Wednesday, September 19, 2012

St. Januarius

Today’s saint was a bishop in the early Church who is now the patron saint of Naples. Little is actually known about him but he has become quite famous because a relic—a tube of his dried blood—liquefies several times a year, including on his feast day. Scientists have studied this event but have been unable to come up with any natural explanation for it. Perhaps this is God’s way of telling us that the saints are alive in him and can be powerful intercessors for us. Let us ask St. Januarius to pray with us for politicians and that Christian communities may practice charity as they reach out to help the poorest Churches. Our reflection is from Pope Benedict’s first encyclical Deus Caritas Est #20.

Love of neighbor, grounded in the love of God, is first and foremost a responsibility for each individual member of the faithful, but it is also a responsibility for the entire ecclesial community at every level: from the local community to the particular Church and to the Church universal in its entirety. As a community, the Church must practice love. Love thus needs to be organized if it is to be an ordered service to the community. The awareness of this responsibility has had a constitutive relevance in the Church from the beginning: “All who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-5). In these words, Saint Luke provides a kind of definition of the Church, whose constitutive elements include fidelity to the “teaching of the Apostles”, “communion” (koinonia), “the breaking of the bread” and “prayer” (cf. Acts 2:42). The element of “communion” (koinonia) is not initially defined, but appears concretely in the verses quoted above: it consists in the fact that believers hold all things in common and that among them, there is no longer any distinction between rich and poor (cf. also Acts 4:32-37). As the Church grew, this radical form of material communion could not in fact be preserved. But its essential core remained: within the community of believers there can never be room for a poverty that denies anyone what is needed for a dignified life.

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