St Joseph Pignatelli, Priest and Religious, SJ (Memorial)


Readings: 2 Corinthians 4:6-15; Ps 115; Matthew 10:16-23

The Gospel reading is from Matthew.  It is a passage from the 10th chapter which contains the second of the five long discourses given by Jesus in this gospel.  This second discourse consists of instructions given by Jesus to his disciples before he sends them out on a mission to do the same work that he is doing – to proclaim the Kingdom of God and “to expel unclean spirits and to heal sickness and disease of every kind”.  For that is the sign of the Kingdom’s presence – healing and wholeness at every level in individuals and communities.

In today’s passage, Jesus is warning his disciples what to expect.  Jesus puts it very bluntly: “What I am doing is sending you out like sheep among wolves.”  In other words, they are going out with their message of love and compassion and healing but are going to be met with strong hostility, hatred and violence.  That is how they treated the Son of God himself; they should not expect a different reception.

They will be brought to court and flogged; they will appear before rulers and kings which will be an opportunity for them to give witness to the Gospel they represent.  But when they are “handed over” (a refrain-word in the Gospel), as they handed over John the Baptist and will later hand over Jesus, they are not to be anxious how they should respond.  Because, when the time comes, they will be given what to say.  For, in fact, it will not be they who are speaking but the Spirit of Jesus in them.

Joseph Pignatelli and his Jesuits were the targets of extreme hostility by many elements, including “rulers and kings”.  They were handed over and expelled from their homelands.  They were thrown into jail.

Through all the violence of word and action, Joseph remained a figure of peace and, like his Master turning the other cheek, a source of strength and perseverance to his brothers.

 

In the First Reading from the Second Letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of how the light of Christ continues to shine through them in spite of the great tribulations he and they have been through.

“God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, has shone in our hearts, that we in turn might make known the glory of God shining on the face of Christ.”  At the same time, he acknowledges there are weaknesses and the Jesuits would acknowledge that some would see the suppression as the price of a certain arrogance that had appeared among their numbers in some places.  “This treasure we possess in earthen vessels in order to make it clear that its surpassing power comes from God and not from us.”

And so Paul speaks of the trials and tribulations that he and his companions experience.  “We are afflicted in every way possible, but we are not crushed; full of doubts, we never despair.  We are persecuted but never abandoned; we are struck down but never destroyed.  Continually we carry about in our bodies the dying Jesus, so that in our bodies the life of Jesus may also be revealed.”  And so he continues…

And Paul goes on to say that the very sufferings he and his companions endure are themselves carrying a message – the message of Christ suffering and dying for his people.  “Death is at work in us, but life in you.”

And, he concludes, “everything is ordered to your [i.e. the Christians of Corinth] benefit, so that the grace bestowed in abundance may bring greater glory to God because they who give thanks are many.”

And in this last sentence we have the very motto of Ignatius Loyola and his Society – ‘the greater glory of God’.  So that even the suppression of the Jesuits was, in its way, ordered for the good of others.  It was a cross bringing death but which, in turn, produced its resurrection, new life.

 

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