Feast of Saint Gemma Galgani
Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Gemma Galgani, one of our Passionist Saints. We remember her extraordinary love for God and her intimate sharing in Jesus’ agonizing passion, for she used to refer to herself as being "the fruit of the passion of Jesus, an offspring of his wounds" (From the letters and ecstasies of St. Gemma). In her Passionist spirituality, she certainly understood very well what it meant for her to say with Paul the Apostle: "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church." (Col 1:24). Her living witness to the Passion Gospel of Jesus Christ is an inspiring example of enduring faith, hope and love to all Christians, because she endured and joined her sufferings to Christ’s and thus offered them to God for the conversion and salvation of all sinners.
In her letters and ecstasies, St. Gemma wrote: "I wish, oh Jesus, that my voice could reach to the ends of the world, to call all sinners and tell them to enter into Thy Heart. . . Oh, if only all sinners would come to Thy Heart! . . . [For] paradise is waiting for us. If living for Jesus on earth makes us so happy, what must heaven be like where we shall see him and all his infinite greatness, goodness and beauty? I hope for mercy from Jesus, mercy for me and for all poor sinners. If I could, I would atone for all of their sins and also for mine."
The above quotes of St. Gemma resonate with the Christian way, truth and life, the biblical theme of today’s readings. In the first reading, we indeed hear Paul addressing the "children of the family of Abraham, and those others among [them] who are God-fearing," for whom God’s redeeming promises have been fulfilled in and through the dying and rising up of Jesus. He has been given by the Father "the nations for an inheritance and the ends of the earth for your possession" (psalm). That is why Jesus encourages us in the gospel not to "let our hearts be troubled," because our "faith in God" and his promise of resurrection and everlasting life assures us that, "if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be."
The discipleship of Ss. Paul and Thomas the Apostles, and Gemma reminds us that, at times, we might lose sense of "the way, the truth and the life" that are embodied in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But, no matter what we do or fail to do, as Christians, we are always welcome to return to the merciful love of God and to entrust ourselves to Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, for he himself states it clear and plain for us: "No one comes to the Father except through me." Therefore, let us keep in mind what one of the invocations of the Penitential Rite states in reference to Jesus Christ, namely that he is "the Way that leads to the Father, the Truth that enlightens all peoples, and the life that renews the world." May we always draw and stay close to God through Jesus Christ and the personal experience of his passion, death and resurrection.
Fr. Alfredo Ocampo, C.P. gives retreats and parish missions. He is stationed at Holy Name Passionist Community in Houston, Texas.