Deuteronomy 26:16–19; Psalm 119:1–2, 4–5, 7–8; Matthew 5:43–48
Padre Pio was spiritual inspiration for the older Italian members of my family. He was for that generation what St. Teresa of Calcutta is to mine. I recall reading stories and seeing photos of Padre Pio in the Italian religious magazines my Nonna received, and hearing from my cousin in Italy of a visit to the saint’s shrine after his canonization.
Francesco Forgione entered the Capuchin Franciscans as a teenager. He received the name Pio and was ordained in 1910. In 1918, praying after Mass, Fr. Pio saw Jesus in a vision and afterward saw that he had received the wounds of Christ—the stigmata—in his hands, feet, and side.
His condition, like that of all modern stigmatics, was a cause for caution among his superiors, and Pio had to endure investigations by doctors and church officials. When he was at last allowed to do public ministry, his Masses and long hours in the confessional drew hundreds each day. He also was known for physical and spiritual healings worked through him.
Padre Pio knew many trials, but he understood that God’s grace and love were available to all. He helped mediate that love and forgiveness through years of ministry, until his death in 1968. His bearing of the wounds of Christ reminds those entering the church this Lent that they are to identify completely with our Lord. Padre Pio understood, in the words of today’s Gospel, how to “be perfect … as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
Consider how God’s covenant of love (today’s First Reading) with us in Jesus is made visible in your life.
God, who gave the Law to Moses, teach us the Law’s perfection in Jesus.
Show us how to be merciful to enemies and to love those who hate us.
In imitation of Jesus, may we embrace the sinner and forgive those who do us harm.