Thursday, January 5, 2017

Memorial of Saint John Neumann, bishop

(I John 3:11-22; John 1:43-51)

Wisdom teaches that there are many ways of doing good and relatively few ways of doing evil.  Therefore, we have to choose among the ways to do good but avoid all the ways to do evil.  Saints like John Neumann stand out as examples in this twofold task.

John came to the United States in 1836 as a theological student wanting to be ordained.  The bishop of New York granted his desire and assigned him to a rural territory.  John travelled his huge parish on horseback to visit the sick, teach catechism and train catechists.  After joining the Redemptorist Order, John continued to serve as a parish priest.  In 1852 he was named bishop of Philadelphia where he stood out as a defender and promoter of various immigrant communities – Germans, Irish, and Italian among others.  He also oversaw the founding of two hundred parochial schools.

In today’s gospel Jesus tells Nathaniel that they will see “angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”  He means that they will witness Jesus perform many mighty deeds.  The marvel has never subsided.  In the name of the same Jesus saints have continued to tirelessly and thoughtfully work wonders.  Our deeds will not likely be as prodigious as those of John Neumann.  Nevertheless, we should always ask what we may do on behalf of others and then do what seems reasonable.