Phew...Trinity Sunday, feast of the vistitation, Corpus Christi, Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary...would you believe, all of that took place in about 2 weeks!! It's been wonderful fodder for reflection, but now, we really settle into Ordinary time a quitter calendar beckons. For the next couple of weeks, we will be visiting many important Saints, but there won't b e any major Solemnity until June 24th when we celebrate St John the Baptist. (Indeed, it's not just an important/political cultural celebration in Quebec. The whole Universal Church also celebrates this day with great Solemnity!!) So let's enjoy the ride into Ordinary time!
Saint Getulius & Companions
Feast: June 10
For today's entry, a very obscure community of Saints from the 2nd century. The challenge when the Saints are that old, is that there won't be much documentation around them. Still, I stumbled upon an entry on Catholic.net that I found intriguing and am partly reposting here. It was part of a 'letter' that some uncle would have written to his niece about her desires to date guys in college. The gist of the letter is he's concerned about her desires to date because he sees dating as a weird version of marriage without the commitment, but that if she would insist on dating, then let her be like the wife of today's Saint who was instrumental in praying and converting people and being a strong Christian presence in her pagan environment. The tone of the letter was not one I appreciated. There may be truths in this letter, but this is not how I would want to communicate them. That being said, it's author was creative enough with the saints of the day, and I must give credit where it is due!
"Getulius was an officer in the Roman Imperial army at the pinnacle of the Empire's greatness. But his wife ( Saint Symphrosa) succeeded through prayer and virtue to win him to the Christian faith. At that point he retired from the army and moved to a villa outside of Rome, where he formed a small (but vibrant) Christian community, which he taught and supported, together with Symphorosa. In the midst of his teaching one day, the Emperor's vicar, Cerealis, showed up to arrest him (you weren't allowed to be Christian back then; it was considered a threat to civil society, since Roman greatness was thought to depend on the favor of pagan gods, whom the Christians refused to worship). But Getulius (and his brother, Amantius) engaged him in conversation, and soon the vicar accepted Christ and was baptized. The emperor was not impressed (to put it mildly) and sent another envoy to arrest all three of them. Since they all refused to renounce their faith, they were duly tortured and burnt at the stake. Saint Symphorosa buried their remains in a shrine on her estate."
What's nice about this story, what even the author seems to fail to see the value of, is that conversion usually happens, not by shoving morality down people's throats, but with dialog and with prayer, and most importantly, from the heart, not the mind. People who are converted fall in love -with all their heart- with Jesus, not with some distorted notion of Catholic morality or theology -as expressed by the "uncle" in the aforementioned letter-. And believe it or not, I do see some weird logic in that twisted definition of 'love' that probably drives his motivation to write this kind of letter.
The problem is that, this formula of throwing doctrine or morality at people, definitely does not have the desired effect. The Real Problem, is that the simplicity and genuine character of the first Christians is often lost on us who complicate things with our understanding of theology and morality. There are good intentions with these beliefs, but they often cause people to stray from the path that God has set for us...but thankfully, the Good shepherd is there to bring us back to the fold. One of the ways he accomplishes this is with his teachings that remain foundational for us, especially the Gospel passage we had today, the Beatitudes.
Part of the challenge we face today as Catholics, is that we don't always know how to read the Beatitudes. Some give it an eschatological reading, as some kind of promise of our final victory over death and evil if we stay good and pure. Others might see it as an impossible set of rules for anyone to live by, and try to simplify it to 'be nice to others'. In both cases, it's almost as if people are reading the Beatitudes with a wordly spirit, which opens our minds but sometimes, closes our hearts, disconnects us from our soul. Pope Francis addressed this issue today in his homily by saying that " salvation is... moving forward and opening our hearts so they can receive the Holy Spirit’s consolation" . He added, we can only understand these Beatitudes " if we have an open heart, from the consolation of the Holy Spirit. They cannot be understood with human intelligence alone":
So these words, these new commandments of ours are not an invitation to beat anyone down with moral teachings or to judge sinners, but to open our hearts to God, to let the spirit in and guide us to a new way of living the depth of God's love in our lives. And it will be difficult. We will falter, and fail, and have to start over again in our efforts to live out this profound love. We may even suffer in the process.
Believe it or not, that's a good thing. Because as Paul says in our first reading, it's in our afflictions and struggles that we are the most comforted. The pain and struggles are part of the process, part of our walk towards salvation.
Ha!!...and you thought going through Ordinary time would be easy fun relaxing stuff!
|2 Corinthians 1: 1 - 7|
|1||Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother. To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Acha'ia:|
|2||Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.|
|3||Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,|
|4||who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.|
|5||For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.|
|6||If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.|
|7||Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.Psalms 34: 2 - 9|
2My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and be glad.3O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!4I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.5Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.6This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.7The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.8O taste and see that the LORD is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in him!9O fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no want!