Friday, September 23, 2011

Memorial of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, priest

(Haggai 2:1-9; Luke 9:18-22)

St. Pio of Pietrelcino, known as Padre Pio, is famous for having received the stigmata, the wounds of Christ, and for his perspicacity as a confessor. He suffered debilitating sickness throughout his life which corresponds to the stigmata. His sensitivity as a confessor also may be related to his acquaintance with pain. In the gospel today Jesus expresses awareness that he will similarly have to suffer if he was to realize his true identity.

Luke’s account of Jesus’ admonishing his disciples not to reveal his identity as Messiah differs from Mark’s and Matthew’s. In Luke, immediately after he commands his disciples not to tell anyone, Jesus states his reason: “The Son of Man must suffer greatly…” It is not so much that Jesus is the Messiah that he wants kept secret but that the Messiah will have to suffer. The people, he understands, will not accept the idea of a Messiah who has to suffer. In the popular mind messiahs are to relieve the suffering of others, not to suffer themselves.

We want to be god-like, and we think that this means to be invulnerable. In one sense it is true. God is spirit that cannot physically suffer. But the basic message of Christianity is that God in His omnipotence took on a human nature so that He might suffer with us. In doing so, He has transformed our pains into seeds of glory. The process can be illustrated. First, in freely accepting suffering Jesus expresses God’s love. His desire to endure hardship with us teaches us to share the suffering of others. Second, by suffering patiently Jesus reminds us that suffering is not an outrageous offense which we do not deserve but rather is triggered by human sin in which we participate. Finally, Jesus’ suffering does not end in oblivion but in resurrection. This truth gives us hope that by suffering with his love and patience, we may also share fully in his divine life.