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Bible Reflections View Comments

The Expectations of Our Calling
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, June 24, 2012
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My great-nephew was baptized on the feast of John the Baptist five years ago. I was one of the lectors and was blessed to be able to read that wonderful passage from Isaiah: “The Lord called me from birth. From my mother’s womb he gave me my name.” That Evan was being baptized on this feast and that his name is the Welsh form of John just added to the significance.

The homilist used the birth and naming of John the Baptist to talk about baptism and our calling as Christians. Evan’s mom sings in the parish choir and the parish music director commented wryly afterward, “That’s a lot of expectation to be putting
on a small baby.”

The Christian calling is a high expectation, and I was also struck by the fact that one of my own godchildren is now little Evan’s godmother, while my nephew and his wife are godparents to her oldest daughter. I could not help but be moved by the connections among us that are not only blood ties but also bonds in the Spirit.

But I have to admit that sitting behind the ambo during the Gospel, looking at family from out of town in the pews, the line “all these matters were discussed throughout the hill
country of Judea,” set me to thinking less about the wonders of God than about how often in families even the smallest detail, especially if it’s in someone else’s life, gets talked to death
by everyone else.

The commitment of Zechariah and Elizabeth to name their child John in the face of family and community tradition and expectation is sometimes a special source of encouragement to those who choose to live their lives and their faith in their own way. While we share one faith and one baptism, the cultural expressions of that faith can vary greatly.

One of the deepest rifts in Catholicism today lies in an ongoing struggle over the way the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, are celebrated. Too often these disagreements
focus on the accidents of language, music, and other cultural expressions and miss the essentials of preaching the gospel message and changing water and wine into the body and blood, soul and divinity, of Christ. And far too often we engage in heated arguments
that quickly lose sight of Jesus’s central command to love one another.

As John the Baptist grew to adulthood, his way of living and proclaiming his Jewish faith differed greatly from his father’s work as a priest in the Jerusalem temple. As Jesus began his ministry, he often upended the expectations of his cousin John, whose whole purpose was to prepare the way for the Messiah.

Whether in our own families or our family of faith, we need to remember that what matters more than anything else is hearing and doing the word and the will of God. John learned this from his parents. And their faith in God’s plan made it possible to let him go his own way, fulfilling his call from God in ways that they could only imagine.

We, too, need to let our children, our families, our friends find their own way to hear and do God’s will. We have support networks, we have the framework of tradition, we have our Scriptures and the teaching of the Church to guide us. But ultimately our calling will take us in a direction that only our God sees clearly.


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Pio of Pietrelcina: In one of the largest such ceremonies in history, Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio of Pietrelcina on June 16, 2002. It was the 45th canonization ceremony in Pope John Paul's pontificate. More than 300,000 people braved blistering heat as they filled St. Peter's Square and nearby streets. They heard the Holy Father praise the new saint for his prayer and charity. "This is the most concrete synthesis of Padre Pio's teaching," said the pope. He also stressed Padre Pio's witness to the power of suffering. If accepted with love, the Holy Father stressed, such suffering can lead to "a privileged path of sanctity." 
<p>Many people have turned to the Italian Capuchin Franciscan to intercede with God on their behalf; among them was the future Pope John Paul II. In 1962, when he was still an archbishop in Poland, he wrote to Padre Pio and asked him to pray for a Polish woman with throat cancer. Within two weeks, she had been cured of her life-threatening disease. </p><p>Born Francesco Forgione, Padre Pio grew up in a family of farmers in southern Italy. Twice (1898-1903 and 1910-17) his father worked in Jamaica, New York, to provide the family income. </p><p>At the age of 15, Francesco joined the Capuchins and took the name of Pio. He was ordained in 1910 and was drafted during World War I. After he was discovered to have tuberculosis, he was discharged. In 1917 he was assigned to the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, 75 miles from the city of Bari on the Adriatic. </p><p>On September 20, 1918, as he was making his thanksgiving after Mass, Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus. When the vision ended, he had the stigmata in his hands, feet and side. </p><p>Life became more complicated after that. Medical doctors, Church authorities and curiosity seekers came to see Padre Pio. In 1924 and again in 1931, the authenticity of the stigmata was questioned; Padre Pio was not permitted to celebrate Mass publicly or to hear confessions. He did not complain of these decisions, which were soon reversed. However, he wrote no letters after 1924. His only other writing, a pamphlet on the agony of Jesus, was done before 1924. </p><p>Padre Pio rarely left the friary after he received the stigmata, but busloads of people soon began coming to see him. Each morning after a 5 a.m. Mass in a crowded church, he heard confessions until noon. He took a mid-morning break to bless the sick and all who came to see him. Every afternoon he also heard confessions. In time his confessional ministry would take 10 hours a day; penitents had to take a number so that the situation could be handled. Many of them have said that Padre Pio knew details of their lives that they had never mentioned. </p><p>Padre Pio saw Jesus in all the sick and suffering. At his urging, a fine hospital was built on nearby Mount Gargano. The idea arose in 1940; a committee began to collect money. Ground was broken in 1946. Building the hospital was a technical wonder because of the difficulty of getting water there and of hauling up the building supplies. This "House for the Alleviation of Suffering" has 350 beds. </p><p>A number of people have reported cures they believe were received through the intercession of Padre Pio. Those who assisted at his Masses came away edified; several curiosity seekers were deeply moved. Like St. Francis, Padre Pio sometimes had his habit torn or cut by souvenir hunters. </p><p>One of Padre Pio’s sufferings was that unscrupulous people several times circulated prophecies that they claimed originated from him. He never made prophecies about world events and never gave an opinion on matters that he felt belonged to Church authorities to decide. He died on September 23, 1968, and was beatified in 1999.</p> American Catholic Blog In times of intense loss and grief, we take our place with Mary as she embraces all our grief in her own as she is silently holding in her arms the stark presence of our suffering God in the lifeless body of her Son.

 
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