Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on August 23, 2013

Matthew 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: We Christians believe that God is love, and for this reason, love is the creative force that forms and binds everything that exists. God asks us to live fearlessly this call to love. John of the Cross once wrote that in the evening of our lives, God will judge us on love alone. It is our prayer of the everyday that when we come to the evening of our lives, and we are judged on love alone, we will not be found wanting. As Joanna Macy once wrote, “The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe.”

Saint of the day: Sr. Maria Alfonsa of the Child Jesus–Elena Bruno at birth–was born in Tarquinia, Italy, April 10th, 1937. She was a vivacious girl who grew up with her father, mother, and six siblings. She fell in love with a young man who her father thought was inappropriate and was sent to live with her aunt. During this period, she had a mystical experience 1355251900where she heard the Blessed Mother encourage her to enter religious life. When Elena announced to her family that she was entering religious life, their reaction was unanimous outrage. Her brother responded, “Better dead!” And her father refused her permission. Elena prayed fervently for her father to have a change of heart. One night, he had a dream of a huge, powerful man who told him, “Let her go. She does not belong to the world.” Her father then gave full consent to Elena’s call. On November 30th, 1956, Elena entered the community of the Handmaids of Reparation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. When she pronounced her vows on December 30, 1957, she was given the name Sr. Maria Alfonsa of the Child Jesus.

In February 1960, she was sent to the United States as a missionary. In Steubenville, Ohio, Sr. Alfonsa helped with the humble chores around the house and in the pre-school run by the sisters. In 1961, Sr. Alfonsa began experiencing pain in the joints of her hands. Her health deteriorated to such an extent that in 1967 she was hospitalized and diagnosed with the serious chronic disease: rheumatoid arthritis. She and her sisters began a novena to the Founder of the Community, Monsignor Anthony Celona. On the ninth day of the novena, Monsignor Celona appeared to her over her bed. He told her, “You will be a saint.” Then he slowly waved his hand over her body. As he did so, a light began to radiate from her bones. She saw her own body as it would be in glory. Believing she had been cured, she fell asleep. However, the next morning she awoke in even more pain than before.

Her superiors decided the best way to help her was to have her return to Messina, and on June 7th, 1968, Sr. Alfonsa left the United States and returned to Italy. She spent the rest of her live in a wheel chair offering up all her sufferings with a smile for her mission which she had left in Steubenville, for her community, and for the holiness of priests. She would spend all day before Brunothe Blessed Sacrament praying in the back corner of the church. She called herself the Secretary of the Eucharistic King. Visitors would come to her throughout the day and ask for her prayers and advice. Sr. Alfonsa was always available to anyone and everyone and never betrayed her own sufferings which were her constant companions. Each year her disease grew progressively worse. Yet Sr. Alfonsa remained faithful and joyful in her sufferings to the last moment of her life. Very few people could understand her pain and there was nothing that was really able to minimize the pain. Sr. Alfonsa died on August 23rd, 1994. On June 21st, 2002, the process for the beatification and canonization of Sr. Alfonsa was officially opened. After years of examination, the Servant of God, Sr. Maria Alfonsa’s life was declared heroic and virtuous.

Spiritual reading: Stop the words now. Open the window in the center of your chest, and let the spirits fly in and out. (Rumi)

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