Saint Pius X, Pope
Everyone makes adjustments and changes as he or she moves through life. We normally do it to better meet our goals or ambitions at a certain stage of our life. Even Popes do this, like St. Pius X, whom we recall today. And God Himself makes adjustments which don’t affect Him, but they do concern us, as we hear in our readings.
Sometimes we welcome these developments, at other times they are painful for us. The prophet Ezekiel points out the incessant problem afflicting his fellow Jews: falling away from their attachment to God. No surprise here, from our familiarity with Jewish history in the bible. But what should attract our attention is God’s response to it. On this occasion He doesn’t lash out at them for their infidelities, as He has done at other times and places, but institutes some new procedures in their regard. He is going to release them from their exile in a foreign land, and purify them from their faults and failures. This will entail a new heart and a new spirit: a true make-over, enabling them to start over, and rewarding them with a renewed claim on the land that had been theirs in former times. So we hear of the Jews becoming the beneficiaries of God’s change of plans in their regard.
A similar scenario presents itself in the gospel: a change of plans, originating with God, but impacting us. It depicts a banquet that a king planned on the occasion of his son’s wedding. The invited guests don’t show but went about their own business instead, which apparently was of more concern to them than wedding festivities. In fact, they even got downright mean. But this didn’t phase the king. He simply made some adjustments in his program and issued a new invitation list. He wasn’t to be outflanked by the disrespectful reactions of the original invitees. Once again we note God, while sticking with His basic plan, yet more than ready to pursue a change to accomplish His original purpose.
Popes also are not above these maneuvers. As, for instance, we note in the life of St. Pius X, whose memorial we recall today. He inherited a fairly long-standing tradition of communion practice in the church of about a hundred years ago, when young people were not admitted to the eucharist until they had reached a certain age, such as well into the teens. Pius thought this was much too late, and, mindful of Jesus’ fondness for small children, decided to advance the age for youngsters to the time when they were able to distinguish the eucharistic bread from other, ordinary bread-a practice most of us have been familiar with– around the age of 6 or 7
Another change this pope instituted was more frequent communion for adults. Before his time, people, especially men, approached the eucharist very sparingly, often just once a year, such as Christmas time. Perhaps they felt unworthy to do so more frequently, not realizing the eucharist was food to spiritually strengthen us, precisely so as to strengthen us. It was Pius X who adverted to this practice, and urged the laity to be more frequent communicants.
So when we note how God, and the Pope, are ready and willing to change the way things have been done, often for centuries, we should not hesitate to adjust whatever we have been doing, or not doing, and that may be proving detrimental to us. This is not change for the sake of change, but change for the better. Whatever improves our standing with God, and one another, is worth pursuing. Certainly we can support this appreciation of God by engaging in petitionary prayer, knowing from today’s bible readings how accommodating God can be.
Fr. Sebastian MacDonald, C.P. is a member of the Passionist formation community at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago.