Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 25, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 5:27-32

Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Tax collectors in the time and place that Jesus lived were Jews who worked for the Romans. Perceived as people who violated the Law of Moses, tax collectors were social outcasts. The passage that we read today describes Jesus’ call of a tax collector, Levi, to follow him. The text demonstrates that Jesus did not allow the biases of people who surrounded him to influence his decisions about who would accompany him. Levi leaves everything in an instant to follow the Lord, and in a meal that celebrates his welcome among the Lord’s disciples, the Pharisees and scribes accuse Jesus of keeping poor company. Jesus’ critics considered themselves virtuous, but in truth, they lacked both love and compassion. The Lord tells them that he has come to heal the sick and implicitly accuses the Pharisees and scribes of legalisms. The Lord’s counsel is to let go of rigid adherence to law to lavishly love one another.

Saint of the day: Luigi Versiglia was born in Oliva Gessi (Pavia) on June 5, 1873. From his earliest years he used serve mass, so much so that the people already thought he would be a priest, but Louis never wanted to hear talk of that, because he wanted to be a vet. As a twelve year old he was taken in by Don Bosco, who fascinated him to the extent that he wanted to change his mind. In 1888, soon after Don Bosco’s death, Louis was much taken by the ceremony where seven missionaries received their mission cross and decided to become a Salesian, with the hope of going to the missions. He gained a degree in philosophy, and was soon ready for priestly ordination which took place in 1895. Don Rua appointed him as director of novices at just 23 years of age at Genzano in Rome, a task he carried out for ten years with kindness, firmness, and patience.

After much insistence from the bishop of Macao, in 1906, six Salesians arrived in China, led by Fr. Versiglia. Thus a prophecy of Don Bosco’s came true. In Macao he established the Salesian “mother house” and also opened a mission at Heungchow. Fr. Louis gave life to the area as Don Bosco would have done, setting up a music band which was much appreciated, and opening orphanages and oratories. In 1918 the Salesians received the mission of Shiuchow from the Vicar Apostolic of Canton, and on January 9, 1921 Fr. Versiglia was consecrated its bishop. Wise, tireless, and poor, he constantly set out to visit and encourage the confreres and Christians in his diocese. Whenever he arrived, the villages held a feast especially the children.

He was a true pastor, completely dedicated to his flock. He gave the Vicariate a solid structure with its own seminary, house of formation, and planned residences and hospitals for the elderly and those in need. He looked after the formation of catechists with much care. In his notes he wrote: “The missionary who is not united to God is a canal detached from its source”. “The missionary who prays a lot achieves a lot.” Like Don Bosco he was an example of work and temperance.

Meanwhile in China the political situation had become very tense, especially for Christians and foreign missionaries. Persecutions began. On February 13, 1930, together with Fr. Caravario, the bishop was at Shiuchow for the pastoral visit to the Linchow mission. Some young boys and girls went with them; they had been studying in Shiuchow. On February 25, a group of Bolshevik pirates stopped the bishop’s boat, wanting to take the girls. The bishop and Fr. Caravario obstructed them with all the force they could muster. They were forcibly taken and eventually shot. Before they were killed they heard one anothers’ confession. Their last breath was spent for their beloved China. Declared martyrs in 1976, they were canonized in 2000.

Spiritual reading: Growth begins when we start to accept our own weakness. (Jean Vanier)

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