Fr. Roger J. Landry
Sacred Heart Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Friday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Pio of Pietrelcina
September 23, 2016
Eccl 3:1-11, Ps 144, Lk 9:18-22
To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- In today’s first reading, the sacred author of Ecclesiastes says that there’s a time, a “kairos,” for everything under the heavens, and lists several of them. In this ecclesiastical Jubilee Year of Mercy, we recognize, as Pope Francis continually stresses, that now is a “kairos” of mercy.
- In the Gospel today, we see how Peter recognized this kairos of mercy with the appearance of Jesus as the Messiah of God. Jesus asked his question about what the people were saying about him not because he was curious but because he wanted to lead them on a journey of faith to recognize that the long-awaited time had really come. After Peter, however, moved my God the Father had courageously confessed his faith in Christ, Jesus announced the type of Messiah he would be in the fullness of time: a Messiah who would suffer and die in order to bring us that mercy, a Messiah who would summon us to be co-redeemers with him precisely through entering into his suffering, his death, and his resurrection.
- Today as we celebrate the feast of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, we have a chance to ponder these mysteries. He was associated with Christ’s mercy won for us on the Cross in a particular way through his stigmata. He shared his love for others as we see in his founding the Casa del Sollievo della Sofferenza as a first-rate hospital to care for those who were seriously ill. But I’d particularly like to ponder what Blessed Paul VI said about him when he visited San Giovanni Rotondo after his death, praising Padre Pio not for his inimitable qualities like bilocation, the working of miracles of healing, the prediction of the future and bearing the wounds of Christ, but for what all of us can emulate: because, Paul VI said, “he said Mass humbly, … heard confessions from dawn to dusk … and was a man of prayer and suffering.” In each of these he recognized the “kairos” of the Lord.
- He urged us to pray, founding prayer groups all over the world. “In books we seek God,” he once said, but “in prayer we find him. Prayer is the key which opens God’s heart.” He prayed differently because he knew there was no better use of his time than to enter into communion with the God of eternity.
- He suffered, grasping that this was a special communion with Christ in time. For 50 years he bore, with undeniable visibility in our modern skeptical age, he bore the five wounds of Christ in his own body. Those wounds were a tangibly irrefutable reminder to everyone of Christ who bore those wounds first and mysteriously allowed Padre Pio to share in his own excruciating pain. Two years before his priestly ordination, Padre Pio referred to this unique pathway of the Cross when he wrote, “In order to succeed in reaching our ultimate end we must follow the divine Head, who does not wish to lead the chosen soul on any way other than the one he followed; by that, I say, of abnegation and the Cross.” Christ does not call everyone to bear the stigmata, but he does call everyone to pick up his cross daily and follow him along the way of the Cross. It is under the Cross, Padre Pio said, that “one learns to love.” It is for that reason, “Calvary is the hill of the saints.” Padre Pio was united to Christ on the Cross in more ways than by the stigmata. For decades he suffered from the suspicions and calumny of many in his order who were confused by and perhaps envious of his divine predilection. He bore all these hardships humbly, with religious obedience, as a “crucible of purification.” When St. John Paul II visited his tomb, he said, “The life and mission of Padre Pio prove that difficulties and sorrows, if accepted out of love, are transformed into a privileged way of holiness, which opens onto the horizons of a greater good, known only to the Lord.” He met Christ in the kairos of suffering and now rejoices in the kairos of mercy.
- He met Christ in the Mass, which he celebrated humbly each day. His daily Mass used to last a few hours, as he united himself to the Lord’s prayer from the Upper Room and from the Cross. Despite the crowds who attended each day, the local ecclesiastical authorities for a time banned him from celebrating the Mass publicly because they thought three hours was scandalously too long. I wonder whether the same well-meaning but myopic authorities would have tried to hurry Jesus, too, during the agonizingly slow three hours he took to offer his body and blood on the Cross! But he knew he was hearing Christ preach in the Mass and welcoming him into his hands on the altar, and he wasn’t going to place anything else ahead of entering into that moment.
- And finally he lived Christ’s kairos of mercy in the Confessional. From dawn until dusk, his immobile cross was the wooden box of the confessional, where he would mercifully seek to forgive the sins that led to the Lord’s crucifixion. To all who flocked to him, he held up the ideal of holiness, repeating to them: “Jesus has no interest outside of sanctifying your soul.” Confession is when the entire sacramental economy exists just for each of us, when time stops, as we begin to experience what Saint Paul exclaimed to the Galatians, the “Christ died for me and gave his life up for me.” And by the time he gave to individual penitents, he should each of them just how valuable they were to God.
- Blessed Paul VI praised St. Pio for these very emulable qualities, his meeting Christ in these propitious times he gives us in prayer, the Mass, confession, suffering and charity. May St. Pio from heaven pray for us that we may profit as much from these occasions as he did and confess that we know that Jesus, the Christ and Son of God, is present with us in both of these ways seeking to transform us into him and bring us from time to eternity!
The readings for today’s Mass were:
Reading 1 ECCL 3:1-11
and a time for every thing under the heavens.
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;
a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.What advantage has the worker from his toil?
I have considered the task that God has appointed
for the sons of men to be busied about.
He has made everything appropriate to its time,
and has put the timeless into their hearts,
without man’s ever discovering,
from beginning to end, the work which God has done.
Responsorial Psalm PS 144:1B AND 2ABC, 3-4
Blessed be the LORD, my rock,
my mercy and my fortress,
my stronghold, my deliverer,
My shield, in whom I trust.
R. Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!
LORD, what is man, that you notice him;
the son of man, that you take thought of him?
Man is like a breath;
his days, like a passing shadow.
R. Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!
Alleluia MK 10:45
The Son of Man came to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 9:18-22
Once when Jesus was praying in solitude,
and the disciples were with him,
he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah;
still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’”
Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.”
He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone.
He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.”