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Bible Reflections View Comments

Living the Gospel Is What Really Matters
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, August 25, 2013
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From moments after his election, Pope Francis has been making headlines. His daily homilies at the guest house in Rome where he has chosen to live are spontaneous, off the cuff, and down to earth. In a world where not only politicians but also religious leaders have learned the difficult art of spinning the truth and exercising extreme caution in the way words can be interpreted, Pope Francis preaches the Gospel like a gifted parish priest.

Last spring, social media sites, Catholic news sites and even the secular news organizations were once again abuzz when Pope Francis said that Jesus redeemed everyone: “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! . . . . Even the atheists. Everyone!”

More cautious theologians were quick to ring this around with all sorts of caveats, obtuse explanations, and a general air of “Move along; nothing to see here.” But the pope not only meant what he said, he said it because in his mind, an openness to the love and mercy of God is more important than a checklist to exclude those who don’t seem to be making the grade.

We’ve all heard the saying about entering through the narrow gate. We might think that Jesus himself is talking about a way to weed out the inferior believers. But that doesn’t square with the rest of his words in the Gospels. He says it in response to “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Most likely anyone asking that kind of question about salvation in a public forum is pretty sure they are already on the list. They just want to know how exclusive the guest list is. We see this happen all the time on Catholic blogs and social media sites. Liberals and conservatives argue about who’s the most orthodox, who’s “really” Catholic. When this happens, too much energy is spent on worrying about other people being wrong than on examining what we’re doing right. Both the Gospel and the reading from Isaiah remind us that religion is neither a popularity contest nor an exclusive club. Isaiah tells us that the Lord says, “I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory.”

The official stance of the Church is clear in the documents of Vatican II, in the Catechism, in the writings of the popes and the bishops. It’s also clear in the Gospel. As children of the one God, we are to see all people as our brothers and sisters, created by God and held in the infinite mystery and mercy of God’s grace.

While the headlines focused on Pope Francis saying atheists could be saved, what too many of the stories missed was that he said, “We meet each other in doing good.”

What Jesus was trying to tell his disciples is to stop worrying about who’s right and who’s wrong, who’s first and who’s last. Our focus needs to be on the Good News and the good works generated by our faith in God.

It won’t hurt any of us to step up our game a bit in living the Gospel. It’s a good way to guard against spiritual complacency, which might be the real danger of that wide, easy road. We are heirs to the inclusive love Jesus practiced as he walked this earth. We need to live our lives in a way that reflects this attitude.


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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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