SEPTEMBER 23, 2010 – PADRE PIO ; LUKE 9:7-9

 

We come together in this liturgy being offered as we receive the body of our Father Raymond back in our midst in view of his burial here tomorrow. The text of today’s Gospel centers our attention on the person of Jesus, whose love and grace called our brother to follow him through many years of dedicated service. At the funeral mass tomorrow we shall hear, no doubt, more details of his personal journey through this world. For now we pray that he already is joined to Jesus his hope and his Savior in the presence of the Father of lights.

 

In the Gospel we have just heard Herod asks the great question whose answer is so vital in giving meaning and hope to the life of each of us, as it was for our Father Raymond: WHO IS THIS MAN ABOUT WHOM I HEAR ALL THESE REPORTS? Having heard various reports of Jesus, the remarkable impression his preaching was making on the people, and of the numerous marvelous cures he effected, He trod became curious about the person of our Lord. Only later, in the last days of Jesus’ life did he meet with the prophet from Nazareth in person when Pilate sent Jesus to him as a prisoner. Jesus, knowing the character and disposition of the petty ruler who  questioned  him refused even to speak with a man of stamp. Herod ended by treating him as a harmless fool, with mockery returning him to the Roman governor. Though he did not realize it at the time, having failed to arrive at insight into the true nature of Jesus’ person, he lost the greatest opportunity of his lifetime to redeem his unsavory past. As a result he continued on the path that brought him to that ignominious end described by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles: “the angel of the Lord struck him down, because he had not given glory to God. He was eaten away with worms and died.” (Acts 12:21) As our Lord made evident on different occasions, rightly to grasp his words and so to come to know his person requires the proper dispositions of heart. He chose words from the prophet Isaiah to state this teaching with colorful language. “For the heart of this nation has grown coarse, their ears are dull of hearing and they have shut their eyes.” (Mt 13:15) 

 

Saint John was so keenly convinced of the fundamental significance of the question “Who is this man?”, that he opened his Gospel account by answering it with striking clarity and impressive forcefulness. His language is carefully chosen and concisely expressed. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and of truth.”  (John 1:1,14)

 

The early Fathers of the Church understood well our Lord’s emphasis on the need for cultivating the right attitudes of the heart in order to come to know him and truly to understand and accept his words. Saint John Cassian was so persuaded of the radical importance of this teaching that he dedicated the first of his twenty-four Conferences to the theme “Purity of Heart.” His writing on this subject remains classic doctrine to this day. Saint Augustine goes beyond Cassian as he discussed the same subject of recognizing God for who he is. The grace of the Holy Spirit is basic for attaining to the saving knowledge of the Divinity. The Holy Spirit, he writes, “ is given that he might be in us. But he cannot be seen and known as he ought to be seen and known, if he is not in us.” (In Jo. Ev. 75. 5) Only like can know like, and to be like the all pure God we are given the Spirit of God. 

 

Still today the chief question for each person who encounters Jesus is the one Herod asked and failed to find the true answer. Only when our desire to know him is strong enough to free us from the selfish passions that we all have to contend with in this world can we perceive the hidden reality of his divinity. On this feast of Padre Pio we commemorate a saint who not only knew Jesus but so loved him as to unite himself to him in his passion and bear the marks of his cross in his body. As we dwell on the surpassing mystery that this man Jesus is the very Word of God in the flesh we come to a deeper awareness that Saint John had come to know, namely that God is love. And he so loves each of us that he gave his only and beloved Son that we might be reconciled with the Father and be made sufficiently like him by the gift of his Holy Spirit as to become members of the household of God, already now in hope, and for all eternity in the clarity of his glory. It is with gratitude for this gift of love that our departed brother Raymond offered with us so faithfully over the years, that we offer this Eucharist and ask for the continuing graces we need to persevere faithful to this mystery that incorporates us in the Body of Christ, uniting us with the Father of light. &


Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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