Today Lisa Bright from the Pastoral Renewal team reads from the Gospel of Matthew (6: 1-6 and 16-18) in which Jesus reminds his followers that ‘the Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you’. Afterwards, Lisa shares a little about the life of St Aloysius Gonzaga whose memorial we celebrate today.
Lisa says, St Aloysius Gonzaga, who was a priest of the Jesuit order, died at the age of 23. In his short life, we can see that Aloysius lived a life in response to this Gospel – one of prayer, one of fasting, and one of almsgiving.
St Aloysius was born into an aristocratic family, destined for an inheritance of title and status and a planned destiny of being a soldier as determined by his father. Despite his father’s desire, St Aloysius had a strong desire from a young age to become a missionary, and later shared his thoughts to join a religious order and become a priest. If he followed this path, much to the upset of his father, the young Aloysius would give up all his rights of inheritance – which he did in 1585 and joined the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits.
St Aloysius lived a very ascetic life, disciplined to prayer and a strong desire to serve others in mission. This desire to serve others led him to volunteer in a Jesuit hospital during the outbreak of a plague in Rome. Despite his own ill health, and care taken to avoid direct contact with victims of the plague, Aloysius contracted the plague and died in 1591 at the age of 23.
In his short life, you can read stories of St Aloysius’ dedication to prayer, his commitment to charity, and his simple and disciplined life, seeking comfort in serving God alone.
Listening to today’s Gospel, Lisa says, we hear the scripture that is read at Ash Wednesday liturgies calling on us to take on the Lenten virtues of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. As St Aloysius shows us, these virtues are not contained to the season of Lent. These are virtues can be lived in our everyday as we seek to become intentional disciples of Jesus, that is, to truly encounter Jesus in our daily lives and in each other.
St Aloysius desired to know God and show God’s love to others through his missionary work despite the challenges he faced from his family and his own ill health. We, too, can live that desire by living our call through our Baptism to share God’s word and God’s love with others.
Sometimes that might involve letting go of something to be able to embrace what we are called to do. It may involve some discipline – for example, can I not play that game on my phone for 30 minutes and reflect on the daily gospel instead? And it may involve courage, often stepping outside our comfort zones to support others, or even give some time in conversation to another.
As we remember St Aloysius Gonzaga this day, Lisa invites us to ponder …
A life of fasting – St Aloysius made a commitment to God and sought nourishment from God alone. What do we have to let go of to seek nourishment from God?
A life of prayer – St Aloysius was committed to prayer and reflection at a very young age. What is my conversation with God like these days?
A life of almsgiving – St Aloysius gave of himself to others in missionary service. How do I show God’s love to others in my workplace, with my family and with my friends?
In closing, Lisa invites us to pray ‘May we live today and everyday sharing the love of God with others. Amen’.