Tuesday of the 31st Week in Course 2019
St. Guido Maria Conforti
One of the recurring errors embraced by lazy Christians is that all one has to do is accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior and you are saved. That statement leads to all kinds of presumptuous behavior. Neither Jesus nor St. Paul are having any of that malarkey today. Jesus responds to the statement “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” with one of His greatest parables. The great banquet is His go-to analogy for the kingdom of God, and we must not forget it is a wedding banquet organized and paid for by the king, by the Father Himself.
Jesus says that many are invited to this banquet, to heaven. In fact, all are invited, even though because of lackluster missionary efforts, not all hear the invitation. But then the RSVP’s come in and they are lame in the extreme. The invitees are lazy. They don’t want to be inconvenienced, or dragged out of their comfort zones, personal or commercial. The master is so angry that he tells his stewards to go and bring in those who in most party situations would be excluded. That means “the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” Even then the table was not full, so he had his people force travelers to come. He wants a “full house.” The original invitees who failed to respond to the generous offer will be excluded; the outcasts will be welcome.
The Church has been like that from the beginning. The important people had better things to do. They did not contribute to the community that formed around Jesus. But the poor and those Christ had healed did so. From the beginning, the community gathered around Our Lord has been the poor and outcast.
Saint Paul today goes into some detail about the behavior of those called to the banquet, at least while we are still in these mortal coils on earth. First, whether your special spiritual gift is serving others, speaking for God, encouragement or teaching, you must use it for the good of the community. Second, love sincerely while you are doing so.
I’d like to say a little about the somewhat obvious line, “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Someone was commenting to me the other day about a political situation, and wondering how a political party could be “so stupid.” They were advocating evil actions and expecting people to support them. To most folks it is obvious that we should love what is good and strive to do it, and that we should despise evil actions and strive to avoid them. The problem is that if someone does an evil action over and over again, taking pleasure or profit in it, the demands of sanity force them to begin to believe evil is good and good is evil. Otherwise they would go insane. What is happening is that their habits of doing evil are rewiring their brains, perverting their minds, so they lose the ability to make prudential judgements. Today such people are primary targets for our mission, because God loves them and wants them to return to the true and good path.
Our saint today was canonized only eight years ago by Pope Benedict. He is the archbishop, Guido Maria Conforti, late of Parma, Italy. In elementary school in that diocese, “each day on his way to the school he would stop by the church of Santa Maria della Pace, his parish church, where he used to have conversations with the crucified Jesus Christ. . .He later recalled: ‘I looked at Him and He looked at me and seemed to say so many things’.”
Are you ever frustrated when you are trying to do good? Guido felt called to missionary work, but while he was in seminary, he was turned down by both the Jesuits and the Salesians. Instead, he became a priest at Parma and served in the seminary there. Just seven years after his ordination, “Conforti established the Xaverian Missionaries on 3 December 1895 and it received the approval of Pope Leo XIII. At this time, in 1899, he sent the first missionaries to China.” So his ambition to mission was relieved by his sending missionaries out. “Conforti is said to have provided the initiative behind Pope Benedict XV's encyclical, Maximum Illud , of 30 November 1919. That document is called the Magna Carta of modern Catholic missionary work.”
Today we are all called to reach out to what sociology calls the “nones,” people who profess no faith at all. It is critical; souls are being lost because of lack of understanding, because Christians are lazy. And so we pray, St. Guido Maria Conforti, pray for us.