Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on September 17, 2013

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 7:11-17

Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him. As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!” 13fadf7a7290d350dbaee8010fe8927f_w600The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming, “A great prophet has arisen in our midst,” and “God has visited his people.” This report about him spread through the whole of Judea and in all the surrounding region.

Reflection on the gospel reading: In Jesus’ day, the welfare of a woman before she married was her family’s responsibility. After she wed, the responsibility for her well-being fell to her husband and her husband’s family. If her husband died, neither her family of birth nor her family by marriage had any legal responsibility to care for her. In a society where woman’s work was of meager monetary value, the lot of the widow was difficult. A woman who had sons to care for her fared better; a woman who had no sons faced a life of utter destitution. It is within this context that Jesus comes upon the funeral march of the Widow of Nain, carrying her only son to be buried.

Jesus three times in the gospels raises the dead to life. The most famous account is the raising of Lazarus, found only in the gospel of John; the other incident, the raising of Jairus’s daughter, is in Matthew, Mark, and Luke but not in John. This account, the raising of the son of the Widow of Nain, is found only in Luke’s gospel, sometimes called the gospel of compassion. Jesus in both the account of the raising of Lazarus and the daughter of Jairus, responds to requests he receives–in Lazarus’s case, a request from Mary and Martha, and in the daughter of Jairus’s case, an entreaty from the girl’s father. In this gospel passage, no one asks Jesus to intervene. Jesus acts on the impulse of love.

Chronologically among the three raising narratives, this one comes earliest, so perhaps no one even knew Jesus could do such a thing and simply didn’t ask him because the idea never entered their heads. Jesus sees the hardship that confronts the Widow of Nain, both in her dead child and the hopelessness of her social condition, and his heart is moved with pity for her. Jesus says to both the woman and to us, “Do not weep,” for Jesus remains the Lord of life and death–of both the living and the dead–and assures us that if we mourn, we shall be comforted for his heart will be moved with pity for us.

Sr. Leonella con bambinoSaint of the day: Sister Leonella Sgorbati was born with the given name of Rosa Maria on December 9, 1940 in Gazzola near Piacenza, Emilia-Romagna, Italy. From adolescence, she wished to become a missionary nun, but her mother did not approve the choice and asked her to wait until she turned 20. When finally Rosa Maria reached 20, she joined the Consolata Missionary Sisters in San Fre, Cuneo in May 1963 and took her perpetual vows in November 1972. Her name in religion was Leonella.

She undertook a course in nursing in England between 1966 and 1968, and in September 1970 she was sent to Kenya. From then until 1983 she served alternately at Consolata Hospital Mathari, Nyeri, and Nazareth Hospital in Kiambu on the outskirts of Nairobi. In mid-1983, Sister Leonella started her advanced studies in nursing and in 1985 became the principal tutor at the school of nursing attached to Nkubu Hospital, Meru, Kenya. In November 1993, she was elected regional superior of the Consolata Missionary Sisters in Kenya, a duty she performed for six years. After a sabbatical year, in 2001 she spent several months in Mogadishu, Somalia looking at the possibility of setting up a nursing school in the hospital run by the SOS Children’s Village organization. The Hermann Gmeiner School of Registered Community Nursing opened in 2002 with Sister Leonella in charge. The first 34 nurses graduated from the school that year, awarded certificates and diplomas by the World Health Organization because Somalia has had no government since 1991.

sister-leonellaSister Leonella was keen to train tutors for the nursing school. She returned to Kenya with three of her newly graduated nurses, to register them for further training at a medical training college. She faced difficulties in obtaining her own re-entry visa to Mogadishu, due to the new rules of the Islamic courts that had come to control the city and its environs. She managed to return to Mogadishu on September 13, 2006. Four days later she was gunned down outside her children’s hospital. Her bodyguard was also killed. Several humanitarian workers and Christian volunteers had previously been murdered by Islamic gunmen in Somalia in the recent years, including Italian bishop Salvatore Colombo shot dead while celebrating mass in Mogadishu in 1989. On September 17, 2006, two gunmen emerged from behind nearby taxis and kiosks and shot sister Leonella Sgarbati in her back after about 30 years of aid work in Africa. She was rushed to the SOS Hospital and died shortly thereafter. Her last words apparently were Italian for, “I forgive; I forgive.” A diocesan investigation into her cause for beatification as a martyr commenced on September 25, 2012.

fbdda25dcf89cd40738ba2ac978f72b7_w600Spiritual reading: Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the countless number of people standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands (see Revelation 7:9), I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me that she could find no other employment to support her two-year-old son. I shall see the woman who had an abortion and is haunted by guilt and remorse but did the best she could faced with grueling alternatives; the businessman besieged with debt who sold his integrity in a series of desperate transactions; the insecure clergyman addicted to being liked, who never challenged his people from the pulpit and longed for unconditional love; the sexually abused teen molested by his father and now selling his body on the street, who, as he falls asleep each night after his last ‘trick’, whispers the name of the unknown God he learned about in Sunday school. ‘But how?’ we ask. Then the voice says, ‘They have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ There they are. There *we* are – the multitude who so wanted to be faithful, who at times got defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, wearing the bloodied garments of life’s tribulations, but through it all clung to faith. My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace. (Brennan Manning)


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