Image: Redemptorists gathered for a celebration in Grande Prairie, AB
Today is the feast day of Saint Alphonsus Liguori founder of the Redemptorist Congregation of which I am a member.
St. Alphonsus was a priest, a bishop, a canon and civil lawyer, a renowned preacher and confessor, and a prolific writer of more than one hundred theological and spiritual works. He is a Doctor of the Church and a canonized saint. The religious congregation he founded has spread from its foundation in Italy to countries around the world with the professed mission of preaching the good news to the poor.
I offer a brief reflection on the chosen readings for the feast by Fr. Michael Brehl, C.Ss.R., the present General Superior of the Redemptorists.
Blessings to you on this Solemnity of St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori! As we celebrate the Eucharist on his feast this year, the words of the first reading echo a prophetic challenge that St. Alphonsus addresses to us, reminding us of the vocation to which our Redeemer has called us. Let me paraphrase slightly the words of Isaiah:
“The spirit of the Lord God is upon [us], because the Lord has anointed [us]; he sends [us] to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and release to prisoners; to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour… to comfort all who mourn.” (Is. 61:1-2).
Herein lies the challenge! Do we truly believe that this year, 2020, is the Lord’s ‘year of favour’? What is the ‘good news’ we proclaim? As we celebrate this feast, in many countries our Churches are still locked, and our people cannot celebrate the Eucharist with us. In others, restrictions limit the number of people who can be physically present. But this is not all. The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic – economic, social, political – are only beginning to be really felt around the world. In this situation, St. Alphonsus challenges us in the name of Jesus to comfort those who mourn and to bind up the broken-hearted. He reminds us that we have been anointed by the Lord with the gift of the Spirit for this very purpose.
Like Jesus in the gospel reading, Alphonsus saw the crowds, not as faceless masses of people, but as sheep without a shepherd. Like Jesus, Alphonsus not only saw, but was moved to compassion. Like Jesus, Alphonsus found new and creative ways to proclaim good news in very difficult circumstances.
It has been a source of inspiration to hear from so many of you about the ways that you are following in these footsteps of St. Alphonsus today, really seeing the wounds of our people and our world, entering into prophetic solidarity born out of compassion, and reaching out creatively in mission with a message of hope and joy.
May St. Alphonsus continue to accompany us in our mission. May Mary, our Mother of Perpetual Help, teach us how to bring comfort and joy to all. May God bless you and all those to whom and with whom you serve!