17 September 2015

'Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.' Sunday Reflections, 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

(6 April 1901 - 4 July 1925)

Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Responsorial Psalm (Philippines, USA)

In the first week of June I went on a pilgrimage from Ireland to northern Italy with members of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association. On our first morning there we visited the Shroud of Turin. When we entered the cathedral proper I saw on one of the side-altars to my left a portrait I was familiar with, that of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. I was probably the only one in our group who noticed it and whose heart leaped with joy on seeing it. I went over to pray, not realizing at the time that under the altar was the tomb of this young man who when he died was only one-third of the age that I am now. When we were back on the bus I was happy to tell my fellow pilgrims about this most attractive of saintly people of our times.

Thanks to St John Paul II, who beatified Pier Giorgio on 20 May 1990, the 4oth anniversary of my First Holy Communion, I had come to know something of the inspiring life of this young man, born into privilege but who had both a great zest for life and a great love for the poor, the latter something his family knew very little about, though they had seen signs of it in his childhood. One time when a woman with a young son came begging at the Frassati home Pier Giorgio noticed that the boy had no shoes. He took off his own and gave them to the boy. There is a very good summary of his life here.

Tomb and shrine of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, Turin Cathedral [Wikipedia]

St John Paul saw the importance of bringing to our attention the lives of saints of our times, from every walk of life. In his homily at the beatification Pope John Paul, who all his life as a priest had a special love for young adults, said: 

Faith and charity, the true driving forces of his existence, made him active and diligent in the milieu in which he lived, in his family and school, in the university and society; they transformed him into a joyful, enthusiastic apostle of Christ, a passionate follower of his message and charity. The secret of his apostolic zeal and holiness is to be sought in the ascetical and spiritual journey which he traveled; in prayer, in persevering adoration, even at night, of the Blessed Sacrament, in his thirst for the Word of God, which he sought in Biblical texts; in the peaceful acceptance of life’s difficulties, in family life as well; in chastity lived as a cheerful, uncompromising discipline; in his daily love of silence and life’s 'ordinariness'. It is precisely in these factors that we are given to understand the deep well-spring of his spiritual vitality. Indeed, it is through the Eucharist that Christ communicates his Spirit; it is through listening to the word that the readiness to welcome others grows, and it is also through prayerful abandonment to God’s will that life’s great decisions mature. Only by adoring God who is present in his or her own heart can the baptized Christian respond to the person who 'asks you for a reason for your hope' (1 Pt 3:15). And the young Frassati knew it, felt it, lived it. In his life, faith was fused with charity: firm in faith and active in charity, because without works, faith is dead (cf. James 2:20).

Blessed Pier Giorgio mountain-climbing

Like Pope Pius XI, Blessed Pier Giorgio loved to climb mountains and, like Pope John Paul II, he loved to ski.
Pope St John Paul gave the name 'The Man of the Eight Beatitudes' to Blessed Pier Giorgio. He said in 1989I, too, in my youth, felt the beneficial influence of his example and, as a student, I was impressed by the force of his Christian testimony. 

In a message to the youth of Turin in 2010 Pope Benedict XVI saidLike [Piergiorgio],discover that it is worth it to commit oneself for God and with God, to respond to his call in the fundamental decisions and the daily ones, even when it is costly.

In his Message for World Youth Day 2014 Pope Francis quoted the young man from Turin: As Blessed Piergiorgio Frassati once said, 'To live without faith, to have no heritage to uphold, to fail to struggle constantly to defend the truth: this is not living. It is scraping by. We should never just scrape by, but really live'.

In 1925, the year of his death [Wikipedia]

Blessed Pier Giorgio died from polio, after a week of great pain. He very probably contracted it from some of the poor whom he visited in their homes. His family were astonished at the huge numbers of poor people who lined the streets of Turin for his funeral.

This young man is such a great model of discipleship for all, not only young people, because he took the words of Jesus in today's gospel to heart: Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all. He enjoyed life. He had a very strong sense of justice along with a real awareness of the person in front of him. Charity is not enough: we need social reform, he used to sayHe was, in the words of St John Paul II, a joyful, enthusiastic apostle of Christ, the kind of follower of Jesus that Pope Francis frequently calls us to be.

Blessed Pier Giorgio lived each moment. In his homily at the beatification Pope St John Paul II highlighted something very important: his daily love of silence and life’s 'ordinariness'. This is where we find God.

The World Meeting of Families takes place in Philadelphia this coming week. Pope Francis will be there on 26-27 September. The video above, produced by Salt and Light in Toronto, was produced for the occasion.

Antiphona ad communionem  
Communion Antiphon John 10: 14
Ego sum pastor bonus, dicit Dominus;
I am the Good Shepherd, says the Lord;
et cognosco oves meas, et cognoscunt me meae.
I know my sheep, and mine know me.

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