Grace to you!
The stigmatist, Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, popularly known as Padre Pio, was one of the most popular of modern saints. Reports of his holiness, love for God and neighbor, and incredible testimonies of miracles that the Lord worked through him were numerous. Many flocked from different parts of the world to see the monk who, for the most part, was secluded in the little room at Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, Foggia, Italy. Delicate Francesco (Pio’s given name) could barely hold a barrel or display the physical toughness of the military when he was drafted as an Italian military during the second world war. He was discharged from duty after about 182 days due to his precarious health. However, he would turn out to be a valiant spiritual warrior against evil and the demonic world and a channel of healing grace to many. But, when he was alive, he suffered so much from some of his closest religious brothers and neighbors in Italy. The Lord said, “a prophet is without honor in his own town” (Mk 6:4).
From canonized saints to many living witnesses of Christ you see many have noticed around your neighborhood and in churches across the world, hardly is there an easy pass when it comes to their immediate environment. You will observe that they have their fair experiences of how bearing witness to God entails swimming against the current. For that, they win more foes than one would expect, especially from those closer home.
I was wondering why, when Prophet Ezekiel was commissioned to preach, God prewarned that the he would face rejection and that the mission wasn’t going to be easy (see Ezekiel 2:2-5). Yet, the prophet is required to say: “Thus says the Lord” (Ez 2:4). Whether the people listen or not is not the measure for the success of the prophet’s success. The prophet’s responsibility is to say what God says, pleasant or unpleasant. This is striking to me.
In life, one could face various levels of challenging situations. Those challenges, which I prefer to see as opportunities, may be ways of testing our faith or maturation. Some of the opportunities may come from the field itself and the people we meet. We may meet indifferent, unloving and unwelcoming situations that we would be wondering why bother.
A supervisor’s heart was so broken when she received a box of heinous petitions leveled against her by some members of her team. According to her, many of those accusations were blatantly false. Some came from those she thought were her closest allies. They simply didn’t want her, though they pretended they did. Hence, they made things difficult for her.
You may have noticed that sometimes your greatest hurdles in doing the right thing come from that child, that sibling, that friend, that colleague for whom you have sacrificed so much. The more witness of love you bear, the more manipulative they become. The day you choose no longer to be manipulated, that day, all the good you have done for them would be as if they never happened. You become the villain. You thought by living a saintly example, you would receive praise. You forget that saints are named only when they die. Various times, saints are regarded as villains by many of their contemporaries.
Discouragement could come from yourself also. As Saint Paul shares with his own personal life, he carried in his body a humbling reminder. “A thorn in the flesh” he says, “to beat me, to keep me from being elated” (2 Cor 12:7). For Paul, it was a tormenting experience, an experience that could discourage anyone.
What is your own thorn in the flesh? Declining health? Addiction? Hurting memories? Humbling child or sibling? Rejection from peers and colleagues? Broken and unhealed relationships? Betrayal and general frustrations because of things outside of your control? Do these keep you humble and sometimes make you want to quit from being the witness of the love, grace and mercy of God? Are these making you reconsider being that light in your community?
Allowing your personal challenges to dampen the spirit of bearing witness isn’t the answer. God’s word speaks to you at this moment, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).
Other elements of the challenge could come from relationships. We read in the Gospel of Mark 6:1-6 how Jesus wasn’t welcome in his own town, among his own people. They knew him—a mere son of a carpenter without elitist background. Underneath is jealousy.
Sometimes, you may feel discouraged from shining the light because of sibling and sibling-like jealousy. If that were to discourage you, you know you have a long way to go. Jealousy is everywhere. Poor or wealthy you aren’t shielded from it. Even if you were to be an Ivy League school graduate or the child of the Queen of England, many will still put you down. Keep an eye on why you are here. Get about your daily work being Christ to others anyway.
Accepted or rejected, praised or denounced, welcomed or shut out, keep the smile of grace coming. Keep shining the light. Keep the spirit of the Lord alive. Be one more instance of grace for your neighborhood.
Personalizing Saint Paul’s encouraging line, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10)
Praying for you, for the grace of courage, strengthening and endurance. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[14th Sunday Ordinary Time B: Ez 2:2-5; 2 Cor 12:7-10; Mk 6:1-6]
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.