5 Ordinary Time
Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time: The Pillars of Safety.
I have served the Diocese for the last 38 years and have been an incardinated Diocesan priest for 35 years. Before this I was a member of a religious congregation, the Salesians of St. John Bosco. I was attracted to the Salesians because I wanted to be a priest and to work with youth. Priesthood for me has always been first in my life. Because of this I could not remain a Salesian, but I still carry much of my Salesian training with me. Part of that training is continual exposure to the Salesian’s founder, St. John Bosco.
Last Sunday the Salesians celebrated the Feast of St. John Bosco, or Don Bosco as he was called in his day in Italy. He lived in the north of Italy, in Turin, during the nineteenth century. This was a time of great turmoil. Up to that point, Italy was not a unified country, but a group of independent city-states and regions, or provinces governed by foreign powers such as Austria, Spain and France. During the nineteenth century, a great effort was made to cast off foreign rule and to unite the provinces into one country. A large and important part of Italy, including Rome, was governed by the Church and known as the Papal States. By 1870, the Vatican ceded all control of its territories to the united Italy, keeping only the one square mile now called the Vatican State. The desire to eliminate Vatican control led to a great deal of anti-clericalism. Added to this turmoil, a heretical group called the Waldensians were attacking Catholics in Northern Italy. Outside of Italy, there was turmoil throughout the world, including the American Civil War and revolutions in Latin America, all creating difficult situations for the Church. To many, the Church appeared to be in chaos.
This was the state of the Church that St. John Bosco served. God often communicated to Don Bosco through dreams. Don Bosco had a dream about the chaos of his times. This was his most important dream and also his best known dream. The dream contained a message that Don Bosco was told to relay to the Holy Father, Pope Pius IX.
In the dream Don Bosco saw a ship on the sea battling heavy waves and a fierce wind. It was a hurricane. Several times, the ship almost capsized, but its captain kept it afloat. As Don Bosco looked at the ship, he realized that the captain was Pius IX and the ship was the Church. Suddenly Don Bosco found himself on the ship. It was terrifying. Waves kept crashing over the ship. It could not hold out much longer. Soon it would break apart, or capsize, or simply sink. But off in the distance, Don Bosco could see a safe harbor and calm water. At the entrance to the harbor there were two huge pillars. To get to the harbor, the Pope had to negotiate the ship between these pillars. As the ship drew closer to the pillars, the Pope could make out something on top of each pillar. On one pillar there was the Blessed Sacrament. On the second pillar, there was the Mary, the Mother of God. St. John Bosco explained to the Pope that he can get the Church through the chaos and turmoil by emphasizing devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and Devotion to the Blessed Mother.
Don Bosco’s advice was for more than the Holy Father. It was for all of us.
Like Job in the first reading, we all come upon times of chaos, times of stress. There are so many aspects to life for which there are no solutions. People have lost a loved one. Who has a solution to make the pain go away? Some members of our parish have chronically ill children. Parents are exhausted as their hearts are being torn to pieces. In some families, alcohol, drugs, psychological problems, or infidelity have broken up a marriage and a home. How can the family return to its state before it was devastated? It cannot. There is no solution. Chronic sickness and pain become the focus of a person's mind. How can he or she make believe it is not there?They cannot. Like Job we all experience what he called months of misery and nights of terror. Perhaps, we do not suffer to the extent that Job suffered, but life brings with it many challenges, including challenges to our faith that God will get us through the crisis.
The Lord is aware of our difficulties. He sees our turmoil. He wants to heal us, just as he healed all those people in the today’s Gospel. He will help us pilot our ship through the chaos to the safe harbor. However, as in Don Bosco’s dream, the Lord shows us that the way to the safe harbor is through our Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Virgin Mary.
We need the Lord’s presence in the Eucharist. We need to feed on His flesh and drink His blood, as He tells us to do in the sixth chapter of John. We need the spiritual strength of the Eucharist to help us meet the challenges of life. We need to receive communion at least once a week. If we can, we should receive communion more often, daily if possible.
And we need to have a deep devotion to our Mother, the Blessed Virgin. She is, as Pope Francis calls her, the one who untangles knots. She cares for us with a mother’s love and continually intercedes with her son for us. She will not stop asking for help for her children. We say the rosary, and should say it daily, because we trust her to bring our needs to her Son.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus comes upon Simon Peter's mother in law in bed with a terrible fever. She, like all of us, are important to the Lord. He has work for her. He reaches out to her, cures her, and she waits on the disciples. Then Jesus comes upon many people suffering the results of evil in our world, for all pain and suffering and death is due to mankind's original and continual turning away from the Lord of Life. He sees these poor people reaching out to Him, and He reaches out to them.
Today all of us are told that when we are suffering, in any manner whatsoever, we must trust in the presence of God. We believe that He is with us through all the turmoil. We believe that he cries out with us sharing our pain. He gives us the gift of the Eucharist and the gift of His Mother, to guide us from the chaos into the calm
Today we ask God, "When the difficulties of our human condition weigh heavily upon us, dear Lord and Divine Lover, help us pray."