Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 5, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

John 1:43-51

Jesus decided to go to Galilee, and he found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Reflection of the gospel reading: For the third day in the row, the Church reminds us how exciting it is to encounter Jesus. Over and over again throughout the gospels, we see that Jesus generated great interest in people. In an age without telephone, television, radio, or Internet, news had to travel by word of mouth, and the scene that the gospel presents to us today well must have been how news about Jesus traveled in the towns and villages where Jesus preached.

Philip tells Nathaniel that Jesus is the son of Joseph of Nazareth and wonders whether Jesus might be the one foretold in the Law and the Prophets. Nathaniel, without having met Jesus, expresses a bias against Jesus because of the place where Jesus grew up. We know such reactions to people are common even in our time: it requires no explanation to understand Nathaniel’s line of reasoning.

But even so, Jesus overcomes Nathaniel’s bias; when Nathaniel encounters Jesus, he is impressed. Jesus says a few words that, while mysterious to us, were quite compelling to Nathaniel. In an instant, Nathaniel is won over.

Jesus had a short ministry. But in a brief period of time, he stirred sufficient conviction in a small group of followers that they dedicated the rest of their lives to talking about what they had heard, what they had seen with their eyes, what they looked upon and touched with their hands concerning the Word of life. Who Jesus was must have been quite compelling to people who were disposed to hear his message and believe in his signs, and doubtless, given the interest he stirred, a chance encounter with him frequently was all the evidence someone needed to rearrange their entire lives. Such was the power of the man then even as now. We too can pray ever more deeply to hear, see, and touch the mystery given to us in the preaching that has come down to us from the apostles, that it enliven in us prodigies of faith, hope, and love.

Saint of the day: In March 1811, John Neumann, C.Ss.R.was born in Bohemia, in the Austrian Empire, which is now part of the Czech Republic. He attended school in České Budějovice before entering the seminary there in 1831. Two years later he transferred to the University of Prague, where he studied theology, though he was also interested in astronomy and botany. His goal was to be ordained to the priesthood, and he applied for this after completing his studies in 1835. His bishop, however, had decided that there would be no more ordinations for the time being, as Bohemia had a high number of priests.

Neumann then traveled to America with the hope of being ordained. He was received by Bishop John Dubois, S.S., into the Diocese of New York, which at that time covered a large territory, incorporating the entire states of New York and New Jersey. He was ordained in June 1836 at what is now the Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. After his ordination, Neumann was assigned by the bishop to work with recent German immigrants in the Niagara Falls area, where there were no established parish churches. There he traveled the countryside and visited the sick, taught catechism, and trained teachers to take over when he left. From 1836 until 1840 he served as the founding pastor of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Williamsville, New York.

In 1840, with the permission of Dubois, he applied to join the Redemptorist Fathers, was accepted, and entered their novitiate at St. Philomena’s in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania–becoming their first candidate in the New World. He took his vows as a member of the Congregation in Baltimore, Maryland, in January 1842. After six years of difficult but fruitful work, he was appointed as the Provincial Superior for the United States. Neumann became naturalized as a citizen of the United States in Baltimore on February 10, 1848.

On February 5, 1852 Neumann was appointed Bishop of Philadelphia and was consecrated the following 28 March by Bishop Dubois. He was the first bishop in the country to organize a diocesan school system, and, during his administration, he increased the number of parochial schools in his diocese from one to two hundred. His construction campaign extended to parish churches as well. He established and built so many new parish churches within the diocese that they was completed almost at the rate of one a month.

Neumann actively invited religious orders to establish new houses within the diocese. In 1855, he supported the foundation of a congregation of Religious Sisters in the city, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. He brought the School Sisters of Notre Dame from Germany to assist in religious instruction and staffing an orphanage and intervened to save the Oblate Sisters of Providence, a congregation for African-American women, from dissolution.

His facility with languages endeared him to the many new immigrant communities in the city. As well as ministering to newcomers in his native German, he also spoke Italian fluently and ministered personally to a growing congregation of Italian-speakers in his private chapel. He eventually established the first Italian national parishes in the country for them.

John was notorious for his frugality. He kept and wore only one pair of boots throughout his residence in America. When given the gift of new vestments, he would often use them to fit the newest ordained priest in the diocese.

While running errands on January 5, 1860, Neumann collapsed and died on a city street, due to a stroke. He was 48 years old. Neumann’s date of death, January 5, is now celebrated as his feast day.

Spiritual reading: Since every man of whatever race is endowed with the dignity of a person, he has an inalienable right to an education corresponding to his proper destiny and suited to his native talents, his cultural background, and his ancestral heritage. At the same time, this education should pave the way to brotherly association with other peoples, so that genuine unity and peace on earth may be promoted. For a true education aims at the formation of the human person with respect to the good of those societies of which, as a man, he is a member, and in whose responsibilities, as an adult, he will share. (John Neumann)

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