May Saint: Bl. Juliana of Norwich
Parable: The Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16)
Each month at Our Lady of Sorrows we explore a particular parable of Jesus, a saint from the great cloud of witnesses that surround us (see Hebrews 12:1), and a virtue (generally taken from the fruits of the Spirit [Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Corinthians 6:6, Ephesians 5:9, & 2 Peter 1:5-7] or the cardinal & theological virtues). The parable, saint and virtue are incorporated into our morning prayer, religion bulletin boards and religion classes. This focus on one parable, one saint and one virtue complements our Words of Wisdom program and serves as a supplement to our religion curriculum. This month we focus on the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), the virtue of Generosity, and Bl. Juliana of Norwich.
God’s kingdom is like an estate manager who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. They agreed on a wage of a dollar a day, and went to work. Later, about nine o’clock, the manager saw some other men hanging around the town square unemployed. He told them to go to work in his vineyard and he would pay them a fair wage. They went. He did the same thing at noon, and again at three o’clock. At five o’clock he went back and found still others standing around. He said, "Why are you standing around all day doing nothing?" They said, "Because no one hired us." He told them to go to work in his vineyard.
When the day’s work was over, the owner of the vineyard instructed his foreman, "Call the workers in and pay them their wages. Start with the last hired and go on to the first." Those hired at five o’clock came up and were each given a dollar. When those who were hired first saw that, they assumed they would get far more. But they got the same, each of them one dollar. Taking the dollar, they groused angrily to the manager, "These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun."
“He replied to the one speaking for the rest, "Friend, I haven’t been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn’t we? So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. Can’t I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?"
Here it is again, the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first. (Matthew 20:1-16, The Message Translation)
On a human level, it's interesting that this particular employer makes several trips into town, and on each pass he hires people to go and work. It seems a bit wasteful of him to hire a few people, then come back several times to hire again and again. It makes him seem like he either doesn’t really know what he’s doing (why not just hire everyone you need at one go?) or he’s just a bit scatter-brained – either way, not exactly a poster child for the kingdom of heaven!
On a more theological level, if we take the landowner as a symbol for God, then we have God asking us: “Why do you stand here idle all day?” It reminds us of the second Genesis creation story where Adam and Eve are hiding under a bush in the garden and God asks, “Where are you?” In both cases, God already knows the answer . . . it’s telling that God asks the question not for God’s own benefit, but for our benefit – the listeners of the tale.
Once read this way, the story immediately brings us into it’s telling: what is God asking of us? Why are we standing around while we could be serving others? Is the work / ministry we’re doing incarnating the kingdom of heaven? Have we fallen into a rut, doing things not for the greater glory of God but simply out of habit?
As the parable continues, we find the phrase: The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. The kingdom of heaven isn’t just the landowner, it’s everything in the parable – in some way, the kingdom of heaven is like the landowner, but it’s also like the vineyard, and it’s also like the hired hands.
If we look at the kingdom of heaven as the vineyard, then the coming reign of God is expansive, luscious, verdant, alive . . . a delight for our bodily senses and needs. It is a place where we can slake our thirst and feed our hungers, a place where we can work and play, sleep and dream . . . it conjures up images of families gathered around the fruits of their labors at the close of day, ready to rest, but also ready to greet the dawning of the new day.
Seen as the workers, the kingdom of heaven is something that must be actively sought – it won’t come to you. You have to go to where the kingdom is to be found . . . maybe even go to places or people that are different; not respectable; out of our comfort zone. It may mean seeing the kingdom of heaven in the unwed mother, in the unjust government, in the immigrant, in the prisoner, in the suicide bomber, in the vicious lawyer, in the stubborn pastor, in the person of the opposite political party, or in the person of another culture, creed or caste. It’s a reminder that the kingdom of God is in more places and in more people than our fractured human heart can ever imagine.
Finally, seen as the landowner, the kingdom of God can be seen as growing in fits and spurts – there will be times of great growth, where new members are coming into our communities, and times of stagnation, where it seems no one new graces the doors of our churches or schools for weeks, or months or years. There will be times of great personal growth, when we can literally see ourselves changing into the image of Christ Jesus, and dark nights of the soul where we’re sure God would never want to be close to one such as us.
In the end, we come back to a feeling that the kingdom of God will be all of this and more – an experience of the greatness of a God that, more than anything, wants to be generous, even with those that others may see as “the last.”
Blessed Juliana of Norwich
Born around 1342 and died around 1416, Juliana lived a normal life until she became gravelly ill. On her deathbed at the age of 30, a priest came in to hear her confession and anoint her with holy oils in preparation for death. As he was praying for her, she had a series of sixteen visions which finished when she made a full recovery. She wrote down the visions, and then selflessly devoted her life to prayer and spiritual counseling, becoming an anchoress (someone who renounces her former life and the world to live a life of prayer and solitude), and eventually, towards the end of her life, giving her whole day to prayer, reading and writing, with no other human contact whatsoever.
Blessed Juliana lived at a time when many communities were ravaged by plague, disease, lack of food, and family deaths. She counseled numerous people through their darkest times, but never once gave up on hope. Even as she longed to spend more time in solitude and prayer, she opened up her life to the countless pilgrims and parishioners who wanted to speak with her throughout the day.
Our virtue for the month is generosity. Bl. Juliana is a perfect example of this, as she gave of her time and talents to help as many people as she could. In our families we are challenged to be generous with patience, forgiveness, understanding and time. In our community we are challenged to be generous to individuals and institutions who need our help to help others. And in our personal life we are challenged to be generous to every individual who crosses our path, imitating Jesus is giving all that is asked of us for the greater glory of God and for the building up of the body of Christ.
May we strive to outdo each other in generosity of giving and in generosity of spirit as we continue on our journey to the true happiness of heaven.
Blessings & Peace,
Hugo De La Rosa III
Each month at Our Lady of Sorrows we explore a particular parable of Jesus, a saint from the great cloud of witnesses that surround us (see Hebrews 12:1), and a virtue (generally taken from the fruits of the Spirit [Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Corinthians 6:6, Ephesians 5:9, & 2 Peter 1:5-7] or the cardinal & theological virtues). The parable, saint and virtue are incorporated into our morning prayer, religion bulletin boards and religion classes. This focus on one parable, one saint and one virtue complements our Words of Wisdom program and serves as a supplement to our religion curriculum. This month we focus on the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), the virtue of Kindness, and St. Katharine Drexel.
Jesus said: There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’
So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.
That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.
When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’
But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.
All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, ‘Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef!—because he has him home safe and sound.’
The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on prostitutes shows up and you go all out with a feast!’
His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’ (Luke 15:11 - 32, The Message)
The story holds a wealth of wisdom, but two themes stand out during Lent:
- The son who demands his inheritance in the story represents us. Once he gets what he wants he wastes his new found wealth in selfish pursuits. It’s only after he hits rock bottom that he decides to journey back to his father and ask forgiveness. During this holy season of Lent we are challenged to recognize our own sinfulness, and make a similar journey to our Heavenly Father, asking for and receiving his forgiveness through our celebration of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.
- The son who stayed faithful to his father represent us as well, especially those of us who regularly practice our faith. We can become so “righteous” that we start to unjustly judge those who we consider to be “less Christian” than we are, whether that’s because of their Church attendance, their choice of livelihood, the way they dress, the music they listen to, their country of origin, or any other number of criteria. We are challenged during this season of Lent to pray, fast and give to charity to help us break down that hardness of heart that leads us to unjustly judge others because they sin in different ways than we do.
Virtue of the Month: Kindness
Tied closely to our monthly parable is the virtue of kindness. Kindness is a habit that strengthens our ability to give of ourselves to others, without asking for or expecting anything in return. We model that self-sacrificing attitude on Jesus, who gave everything he had – even his very life – to try and show us the depth of God’s love. Kindness helps us to accept the circumstances of our lives (unlike the first son) and allows us to celebrate the circumstances in other people’s lives (unlike the second son). While this virtue begins in our heart and souls, kindness is incarnated through our actions to others – small, medium or large acts of love and service that help spread the radiant joy of our kind and merciful God.
May this month help us practice the virtue of kindness so that we may rejoice with all the angels and saints during this holy season of Lent.
Saint of the Month: St. Katharine Drexel
St. Katharine Drexel was born in Philadelphia on November 26, 1858 to a wealthy and devout family. Her parents set a great example of putting their faith - especially the spiritual and corporal works of mercy - into action, and Katharine took that lesson to heart. After speaking with Pope Leo XIII in 1887, Katharine followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit and took vows as a nun with the express purpose of helping Native Americans and African Americans who were living in poverty.
Katharine spent the rest of her days teaching and raising funds for those two disenfranchised communities. She financed the publication of a Navajo-English catechism and founded Xavier University in New Orleans, the first Catholic University in the United States for African-Americans. By the time of her death, she had more than 500 Sisters teaching in 63 schools throughout the country and she established 50 missions for Native Americans in 16 different states (http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=193).
St. Katharine exemplifies our virtue for the month, reminding us that those who are lucky enough to be born into wealth and privilege as well as those who have worked hard to earn that are called by God to help the poorest in our area and around the world. May this Lent challenge us to practice kindness in imitation of the kindness that St. Katharine incarnated to all.
Blessings & Peace,
Hugo De La Rosa III
Each month at Our Lady of Sorrows we explore a particular parable of Jesus, a saint from the great cloud of witnesses that surround us (see Hebrews 12:1), and a virtue (generally taken from the fruits of the Spirit [Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Corinthians 6:6, Ephesians 5:9, & 2 Peter 1:5-7] or the cardinal & theological virtues). The parable, saint and virtue are incorporated into our morning prayer, religion bulletin boards and religion classes. This focus on one parable, one saint and one virtue complements our Words of Wisdom program and serves as a supplement to our religion curriculum. This month we focus on the parable of the Persistent Widow and the Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1-8), the virtue of Faithfulness, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.
Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Two summers ago, Pope Francis talked about this parable. He said Jesus uses this parable to show that if a widow with no influence could sway an uncaring judge merely through her patient and persistent pleas, then imagine how powerful that same force of prayer is when directed toward a loving, merciful and caring God! Jesus is showing how important and necessary it is to pray tirelessly, all the time - not just every now and then, when times are tough, or "when we feel like it."
"We all experience moments of exhaustion and discouragement, above all when our prayers don't seem to do anything," our Pope said. But contrary to the stubborn judge, he said, God speedily secures "the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night," according to the Gospel of St. Luke (18:1-8). But that doesn't mean God will respond when "and in the ways that we want. Prayer is not a magic wand," the pope said.
Rather, Jesus shows how prayer is about strengthening one's relationship with the Father -- transforming one's own wishes and conforming them to God's will, Pope Francis said. Prayer "helps us keep our faith in God and to trust him even when we do not understand his will." And it is in prayer that people experience the compassion of God who comes to his children "filled with merciful love."
The virtue tied to this parable is faithfulness. Just as the persistent widow listened to the voice of God and lived a life of faithful trust, we are called to trust in God’s providential care. Even when it seems like justice is not forthcoming, God challenges us to continue to pray and trust, changing our own hearts, minds, souls and spirits to be able to see the subtle working of the Holy Spirit in the background of our lives. We are also called to be faithful to the teachings handed on to us through the living witness and tradition of the church, as well the written revelation of our Scriptures. Our conscience, formed by Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, then begins to help us trust more fully in the revelations God has given us through the Church.
St. Elizabeth was the very first native born American to be canonized in our Church. She was born in 1774 and lived a quiet life of reading for the first part of her life. In 1794 she married a wealthy young man and they eventually had five children together. The next several years brought financial and health-related strains for her extended family and her husband. Moving to Italy in the hopes of helping her husband’s ailing health, he instead died there.
While in Italy she was introduced to the teachings of the Catholic Church (being born into the Episcopal Church), and in 1805, after returning to America, she converted to the Catholic faith.
In 1810 she opened the first free Catholic school in America, St. Joseph’s Academy; it was dedicated to the education of Catholic girls.
Eventually, St. Elizabeth was able to establish a religious community in Maryland dedicated to the care of the children of the poor. It was the first religious community of non-cloistered Religious Sisters to be founded in the United States. The order was called the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is the patron saint of Catholic schools. She endeared many to herself because of her unfailing kindness and her trust and faithfulness to God in all things. In her teaching and through her example she strove to embody and teach trust in and faithfulness to God. Let us pray that, just like that widow in Jesus’ story and just like St. Elizabeth, we can focus on growing closer to God through faithfulness to God through daily prayer, even when we don’t feel like it.
Blessings & Peace,
Hugo De La Rosa III
Each month at Our Lady of Sorrows we explore a particular parable of Jesus, a saint from the great cloud of witnesses that surround us (see Hebrews 12:1), and a virtue (generally taken from the fruits of the Spirit [Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Corinthians 6:6, Ephesians 5:9, & 2 Peter 1:5-7] or the cardinal & theological virtues). The parable, saint and virtue are incorporated into our morning prayer, religion bulletin boards and religion classes. This focus on one parable, one saint and one virtue complements our Words of Wisdom program and serves as a supplement to our religion curriculum. This month we focus on the parable of the Lost Sheep (Matthew 18:12-14; Luke 15:1-10), the virtue of Joy, and the Holy Family.
Jesus told them another parable:
What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.
(Matthew 18:12-14, NRSV-CE translation)
Most of us spend much of our time with family, friends, and co-workers - it’s the nature of our lives and schedules. However, Jesus challenges us to always be on the lookout for the unwanted, the undesirable, the ones that others shun, the ones who are on the fringes of polite society. We are challenged to visit and serve the sick, those in prison, and especially those who are different from us (in culture, religion, philosophy, politics, etc.). And Jesus sends us forth to do this because, he tells us, that’s what the Father does. The Father constantly looks for the one who is different, who is set apart, who is outcast, who doesn't feel like they belong – and, Jesus tells us, when the Father finally breaks through to that person, all of heaven rejoices.
That joy felt in heaven is a mirror of the joy in our hearts this Advent month. That joy is different from happiness – happiness is an ephemeral feeling that is dictated by external circumstances; it can be triggered by a new item, a passing remark, the state of the weather, or any number of other external circumstances to our lives. Joy, on the other hand, is a deep-seated attitude towards life, regardless of the circumstances surrounding us. It’s a way of looking at life that accepts both good and bad, happy and sad, positive and negative. When we can walk through life in a state of acceptance, we are on our way to practicing joy.
The Holy Family (Jesus, Mary & Joseph) encapsulate both our parable and our virtue. When Mary gave her "yes" to be the Mother of Jesus, the profound joy it brought her (and eventually St. Joseph) helped them weather the gossip that their little village would have thrown in their faces. As Jesus grew in wisdom and grace, all three of them would have taken time to speak with anyone who would speak to them, pray with those who needed it, share a meal with those who were hungry, and serve the other people who no one wanted to help. The man Jesus grew into was partly a result of the overflowing generosity and joy he witnessed and experienced with his family.
This month then, as we prepare ourselves for the celebration of the Christmas season by journeying through the holy season of Advent, let us pray that we can strive to practice joy in our hearts, attitudes and actions, especially with those people who are part of our earthly family.
Each month at Our Lady of Sorrows we explore a particular parable of Jesus, a saint from the great cloud of witnesses that surround us (see Hebrews 12:1), and a virtue (generally taken from the fruits of the Spirit [Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Corinthians 6:6, Ephesians 5:9, & 2 Peter 1:5-7] or the cardinal & theological virtues). The parable, saint and virtue are incorporated into our morning prayer, religion bulletin boards and religion classes. This focus on one parable, one saint and one virtue complements our Words of Wisdom program and serves as a supplement to our religion curriculum. This month we focus on the parable of the Weeds & the Wheat (Matthew 13:24-30), the virtue of Self-Control, and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini.
Jesus told them another parable: God’s kingdom is like a farmer who planted good seeds of wheat in his field. One night, while his workers were asleep, his enemy planted weeds all through the wheat and snuck away before dawn. When the first tiny green stalks of wheat appeared and the grain began to form, the weeds showed up, too.
The farmhands came to the farmer and said, ‘Master, that was clean seed you planted, wasn't it? Where did these weeds come from?’
The farmer answered, ‘An enemy did this.’
The farmhands asked, ‘Should we pull out the weeds?’
The farmer said, ‘No, if you pull out the weeds, you’ll pull up the wheat, too. Let them grow together until harvest time.
Then I’ll instruct the harvesters to pull up the weeds and tie them in bundles for the fire, then gather the wheat and put it in the barn.’
(Matthew 13:24-30, adapted from The Message translation)
St. Frances was born in Lombardi, Italy in 1850, one of thirteen children. At eighteen, she desired to become a nun, but poor health stood in her way. She helped her parents until their death, and then worked on a farm with her brothers and sisters.
One day a priest asked her to teach in a girls' school and she stayed for six years. At the request of her Bishop, she founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to care for poor children in schools and hospitals. Then at the urging of Pope Leo XIII she came to the United States with six nuns in 1889 to work among the Italian immigrants.
Filled with a deep trust in God and endowed with a wonderful administrative ability, this remarkable woman soon founded schools, hospitals, and orphanages in this strange land and saw them flourish in the aid of Italian immigrants and children. At the time of her death, at Chicago, Illinois on December 22, 1917, her institute numbered houses in England, France, Spain, the United States, and South America. In 1946, she became the first American citizen to be canonized when she was elevated to sainthood by Pope Pius XII. St. Frances is the patroness of immigrants. (Source: Catholic.org)
In the Gospel story, Jesus is teaching us two things: The first one, which he explains to his apostles, is that good will always win over evil in the end. Even if it seems like the weeds are taking over, God promises us that, either here on Earth or in heaven, good will always win, and evil will always lose (just like the wheat goes into the barn and is later made into delicious bread and cakes, while the weeds are thrown out with the trash).
But Jesus also reminds us that our own heart, mind and soul are sometimes full of both good things (like wheat seeds) and bad things (like weeds). Our choices help us become more like Jesus (like the good seeds that grow into wheat) or takes us farther away from Jesus (like the weeds that were thrown away). The virtue of self-control helps us to nourish those good thoughts and actions, while helping us to put aside selfish thoughts and sinful actions. In this way, the parable reminds us that our self-control will help us enjoy eternal life with God as well as help others by our example.
Mother Cabrini practiced self-control when she was asked to teach (she gave up her time and energy and focused on her responsibilities instead of her wants) and when she came to the United States with a few of her nuns (they were very poor to start off with, and had to make do with little food and money). She also put into practice the parable of the month by teaching everyone who wanted to be taught, and not turning anyone away.
This month then, as we pray for the holy souls in purgatory and as we give thanks for the good things in our lives, let us also pray that our decisions will be inspired by Mother cabrini's example and that our choices always help us be more like Jesus.
Blessings & Peace,
Hugo De La Rosa III
This week we celebrate two interrelated feasts: The Solemnity of All Saints on November 1st, and The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls / Dia de los Muertos) on November 2nd. Both of these feasts center on the reality that we are still connected to our ancestors in faith and in family. They remind us that, even though we cannot see them, those who have passed away are still very much a part of our life.
The Solemnity of All Saints focuses on those people who have lived such exemplary lives of holiness that the Church feels justified in saying they are already enjoying the beatific vision - that they are living in the full presence of God. All Souls expands the focus, centering on all of our beloved dead. Both feasts echo the teaching in our creed: “We believe in the communion of saints.”
Since we are all one in Christ Jesus, we believe that our deceased friends and relatives can still influence our lives. They can bring our prayers and petitions to the very throne of God, interceding on our behalf; just as we can ask St. Michael, or St. Teresa, or St. Joseph to pray for us, so we can ask our deceased grandmother, uncle, or parent to pray for us as well.
We can also pray for our deceased relatives and friends, asking mercy on their behalf before God, our merciful judge. We can pray for a speedy movement through purgatory, and we can pray for the rest of their eternal souls.
Finally, we can look to the lives of the saints and draw encouragement from them - priests, popes, nuns, couples, and children. We can do our best to imitate them as they imitated Christ. With over 10,000 saints officially recognized by our Church, there will be saints that resonate with us because of our age, our profession, or our current needs. There will also be saints that challenge us to pursue holiness, or to think about our faith in ways that help us appreciate the universal call to holiness in every age, every culture, and every language.
In these two intertwined feasts, we remember that out of sight does not equate to out of mind. And we pray that one day, we also will be able to see God face to face, and take our place among a long line of people who prayed that we would one day enter into heaven.
Blessings & Peace,
Hugo De La Rosa III
October Saint: Saint Francis of Assisi
Parable: The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25 - 37)
Each month at Our Lady of Sorrows we explore a particular parable of Jesus, a saint from the great cloud of witnesses that surround us, and a virtue (generally taken from the fruits of the Spirit [Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Corinthians 6:6, Ephesians 5:9, & 2 Peter 1:5-7] or the cardinal & theological virtues). The parable, saint and virtue are incorporated into our morning prayer, religion bulletin boards and religion classes. This focus on one parable, one saint and one virtue complements our Words of Wisdom program and serves as a supplement to our religion curriculum. This month we focus on the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25 - 37), the virtue of Goodness, and St. Francis of Assisi.
St. Francis is the patron saint of animals and the environment, but there is much more to Brother Francis then an ecological concern for our planet. One of his largest contributions to Catholicism was his desire to live his life as close to Jesus’ as possible.
He fell in love with Lady Poverty early on in life, so much so that even when he was living surrounded by his family’s wealth he had times in his life when he would go off alone to pray, or take everything he had on him and give it to someone who needed it more. He tried to radically live Jesus’ prohibition against putting our trust in stuff and trusting to God (through the kindness of strangers and benefactors) to provide anything and everything he needed.
He was so patient with and good to others that people marveled at him, and his humility, gentleness and goodness shone through to everyone he met, from beggar to world leader. He made his peace with life and death, so much so that he could talk about Sister Death gently and lovingly coming to lead him (and everyone else) into God’s presence.
This month’s virtue of Goodness mirrors the way St. Francis lived his life. Practicing the virtue of goodness means remembering that God created us in goodness (like all of creation) and challenges us to live a life of virtue (heroic sacrifice for others), patience (St. Francis can still teach us a thing or two about this!), peace and kindness. Finally, just like St. Francis, the virtue of Goodness challenges us to choose the good, even if it means that we might suffer or lose our lives for choosing the good. It is a virtue that leads some to martyrdom – making the ultimate sacrifice of their lives for the good of another person or for the integrity of the Faith.
The parable for this month tells the story of one such person who chose to do good. The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) tells us this story:
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denari, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Samaritans were people from Samaria, North of Jerusalem and Judea. Many years before the time of Jesus Jewish people had moved there and married the pagans (worshipped other gods) who lived there. Many of them practiced a mixture of both Jewish and pagan religion, and they were looked down upon by other Jews. So for Jesus to tell a story where a Samaritan is the one who is good was a shock to his audience. But Jesus was trying to make the point that anyone who practices loving kindness – who chooses to do good – is the one who is showing love of God and neighbor.
May we pray this month for the grace to show goodness, love and mercy to all people in our lives, especially those who are different from us in creed, nationality, socioeconomic status, or political party.
Blessings & Peace,
Hugo De La Rosa III