In the various resurrection narratives presented in the gospels, it is often the case that the disciples do not recognise the risen Jesus. This looks very strange as some of them had been with Jesus for a long time.
In this Sunday’s story we read about Cleopas and his companion (his wife? Cf. John 19:25) who did not recognise Jesus even as he travelled with them explaining to them the scripture passages that spoke about himself.
For these two disciples, it was after a journey through scriptures and having invited the ‘stranger’ to stay the night at their house, that they get to recognise the risen Jesus at the breaking of the bread.
The Jesus Christ of Joseph De Piro.
De Piro preached about the love of the Father in a special way through the various mysteries of Jesus. Among these, the incarnation of the Son of God, his passion and crucifixtion, Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and his Sacred Heart were most central themes.
The incarnation of the Son: ‘God like us.’
When preaching about the incarnation of the Son of God, De Piro could have emphasised Jesus’ poverty, his humility, his being announced first to the Jews and then even to the gentiles, etc. He could have also referred to humanity’s lack of gratitude for the creator of all and everything. Instead, the Servant of God emphasised: God’s coming among us, and his becoming one like us humans.
The expressions used by De Piro in his sermons in order to refer to God’s coming personally among us so that he could help us be saved, are a clear indication of the Father’s love to us through his Son. When presenting the incarnation De Piro emphasised Jesus’ becoming human like us: ‘the Word made man,’ ‘incarnation of the Word,’ ‘God made man,’ ‘became man,’ ‘God the almighty came down from heaven in order to become man like us,’ and ‘in the incarnation the divine nature is united to the human nature.’
Reflection: one must really love someone to become like that person.
The suffering Jesus: God in solidarity with the ‘poor’ ones; ‘God with us.’
When De Piro preached abouut the passion and death of Jesus, he could have referred to his sufferings, which he did. Yet his emphasis was on God’s solidarity with the suffering humanity. He emphasised Jesus’ being one with humanity, is sufferring, especially because of sin.
For the Servant of God, Jesus’ sufferings was another way how God became one with the suffering humanity: “In the other mysteries, divinity reveals itself. On Calvary the centurion declares: ‘This was truly the Son of God.’ Not only that he did not appear to be God, he did not even look like a human. Notwithstanding this, Aquinas says that this is the greatest miracle of Christ.” In his passion Jesus is in absolute solidarity with the vulnerable humanity.
Reflection: “No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).
The Eucharistic Jesus: ‘God in us.’
Some Eucharistic expressions De Piro used in his sermons indicate God’s love that makes him come in us: “the last moment consists in the most intimate union with us,” “in the Eucharist he is united with each of us,” “Jesus, of Betlehem, of Nazareth … is within you, and his heartbeats become your heartbeats,” “what Jesus does to be united with us,” “we have our God so near to us in the Blessed Sacrament, not figuratively, not as a shade, but in reality,” “as a father among his beloved sons, as a shepherd among his sheep,” “he decided to stay among us,” “in the Eucharist … our heart becomes one with the heart of Jesus, his spirit becomes one with our spirit,” “Jesus … is ever eager to be united to us.”
Reflection: For De Piro the Eucharist was the continuation of the incarnation – the Sacrament created by Jesus through which he becomes one with us.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus: God who loves through his Son, God’s love that saves; ‘God for us.’
For the Servant of God, the Sacred Heart of Jesus was nothing less than the abode of the divine love, and therefore that which continuously saves us. “But where did this divine love dwell after coming down from heaven?” De Piro asked rhetorically in one of his sermons. “It inhabited the sacred heart; that most noble part of the human nature that had been united to the divine. It inhabited the most sacred heart of Jesus …. As the rudder guides the ship, so also this divine heart, full of love and coming down form heaven, guides all the thoughts, words and actions of Jesus. This is why scripture composed the most beautiful eulogy: ‘He he went about doing good everywhere.’”
Even without the crucifixion, there would have been place for devotion to the Heart of Jesus in itself:
“It would have been enough for our redemption, for the Sacred Heart of Jesus to have produced the blood that gave life to the body of Jesus, making it possible for him to do human and divine acts at the same time. Every free act of Our Lord Jesus had an infinite value and therefore had the power to redeem us without any suffering ….”
However, it is the suffering of the Sacred Heart that reveals the perfection of Jesus’ love, “… it is the same with Jesus. Tell him that he could have saved a drop of blood with which his Divine Heart functioned; but he would not!”
On 22 August 1916 Joseph De Piro wrote to Cardinal Filippo Giustini, Prefect of the Congregation of Rites, requesting permission to ordain the members of his missionary society with the title of missions. In his letter De Piro wrote:
“From the beginning of the society to this day, each day has brought with it a heavy burden. I have had disappointments and suffered humiliations. Three students, in whom I had placed my faith, left the society, and this hurt me deeply as I had considered them to be very promising …. However, Divine Providence has never failed to lighten my burdens, and I do not wish these events to overshadow others which have given me great happiness ….”
On 3 October 1932 the founder organised the laying and blessing of the foundation stone of the Motherhouse, St Agatha’s. In the welcoming speech the Servant of God said:
“‘Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain’ (Ps 127:1).
These divine words enkindle in us a total trust, without any reserve, in God’s help. Better still, they give us strong faith in the first movement of the Principal Agent; these words have already been chosen and placed at the beginning of the rules which guide the new missionary institute which gathered us here for the benefit of its increase and prosperity. These words are no less fitting and worthy to be remembered today.
As everybody knows – Your Grace – God’s works and not ours, bear contrariety as a sign and ornament. For the the last fourteen years, in this work we have in our hands before us, we have been faced by so many difficulties, one after the other, that anyone could have given up. But, since it was God who set to work at the task, his servants never lacked in courage. Like a firm, sweet breeze, God’s spirit … blew in the sails of our poor boat, troubled by the waves.”