Wednesday, 22 May 2013

A beautiful saint with an extended commentary that was my 'homily' today.

St. Rita of Cascia
Feast: May 22

Feast Day:May 22
1381, Roccaporena, Perugia, Umbria, Italy
Died:May 22, 1457, Cascia, Perugia, Umbria, Italy
Canonized:May 24, 1900, Rome by Pope Leo XIII
Patron of:Lost and impossible causes, sickness, wounds, marital problems, abuse, mothers

 There are cradle Catholics, and then there are people like St Rita whose holiness was genuine from the beginning. Her parents were excellent models of holiness and piety, and were even  known as the "Peacemakers of Jesus Christ" by their neighbors.  

 As she neared womanhood, she felt that her vocation lay in the convent rather than in that of domestic life. We are not aware of the circumstances that led her parents to oppose this apparently obvious course, but oppose it they did, and Rita submitted, even so far as to please them by marrying a man that was somewhat violent! I Through prayer and attendance to daily Mass she would tame  her rough spouse, and remained married to him for 22 years. He eventually died in a dual, leaving Rita with 2 kids and the pot
The way was now clear for our Saint to satisfy her long yearning for a conventual life. After due consideration, she applied to be "accepted" by the Augustinian nuns at Cascia,  
  She was meditating one day on the Passion before the crucifix, when she apparently, accidentally, wounded her forehead by striking it against some of the no doubt very realistic thorns in Our Lord's crown. It was not long after this that she developed cancer, she would die of it at 76 years of age. She'd be remembered her piety and her profound but simple faith.

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Two themes have marked my own prayerful return to Ordinary time -that time in the Catholic Calendar which follows Easter...and of course, Easter was celebrated a few months ago, but it only  officially ended last Sunday with Pentecost-:  Recognizing our challenges as  adopted children of God, and embracing the diversity that exists in unity. Both themes are highlighted by today’s readings.

 First off the difficulties:  What we celebrated with Pentecost was not just the coming of the spirit upon the Apostles, but the start of a new journey of faith, one with new challenges, new missions and great renewal as we appropriate our title of adopted children of god. The readings from Sirach have been reminding us all week long that what this title means. See, I have a feeling many Christians assume once you accept Jesus as your personal savior, you become a son or daughter of God, and your  job is done, you can just enjoy the smooth ride to heaven. To those people, Sirach would have been a very uncomfortable wakeup call this week. Every reading from this book has been a very uncomfortable reminder that being a child of God means that we have a lot of work to do. We have an obligation to be more attentive to God’s wisdom among us and to be renewed by it. Again, for anyone who thought that this renewal would just come like a flash of lightning and everything would be clear and straightforward, these readings would come as a very unpleasant shock.  Renewal means more responsibility. Rather than being a tongue of fire that comes upon us and makes everything clear, it’s something that involves our entire mind body and soul in the work of God. In this work, so we’ve  been told this week, we will suffer, we will struggle, and we will know grief. But it’s in those moments of darkness that we will be most aware of God’s light. Finding God’s will in our lives, and commiting ourselves to it is a labor of love…but it’s hard work.  Unlike the Psalms , where the Psalmist asks God time and time again to make straight the paths of righteousness that we may follow God more faithfully, in Sirach, -we read yesterday- it is US who are told by God to straigten our paths. How do we do this?
 By seeking and serving God’s wisdom everyday.  ‘for those who serve her will minister to the holy one’.  But even that wisdom is so hard to understand sometimes. I just had a conversation with a  spiritually young –very confused- Catholic friend of mine who was ralling against the hypocrisy in his Church. I quoted the passage from Matthew 7 to him, reminding him to focus on his own sinfulness –or plank in his eye- before judging others.  His response sounded almost na├»ve to me at the time. ‘ How do I know when the plank in my eye is removed’. My reaction was initially, one of frustration and even disgust. I almost felt like asking  him ‘are you asking when will have the authority to judge others? If so, you’re probably in the wrong religion’. I opted with the more diplomatic ‘the plank’s always there, otherwise we’d be Gods. The whole point of this journey is that we too are sinners and will always be so.’ But with hindsight, I can now say in all fairness that the question is valid. A balance has to be established between condemning the evil we see in our world, and ensuring that we do not stray on that path that leads to sinfulness and injustice.  Unfortunately, as we hear in Sirach today, our journey with Wisdom is a difficult first she will walk with us on tortuous paths, she will bring fear and cowardice upon us, and will torment us. This is our own baptism by learn to walk with divine Wisdom , and it will continue to be a trial for us until the end of our days to learn how to be a better disciple of Christ, and a better companion of Wisdom on the road that lies ahead.
 The good news in all this, is that we’re not walking alone. Obviously, we have Jesus, we have the Saints, and we have God’s continuing presence within and outside of us. But as we see in today’s Gospel, we also have good hearted people that may be working in Jesus’ name differently than we do. We may not recognize the work that’s being done as Catholic. But what Pope Francis reminded us in his homily today is that “The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation”
 With that in mind,  Francis invites us into a culture of encounter, which he considers to be the foundation of peace.  He calls on us to remember that God’s will is being done in multiple ways everyday.

 We need to break out of the comfort of our own immediate, very big family, and to look at what others are doing in the name of Jesus, but also in the name of what God considers to be good. Because in the end, as diverse and complex as the world is, the desire to do good unites many people together. Even if the people who do this good aren’t doing it in the name of God, the divine finds ways to work through them as well. The commandment to do good and not evil is in the hearts of all people. It’s for us to recognize how the spirit of that commandment is hard at work everyday of our lives.

Sirach 4: 11 - 19

11Wisdom exalts her sons and gives help to those who seek her.12Whoever loves her loves life, and those who seek her early will be filled with joy.13Whoever holds her fast will obtain glory, and the Lord will bless the place she enters.14Those who serve her will minister to the Holy One; the Lord loves those who love her.15He who obeys her will judge the nations, and whoever gives heed to her will dwell secure.16If he has faith in her he will obtain her; and his descendants will remain in possession of her.17For at first she will walk with him on tortuous paths, she will bring fear and cowardice upon him, and will torment him by her discipline until she trusts him, and she will test him with her ordinances.18Then she will come straight back to him and gladden him, and will reveal her secrets to him.19If he goes astray she will forsake him, and hand him over to his ruin.

Psalms 119: 165, 168, 171 - 172, 174 - 175
165Great peace have those who love thy law; nothing can make them stumble.
168I keep thy precepts and testimonies, for all my ways are before thee.
171My lips will pour forth praise that thou dost teach me thy statutes.
172My tongue will sing of thy word, for all thy commandments are right.
174I long for thy salvation, O LORD, and thy law is my delight.
175Let me live, that I may praise thee, and let thy ordinances help me.
Mark 9: 38 - 40
38John said to him, "Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us."
39But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me.
40For he that is not against us is for us.

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