June 21 - Feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, S.J.

To celebrate the feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, S.J., (1568-1591) the liturgy offers the Eucharistic community the choice of three Gospel readings: Matthew 6, 7-15, Mark 10, 23-31 and John 1, 35-40. The first reading underlines the kind of prayer that pleases God: for content, the Our Father, for manner, "not for show." The second reading centers on the threat riches present to salvation--with the assurance that what a human being cannot overcome, God can. The third reading describes the first disciples’ being told, "There is the Lamb of God" and their staying with Jesus that afternoon--and all the rest of their lives. Aloysius had his own experience of the Lamb of God, stayed with Him for awhile, and continued to do so, in meditation, imitation, and Eucharist for the rest of life. An abbreviated life, to be sure--just 23 years. He came upon a very ill person one day, picked him off the street and carried him to help. He knew, from the advice of others, that there was grave danger in doing this, but he could not pass this person by--and so caught the deadly disease and died, because of his kindness. In his own way he became what the title, Jesus Lamb of God, stands for: a sacrifice to God for the benefit of others. One wonders how he came to this life-risking decision. Our first liturgical reading suggests a part of the answer. He prayed, and often. Indeed, he knew God as Father, which opens up an entirely new way of looking at one’s neighbor as well as one’s God. Certainly, his death, now so famous, was not for show. He did not ask for death, but asked for the life of the ill person--and he hoped he could succeed. His death was a by-product, not a goal; he did not die for show, but lived to help. Ironically, he was perhaps the least likely kind of person for this death, because he came from a very wealthy family with a secure future ahead of him, a life that could ignore the ill. He took his vow of poverty, confidant that God, who had invited him, would not fail him when he might fail himself; thereby, did he lose excessive concern for himself and find the freedom to love to the end. His trust, shown by his vow, was also the trust in his love of neighbor. He knew the Lamb was a symbol of sacrifice, but also a symbol of resurrected life. He committed himself, and we now gladly honor him as a great saint. John Kilgallen, S.J.

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