HOMILY WEEK 25 03 – Year II
Sent to Proclaim and to Heal:
Memorial of St. Pius of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)
(Prov 30:5-9; Ps 119; Lk 9:1-6)
“Take nothing with you.” What a difference there is between this admonition of Jesus to the apostles he sends out on mission, and the Boy Scouts motto “Be prepared!”
Today’s readings invite us to have faith, trust, take a risk, and dedicate ourselves to proclaiming the kingdom of God.
In the gospel, the twelve apostles represent the beginnings of a New Israel with Jesus as the new Moses. As Moses was given authority to lead the Chosen people, Jesus now gives his apostles the power and authority to heal illnesses and to deliver people from the influence of the evil one. Then he sends them out with a clear mission: to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.
As disciples of Jesus, we share that same mission. But what exactly are we to proclaim, as we go? Just what is the kingdom of God?
The prayer Jesus taught us, the Our Father, gives us a clear indication. The first petition after we pray “Thy kingdom come,” is “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” So, doing the will of God has to be a main element of the kingdom of God.
But that raises another question for a disciple – what is the will of God? I think a safe first element would be to keep the new commandment Jesus gave us, placing “loving others as we love ourselves,” on a par with “loving God with our whole being,” the Grand Shema of Judaism. Then “loving others as Jesus loved us,” adds more newness to that commandment, calling us to take up our Cross and follow Jesus through the Paschal Mystery, into sacrificial love and also redemptive suffering, accepted without bitterness or resentment.
Above all, loving our enemies by forgiving them from the heart, praying for them what we would want for ourselves, and doing good to them, would certainly be doing the will of God, enshrined as it is in the second part of the Our Father, when we ask God to “forgive us as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.”
I also think trying to live the Beatitudes, the eight ways of habitually thinking, feeling and acting in this world, would certainly be central to doing God’s will, as well as living in and proclaiming the kingdom of heaven. Striving to be humble, compassionate, gentle, forgiving, peaceable, just, pure of heart, and able to endure some persecution for the sake of the gospel would all be involved as we try to live out this Magna Carta of the kingdom.
Significantly, the apostles were also sent out to heal. That can pose a challenge to us today, as we think perhaps mainly of physical cures and miracles worked by the apostles. The sacrament of the sick is one way we can live out this teaching, but that healing can take many forms – healing of relationships, healing of negative attitudes and painful emotions, healing of some sinful ways can all be part of this.
Our ministry must have a healing touch, which may perhaps involve mainly being able to listen. Apparently, Alice Miller, towards the end of her career as a psychologist, sort of disowned her own profession, with her realization that in the end, all people really need to heal is a “listening witness.” So perhaps we can begin to see ourselves as healers in a broader perspective then that to which we are accustomed.
Then Jesus calls the apostles to a deep faith and trust in divine providence, that God will provide them with what they really need for their mission. This ties in with the first reading from proverbs, which prays only for truth and the answering of basic needs – neither poverty nor riches. This also presages the Lord’s Prayer, in which we pray that God will give us only our daily bread, that which we need for that day. That was also a characteristic of the early Christian community as found in the Book of Acts, which tells us “none of the disciples were in need.” This too, is all part of proclaiming the kingdom of God.
This teaching of Proverbs alludes to working for peace and justice that is an integral part of the gospel and the mission of the church. For St. Paul, the kingdom is made up of the peace, joy and justice of the Holy Spirit. Justice is a right relationship with God, all others in our life, our selves, and I believe, with all of God’s creation. Along with Micah, we can try to love tenderly, act justly, and walk humbly with our God, and we will be living in the kingdom.
Today the church honors someone who lived these readings in an exemplary manner. St. Pius of Pietrelcina (known as Padre Pio) was born Francesco Forgione (1887-1968) in the Italian village of Pietrelcina. He entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars at age 16, taking the name Pio and was ordained 7 years later in 1910. As humble Capuchin friar, he lived more than 50 years in the friary of San Giovannie Rotondo, devoted to a life of ministry as a spiritual advisor to countless people, confessor, and very reverend celebration of the Eucharist. He was a man of prayer and suffering, apparently patiently enduring some persecution and misunderstanding, and was granted the blessing of the stigmata, like St. Francis. Many miracles were ascribed to him during his lifetime. Pope Paul VI said of him, “Look what fame he had, what a worldwide following gathered around him! Not because he was wise or a philosopher, but because he celebrated mass with humble faith, heard confessions from dawn to dusk, and bore the wounds of the Lord.” He died a few days after the 50th anniversary of his receiving the stigmata, and over 100,000 people attended his funeral. Padre Pio was canonized by JP II in 2002.
The Eucharist is an experience of Jesus caring for us in our brokenness and poverty, meeting our deepest need to be loved, belong and be valued, and a foretaste of the eternal banquet we will celebrate with the Lord when he comes again. May our celebration strengthen our faith, deepen our trust, and empower us to both live in the kingdom of God, proclaim its good news to all, and carry out a healing ministry.