Feast of St. Gemma Galgani
Acts 22:30; 23:6-11
As I hear the Johannine Jesus praying for the unity of his disciples, "as you, Father, are in me and I in you" in the unifying love of the Holy Spirit, it seems to me as if I were hearing the famous motto of Alexandre Dumas’ novel The Three Musketeers, that is, "all for one and one for all, united we stand, divided we fall." I indeed wonder if Dumas drew his inspiration to write his novel from Jesus’ prayer of unity. For the hope and expectation of Jesus’ words are that all "may be brought to perfection as one," so that "the world may know that you sent me" as your promised Messiah.
It is obvious that the unity Jesus prays for comes to be only in and through the mutual understanding and loving of his followers, to whom he has revealed his Father’s identity, so "that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them." What is more, the community of faith that Jesus envisions must remain open "for those who will believe in me through their word." It must be an inclusive, loving community of disciples who remain faithful to the gospel and "take courage" in bearing witness to the cause of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, just as we see Paul in today’s first reading bearing witness to the gospel in Jerusalem and Rome.
If faith in Jesus is required to become his disciples, then mutual understanding and love are required to perfect us in the unity of God’s Trinity, for that is the only way the community of faith makes known to world that Jesus is the Christ. No wonder Paul tells the Christian community of Galatia that, "in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love" (Gal 5:6). This is the truth the Jews from Jerusalem do not understand in Paul’s teaching and preaching of the New Way and therefore conspire against him. For, to begin with, they are unable to believe in Jesus, the One the Father sent them as the Messiah. Thus, they are unable to understand and accept one another beyond the differences of their religious beliefs, which engage them in a serious dispute.
Today, May 16th, the Passionists celebrate the feast of St. Gemma Galgani, and it is fitting to remember that, like Paul the Apostle, she also took courage in bearing witness to the cause of Jesus’ sacrificial love on the cross. For she consecrated herself to a life of sacrifice and suffering for the salvation of sinners, and her witness to the Passion of Jesus Christ made her life and prayer grow in union with God, just as Jesus prays to his Father for his disciples in today’s gospel. Therefore, today’s readings call us, to the example of Paul and Gemma, to remain faithful to Jesus’ teachings and instructions by finding unity in God’s Trinity as we carry out the works of our ministries with unreserved love and understanding.
Fr. Alfredo Ocampo, C.P. gives retreats and parish missions. He is stationed at Holy Name Passionist Community in Houston, Texas.