THEY BORE FRUITS OF CONVERSION AND HOLINESS
Pope John Paul II
Beatification of 16 Servants of God October 6, 1996
1. "The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israe1" (Resp. psalm, refrain).
This Sunday the word of God offers us the biblical theme of the vineyard: a theme dear to the prophets, present in the psalms and taken up by Christ, who fulfilled it in the mystery of his Person, even going so far as to call himself "the true vine", whose vinedresser is the Father (cf. Jn 15:1).
The liturgy emphasizes the dramatic contrast between God's fidelity and man's infidelity, but at the same time it stresses the providential divine plan which calls everyone to holiness. In the prophet Isaiah's "Song of the Vineyard" (5:1-7), we heard the marvellous allegory of God's impassioned yet unrequited love for his people. He lavished attention in a thousand ways on his vineyard, but unfortunately it yielded bad fruit. Thus the Lord is deeply disappointed and threatens to let his vineyard fal1 into ruin.
Evil seems to win, but God's mercy triumphs
2. The first reading is echoed in Matthew's Gospel, in which Jesus confronts the high priests and elders of the people with their responsibilities. As their ancestors had killed the prophets, so they are now plotting to kill him, who has been sent by God.
Thus evil seems to win, but instead God's mercy triumphs. In fact, by his sacrifice Jesus will defeat hatred and sin once and for all. "The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner" (Mt 21:42). It is upon Jesus Christ, the rock of salvation, that "the vineyard of the Lord of hosts", "his cherished planting" (Is 5:7), is rebuilt.
God's cherished planting, dear brothers and sisters, were those whom today I have the joy of proclaiming blessed. They are men and women who gave a witness of unshakeable faith to the Owner of the vineyard. They did not disappoint him but, by remaining united to Christ like branches to the vine, they bore the awaited fruits of conversion and holiness. They persevered, even at the cost of the supreme sacrifice.
3. "The tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another and stoned another," (Mt 21:35).
Was this not the lot that befell Wincenty Lewonink and his companions, the martyrs of Podlasie? As faithful "servants" of the Lord, they trusted in his grace and gave witness of their belonging to the Catholic Church in fidelity to their Eastern tradition. They did so with full awareness and did not hesitate to offer their lives as a confirmation of their loyalty to Christ.
Not sparing themselves, the martyrs of Pratulin defended not only the parish church in front of which they were killed, but the Church that Christ entrusted to the Apostle Peter, the Church which they felt a part of, like living stones. They shed their blood in union with the Son of God, cast out of the vineyard and killed (cf. Mt 21:39) for man's salvation and reconciliation with God. By their example and intercession, Wincenty Lewonink and his 12 companions, who today are raised to the honours of the altar, invite us all to advance courageously on the way to the full unity of the entire family of Christ's disciples, in the spirit of the ecumenical directives of the Second Vatican Council.
4. Bl. Edmund Ignatius Rice is a shining example of the fruitfulness of the Christian life when, as St Paul writes to the Philippians, we "fill our minds with everything that is true, noble, good and pure" (cf. Phil 4:8-9). Here we have an outstanding model of a true lay apostle and a deeply committed religious. The love which he first gave to his young wife and which, after her untimely death, he always showed for his daughter, blossomed into a host of spiritual and corporal works of mercy, as he helped the clergy of his parish meet the pressing needs of his fellow citizens oppressed by poverty and the weight of anti-Catholic legislation.
Ireland has again given striking testimony of fidelity to Christ
The Spirit eventually led him to the total consecration of himself and his companions in the religious life. Today, his spiritual sons, the Christian Brothers and the Presentation Brothers, continue his mission: a mission which he himself described in this simple and clear intention: "Trusting in God's help, I hope to be able to educate these boys to be good Catholics and good citizens." Who will ever measure all the good that has come from the spiritual insight, warm heart and determined faith of Bl. Edmund Ignatius Rice? Once more Ireland has given the Church and the world a striking testimony of complete fidelity to Christ: "Keep doing all the things that you have been taught by him.... Then the God of peace will be with you" (cf. Phil 4:9).
5. The allegory of the vineyard speaks to us of God's intimate love for his children. Mother Maria Ana Mogas Fontcuberta knew how to respond generously to this love and thus to yield abundant fruit. Renouncing a well-to-do social position, she forged, in union with the tabernacle and the cross, a spirituality inspired by the Heart of Christ and based on commitment to God and neighbour with "love and sacrifice". Faithful to the Franciscan ideal, she showed her preference for the poor, an ability to forgive and forget ingratitude and insult, as well as a dedication to the education of children, care for the sick and for those who suffered any kind of need. In this way she answered the Lord's call to work in his vineyard, in so genuine a style that "her holiness did not prevent her from being so cheerful".
This is the style she has passed on to her daughters, the Franciscan Missionaries of the Mother of the Divine Shepherd, expressed in her final exhortation: "Love one another as I have loved you and bear with one another as I have borne with you. Charity, true charity. Love and sacrifice".
God will be with us, if we imitate their fidelity
6. "He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit" (Jn 15:5). Today the Church rejoices that Bl. Marcelina Darowska, co-foundress of the Congregation of Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, has been raised to the honours of the altar. Bl. Marcelina's whole life was a ceaseless "abiding in God" through prayer and faithful imitation of Jesus Christ, who "loved man to the very end" (cf. Jn 13:1).
"To extend the kingdom of God in human souls and bring it into the world"-this was the programme for her apostolic activity, born in the silence of a heart immersed in prayer. She wanted to do everything so that truth love and goodness would triumph in human life and transform the face of her beloved nation. Together with her sisters, she generously laboured in the exhausting task of building the kingdom of Christ, paying particular attention to the religious formation of the young generation, especially girls, to the growth of catechesis and to educational work. She assigned a particular role in life to the Christian woman as "wife, mother and citizen of her country". With great zeal she fostered the growth of the kingdom of God in the family, since only a healthy and holy family, "based on God", as she said, can be the foundation of a new society. The new blessed is an example of an apostolic faith that creates new ways for the Church to be present in the world and forms a more just and human society which "abides and bears fruit" in Christ.
7. "The God of peace will be with you" (Phil 4:9).
Dear brothers and sisters, "the God of peace" is certainly with the new blesseds whom today we contemplate in the glory of paradise. The God of peace will also be with us, if we imitate their example and courageous fidelity.
We are "God's vineyard", the people for whom Christ gave his whole self. Let us accept the liturgy's invitation and allow ourselves to be drawn by the shining example of these brothers and sisters in the faith, who are resplendent today in marvellous light.
With Mary, Queen of Martyrs and Saints, whom we wish to call upon with particular devotion in this month of the Rosary, we confidently go forward to meet the glorious Christ, without ever letting difficulties discourage us. He is with us today and always.
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