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Spiritual Fitness

Homily for the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

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Chapter four of Saint Mark’s Gospel is comprised of five different parables.  It corresponds to chapter thirteen of Saint Matthew’s Gospel which is comprised of seven parables instead.

Mark 4 and Matthew 13 are referred to as the parable discourses.  Because the subject matter and themes are similar, the parables are called the kingdom parables.

The Kingdom of God is the central teaching of Jesus throughout the Gospels.  The word kingdom appears more than any other word throughout the four Gospels.  Jesus begins his public ministry by preaching the kingdom.  “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:14).

By summarizing all of the teachings of the New Testament on the kingdom we can clearly see that the kingdom is a three dimensional reality:  the life of grace within every individual who does the will of God; the Church here on earth; and eternal life in Heaven.

The kingdom first establishes itself in our hearts through the sacrament of Baptism, thus allowing us to participate in God’s inner life.  We are elevated and transformed through sanctifying grace.  This supernatural life of grace comes to fulfillment in the eternal life of Heaven.

Jesus’ parables are very effective.  By drawing on the ordinary routines of daily life, he sheds light on the deepest supernatural mysteries.

Jesus taught the seven parables on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, sometimes called Lake Gennesaret or Lake Tiberius.  Visitors to this fertile plain west of the Sea of Galilee can appreciate Jesus’ description of the sower in the parable (Matthew 13: 1-23).

In the Holy Land at the time of Jesus, the fields were laid out in long narrow strips.  The ground between the strips served as a footpath for those who crossed through the fields.  Over time these paths were beaten hard by the feet of countless villagers who passed through the fields to get to their destinations.  As the sower went about his task in the fields, the wind carried the seed and some would fall on these hardened paths.

The Word of God is the same for each person.  Each person responds to the God’s love in different ways.  The free will of each person is unique and quite mysterious.

In this Sunday’s Gospel passage we hear these words:  “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it?  It is like the mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.  But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade” (Mark 4: 30-32).

In one way or another, we all want to grow.  Children and young people work hard every school year to achieve high academic grades.  People in the work place put a lot of effort in making more money.  Fitness centers and gyms around the country are full of people who exercise every day for their physical health.

So, what are you doing to stay spiritually fit?

What about your spiritual growth and development?

Are you interested in becoming a better disciple of Jesus Christ?

Do you want to be holy?

Let me tell you a story about a young man who really wanted to be holy.

I am speaking to you about Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, an outstanding young Catholic who is an extraordinary example for young Catholics.

Pier Giorgio Frassati was born in Turin, Italy on April 6, 1901.

He was joyfully dedicated to helping the poor.  He was active in numerous Catholic organizations, among them was the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.

Pier Giorgio would always say that “charity is not enough: we need social reform,” and he worked for both. Among his many endeavors, he gave his time to help establish a Catholic daily newspaper called Momento which was based on the principles of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical on social and economic matters, Rerum Novarum.

When Pier Giorgio was a child a poor mother with her little boy came begging to the Frassati home. Pier Giorgio answered the door, and seeing that the little boy did not have any shoes, he gave him his own shoes.

His father was wealthy and prominent. At his graduation, when he was given the choice by his father of money or a car, he chose the money and gave it to the poor.

With the money, he obtained a room for a poor old woman evicted from her apartment, provided a bed for an invalid and supported three children of a sick and grieving widow.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati loved to spend time in the countryside with his friends. Mountain climbing in the Alps was one of his favorite sports.

During the long hikes, they did not hesitate to share their religious inspiration and spiritual lives.  Frassati organized arduous mountain-climbing expeditions for his friends, leading them in the Rosary as they ascended.  He urged them upward with the cry: “Higher and higher-there you can hear the voice of Christ!”

Beneath the smiling face of the restless university student was concealed the amazing life of a great saint.  Love for Jesus motivated all of his actions. He attended Mass every day and was known for his devotion to the Eucharist.

When friends asked how he could put up with the stench of Turin´s slums, Pier Giorgio would say: “It´s to Jesus I go. Jesus comes to me every morning in Holy Communion and I repay him in a very small way by visiting the poor.  All around the sick and all around the poor I see a special light which we do not have.”

Frassati grew up in a wealthy family.  Rather than being attached to the comfort of his surroundings, he lived a simple life and gave away food, money and his personal clothing; anything that anyone asked of him.

It is believed that he contracted from the very people to whom he was serving in the slums the polio that would kill him when he was only twenty-four years old.

His wealthy and non-practicing Catholic parents never knew of his service to the poor.  At his funeral, they thought that only their family and friends would attend.  Instead, they were amazed when thousands of people lined up the streets as his body was being carried to the cemetery for burial.

The poor, the lonely and all those who had been touched by Frassati’s love and self-donation had come to honor this shining model of Christian living.

Pier Giorgio’s body was found to be incorrupt in 1981 and was transferred from the family tomb where he was buried in the Cathedral of Turin.

So, let me ask you again: So, what are you doing to stay spiritually fit?  What about your spiritual growth and development? Are you interested in becoming a better disciple of Jesus Christ?  Do you want to be holy?

Are you going to allow the mustard seed to grow into a large and beautiful tree?

If you are serious about your spiritual growth and development, here is what your spiritual life should look like.

Level One

Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours or the monthly magazine “The Magnificat”

15 minutes of meditation – use a small text from the Bible, or a chapter from My Daily Bread or The Imitation of Christ

Daily Rosary

Night Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours or “The Magnificat” with a brief examination of conscience

Sunday Mass

Monthly Confession and whenever necessary 

Level Two

Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours or the monthly magazine “The Magnificat”

15 minutes of meditation – use a small text from the Bible, or a chapter from My Daily Bread or The Imitation of Christ

Daily Rosary

Night Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours or “The Magnificat” with a brief examination of conscience

Daily Mass

Monthly Confession and whenever necessary

Annual Retreat

Level Three

Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours or the monthly magazine “The Magnificat”

30 minutes of meditation – use a small text from the Bible, or a chapter from My Daily Bread or The Imitation of Christ

Daily Rosary

Night Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours or “The Magnificat” with a brief examination of conscience

Daily Mass

Monthly Confession and whenever necessary

Annual Retreat

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