebrate Mass publicly or to hear confessions. He did not complain of these decisions, which were soon reversed. However, he wrote no letters after 1924. His only other writing, a pamphlet on the agony of Jesus, was done before 1924. </p><p>Padre Pio rarely left the friary after he received the stigmata, but busloads of people soon began coming to see him. Each morning after a 5 a.m. Mass in a crowded church, he heard confessions until noon. He took a mid-morning break to bless the sick and all who came to see him. Every afternoon he also heard confessions. In time his confessional ministry would take 10 hours a day; penitents had to take a number so that the situation could be handled. Many of them have said that Padre Pio knew details of their lives that they had never mentioned. </p><p>Padre Pio saw Jesus in all the sick and suffering. At his urging, a fine hospital was built on nearby Mount Gargano. The idea arose in 1940; a committee began to collect money. Ground was broken in 1946. Building the hospital was a technical wonder because of the difficulty of getting water there and of hauling up the building supplies. This "House for the Alleviation of Suffering" has 350 beds. </p><p>A number of people have reported cures they believe were received through the intercession of Padre Pio. Those who assisted at his Masses came away edified; several curiosity seekers were deeply moved. Like St. Francis, Padre Pio sometimes had his habit torn or cut by souvenir hunters. </p><p>One of Padre Pio’s sufferings was that unscrupulous people several times circulated prophecies that they claimed originated from him. He never made prophecies about world events and never gave an opinion on matters that he felt belonged to Church authorities to decide. He died on September 23, 1968, and was beatified in 1999.</p> American Catholic Blog In times of intense loss and grief, we take our place with Mary as she embraces all our grief in her own as she is silently holding in her arms the stark presence of our suffering God in the lifeless body of her Son.

 
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