Sunday Reflection: 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Gospel Reading:

When Jesus saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.’

He summoned his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to cast them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and sickness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, the one who was to betray him. These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them as follows:

‘Do not turn your steps to pagan territory, and do not enter any Samaritan town; go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. And as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils. You received without charge, give without charge.’

Further Readings:

The gospel today reminds us of the call of the apostles. The Servant of God Joseph De Piro describes his call in the two discernment exercises he left us. These exercises form part of a prayerful reflection to help him to better understand God’s will for him. We know of three of these exercises: the first was written some time around May 8, 1898, the second in the beginning of the 1901-1902 scholastic year, and the third in December 1901 during his retreat in preparation for the diaconate. Only two of these discernment exercises have survived.

After his father’s death Joseph felt he was now free to pursue his priestly vocation. Some time around May 1898, as a help to reach this decision, he listed the reasons in favour and against this decision. This led him to the conclusion that God wanted him to leave the law course he was taking at the University of Malta and start preparing for the priesthood. This is the first set of discernment notes that has survived.

At the beginning of the 1901-1902 scholastic year De Piro wrote in his Diary: “During the short spiritual retreat that is customarily done in the Capranica at the beginning of the scholastic year, I examined the reasons in favour and against, whether I should take up residence at St Joseph’s Home after finishing my studies. With Fr Gualandi’s help I have decided in the affirmative, having first obtained, however, the Bishop’s permission.” De Piro was trying to understand whether his wish to take up residence at St Joseph’s Home was God’s will for him or not. This decision was also linked with his dream of starting a missionary congregation. This is the second discernment process we know of, but the notes from this discernment have not yet come to light.

Some time later De Piro again wrote in his Diary: “On December 11, 1901, I started the spiritual retreat prior to receiving the order of the diaconate. During this retreat I examined all the reasons, in favour and against, enrolling at the Academy and staying at St Joseph’s Home. The result was against my going to the Academy and in favour of taking up residence at St Joseph’s Home.” This time De Piro was also faced with another option: that of continuing his studies at the Ecclesiastical Academy and forming part of the Church diplomatic services, with the possibility of even becoming a bishop. Although his Bishop was encouraging him along this path, De Piro felt this was not God’s will for him, hence the need for the third discernment process, confirming his determination to take up residence at St Joseph’s Home. The text of this third discernment process has survived.

In this third discernment exercise is an interest comment that is worth reflecting upon.

By enrolling at the Academy, it will be like putting myself on display, in order to be chosen for some higher Ecclesiastical position; while it is certainly a sound teaching that Jesus chooses those who are humble. And since when He decided to choose me as His minister He looked for me among sinners, so also now, if He has determined for me some other role, He should know to look for me among His chosen ones. It is therefore not necessary for me to make myself known by going to the Academy

Had Joseph chosen to go the the Ecclesiatical Academy, where those enrolled in the diplomatic corps of the Church are trained, Joseph would have certainly enjoyed a very distinguished careed as a Church diplomat, probably become a bishop and an apostolic nuntio. Instead he reflects that since when God called him to be a priest he ‘found him among sinners,’ so also now, if God wanted anything special from him, he had to go and look for him ‘among sinners’ and not in the Ecclesiastical Academy. After all, he writes: “It is already infinitely more than I could have ever wished for if I manage to become a priest.”