Sunday, June 20, 2010


“Saint Aloysius Gonzaga in Glory”
 by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, 1740’s


Biographical Information about St. Aloysius Gonzaga [1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga

Readings and Commentary:

1 John 5:1-5

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God,
and everyone who loves the Father
loves also the one begotten by him.
In this way we know that we love the children of God
when we love God and obey his commandments.
For the love of God is this,
that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome,
for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.
And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.
Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Commentary on
1 Jn 5:1-5

The beginning of this chapter from St. John’s first letter provides us with an understanding of Christ and God being of the same essence. “Children of God are identified not only by their love for others (1 John 4:7-9) and for God (1 John 5:1-2) but by their belief in the divine sonship of Jesus Christ. Faith, the acceptance of Jesus in his true character and the obedience in love to God's commands (1 John 5:3), is the source of the Christian's power in the world and conquers the world of evil (1 John 5:4-5), even as Christ overcame the world (John 16:33).” [3]

CCC: 1 Jn 5:1 2780, 2790
Psalm 16:1-2a and 5, 7-8, 11

R. (see 5a) You are my inheritance, O Lord.

Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, "My Lord are you."
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.

I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD always before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.

You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Commentary on
Ps 16:1-2a and 5, 7-8, 11

Psalm 16 is the song quoted in the Acts above. A song of thanksgiving that has become prophetic, it speaks clearly of the resurrection accomplished now in Christ. (“Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world, nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption”.)

Matthew 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them
a scholar of the law, tested him by asking,
"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"
Jesus said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."
Commentary on
Mt 22:34-40

The story of Jesus delivering the Great Commandment is the fourth of the “Controversy Stories” in St. Matthew’s Gospel (stories in which Jesus argues with the Jewish leadership). Jesus has just refuted those Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection (v. 23-33) and now is challenged by the Pharisees. The question posed by the “scholar of the law” (probably a scribe; see also Luke 10:25-28) “…which commandment in the law is the greatest?” is asked in a rabbinical sense, meaning which of the 613 distinct statutes was considered greatest. Within this body of law, 248 of these precepts were positive and 365 were prohibitions. In addition these precepts were further divided into “Light” and “Heavy.”

This was a fairly typical type of exchange for a rabbinical debate. In answering, Jesus quotes two texts of the law that now form the foundation for a new morality in the Gospel. He first quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 “Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” This text forms part of the Shema, the Jewish profession of faith. This first quote would not be surprising. What makes this exchange novel and important is that Jesus adds the quote from Leviticus 19:18b “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This juxtaposition of quotes makes them equally “Heavy” and there is no parallel In Jewish literature.
CCC: Mat 22:23-34 575; Mat 22:34-36 581; Mat 22:36 2055; Mat 22:37-40 2055; Mat 22:37 2083; Mat 22:40 1824

St. Aloysius in his life was remarkable in his virtue. By all standards of the day, he should have taken over the family title and become a Duke in the Italian nobility of the 1500’s. Instead he was called to a religious life. He gave up a life of leisure and wealth to serve the poor and the infirmed, dying of the plague whose victims he was tending. He was so devoted to the Lord that he is remembered by the Church as one of the great religious Saints. In doing what he did, he left us an example of what it means to live the Great Commandment.

A number of years ago I had the privilege of knowing a young parishioner named Eric Liepa at St. Thomas in Ann Arbor. Eric had been trying to enter priestly formation, having felt a call to the vocation very strongly. Due to health reasons (he suffered from a rare disease that affected his immune system) he was rejected. While still attempting to find an order that would accept him he died. He was about the same age as St. Aloysius. In my homiletic remarks at his funeral, I proposed that, had he been able at his passing, his words to his family might have echoed those of the letter from St. Aloysius to his mother as he lay dying of the plague. Below is the text of that letter, used in the Office of Readings, for your contemplation today:

A letter from St Aloysius Gonzaga to his mother

May the comfort and grace of the Holy Spirit be yours for ever, most honored lady. Your letter found me lingering still in this region of the dead, but now I must rouse myself to make my way on to heaven at last and to praise God for ever in the land of the living; indeed I had hoped that before this time my journey there would have been over. If charity, as Saint Paul says, means to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who are glad, then, dearest mother, you shall rejoice exceedingly that God in his grace and his love for you is showing me the path to true happiness, and assuring me that I shall never lose him.

The divine goodness, most honored lady, is a fathomless and shoreless ocean, and I confess that when I plunge my mind into thought of this it is carried away by the immensity and feels quite lost and bewildered there. In return for my short and feeble labors, God is calling me to eternal rest; his voice from heaven invites me to the infinite bliss I have sought so languidly, and promises me this reward for the tears I have so seldom shed.

Take care above all things, most honored lady, not to insult God’s boundless loving kindness; you would certainly do this if you mourned as dead one living face to face with God, one whose prayers can bring you in your troubles more powerful aid than they ever could on earth. And our parting will not be for long; we shall see each other again in heaven; we shall be united with our Savior; there we shall praise him with heart and soul, sing of his mercies for ever, and enjoy eternal happiness. When he takes away what he once lent us, his purpose is to store our treasure elsewhere more safely and bestow on us those very blessings that we ourselves would most choose to have.

I write all this with the one desire that you and all my family may consider my departure a joy and favor and that you especially may speed with a mother’s blessing my passage across the waters till I reach the shore to which all hopes belong. I write the more willingly because I have no clearer way of expressing the love and respect I owe you as your son.


[1] The picture is “Saint Aloysius Gonzaga in Glory” by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, 1740’s
[2] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.
[3] See NAB Footnote on 1 John 5:1ff

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