Table of Contents
Gardening for Jesus
I don’t know when it happened. I don’t remember where it happened. I asked myself, “How did it happen?” I’m talking about those moments where I started to become my father. Well, and my mother to some degree, too.
See, I used to make fun of her when I was a kid, when she was looking for her glasses that she was wearing. And then I found myself looking for my glasses that I was wearing. My father had a very, very big pet peeve in the winter. I grew up in Vermont, Namely, that the sidewalks when you shoveled should be bare. Absolutely bare. No ice, no snow, bare. And then I found myself as a priest, chopping ice out of the driveway because the driveway should be bare.
I don’t know how it happened, but all of a sudden I grew into my father. I grew into my mother. Now, there’s much of me that’s grateful that that’s the case. My father was a wonderful man. He practiced his faith very seriously. My father, he is deceased. My mother is a wonderful, wonderful woman, a saint.
It seems to me that so much of this gospel is about what we see and who we become. And while I think the temptation could be, “Well, I’m not in the first category, I’m not in the second category, I’m not in the third category,” I think that’s a wrong way of reading the story. I think at one time or another, we’re in each of the categories.
There are times where, indeed, “Blessed be God, thanks be to God,” the Word does take root, and we drew growing faith. faith. But quite frankly, especially if you’re here in November perhaps, you’ll see that the cares and anxieties of life might get in the way of our student brothers as they work to complete their papers and projects.
There are times when things are going really well that we might lose sight of the root and the foundation of our faith because it It doesn’t seem we need God, everything’s going well. There are other times where we are not vigilant in our prayer and we give the devil a foothold.
But it’s all about seeing. And that’s really what we celebrate today with Padre Pio. The one time I’d been to Rome, I was there for a class and I was there for more than three weeks. One thing that struck me is I don’t care where you go in Rome, what store you go into, what restaurant you go into, what shop you go into, there’s a picture of Padre Pio. He’s everywhere.
It also made Cardinal O’Malley in Boston a hero when he was in Rome because they thought he looked like Padre Pio. And while it would be easy to focus on the stigmata, which certainly were a big part of his life and obviously caused him great suffering, I think the sign of his saintliness was his ability to see clearly God, not only in his own life, but in the lives of others.
I’ve never been to confession to Padre Pio, but I can say that people who describe that experience describe it in a way that it was like he was looking right into their soul. And because he was given that gift, he could extend authentically the mercy of God.
I’m told there was no hiding from Padre Pio, that his mercy was pervasive because he was a conduit for the mercy of God, which we cannot understand. I would take one exception, and I will say that it’s dangerous to do this. So if lightning strikes me dead, at least you know I go into this in full measure. St. Paul says in his letter to Timothy that no human being has seen or can see the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Now obviously in one very important way that’s true, God’s infinitely beyond our ability, etc. But I’d like to add an “unless.” And I don’t think this is heresy. I’d like to say that none of this is possible unless God extends to us the gift. God gives us the grace.
See that’s at the underbelly, the foundation of our Catholic faith. Everything we do, we do because, well not everything, every good thing that we do, we do because God gives us the grace. He first moves in our lives to help us to say yes to Him. Today you will have many opportunities to seek to search for God. Make sure that in everything you keep your eyes fixed on the Lord Jesus, for it is only in Him that we can come to eternal life.
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