Jeremiah 26:1-9 “…whatever I command
you, tell them, and omit nothing. Perhaps they will listen and turn
back, each from his evil way , so that I may repent of the evil I have planned
to inflict upon them for their evil deeds....”
Psalm 69: 5, 8-10, 14 “…But I pray to you,
O LORD, for the time of your favor, O God! In your great kindness answer
me with your constant help.”
Matthew 13: 54-58 “…Jesus said, “A prophet
is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house.”
St. Leopold Mandic of Padua – today is the feast day celebration
of a very humble priest to whom I was introduced back in 1991 when I read
an article printed in the “Medjugorje Magazine.” I was so touched by his
story, that I never forgot his name and always looked to see his story published
in a lives-of-the-saints book. I waited several times to purchase a
book, if it didn’t’ have St. Leopold Mandic in it, I didn’t buy it.
Surprisingly, I found that book this past weekend, and to my surprise St.
Leopold’s feast day was finally listed for the day I was to write a reflection.
I was struck by his dedication to the sacrament of confession. The
magazine article read “He heard confessions 12 to 15 hours every day, without
a day off, for forty years. He rarely ate any food during those hours,
saying he couldn’t take time to eat when a penitent hungered for forgiveness.”
And later on I read, “Usually he spoke few words during the confession, and
those few were scarcely audible. Yet hardened sinners were converted.”
He was a man of prayer, interlacing prayer time in between confessions, and
praying on his knees until late at night even though he was quite arthritic.
The article further stated that he was found praying one night late, and
when he was told to go and get some sleep, Fr. Leopold replied, “I give such
light penances to those who confess to me, that I have to make satisfaction
for them!” St. Leopold also had a strong desire to work in the area
to reunite the Orthodox Eastern (“dissident Orientals”) with the Western
Churches. At 4 foot 6 inches Fr. Leopold was a giant among confessors.
St. Leopold reminded me of the message in today’s first reading from the
prophet Jeremiah. In some ways he was a modern day prophet, one who
speaks for the Lord to His people. Jeremiah is calling God’s people
to repentance and to return to the Law that was placed before them.
He reveals to the people that God is quite angry with them and is threatening
to treat their “house like Shiloh.” But of course, those listening
to Jeremiah only want to put him to death; the truth was hard to listen to
and it gets harder and harder to believe the further you stray from God.
Jeremiah was only telling them everything the Lord had commanded him to convey.
Why did they want to kill Jeremiah? They could no longer discern the
truth, for Jeremiah’s message coming from God, the One who sees everything
as is Truth in its highest form was undetectable to them. It is said
that St. Leopold could read souls; and one time when a penitent was defending
his sins, St. Leopold told him “Sir, you cannot play with God! Go and
die in your sin!” Sound harsh, yes, not at all how you’d think God
would respond, but it sounds a lot like today’s reading where God is threatening
to destroy the people for their lack of Faith and true discernment about
examining their conscious’.
In the Gospel reading, even Jesus was ignored when he tried to cure and teach
in his native place. It says not many miracles were worked there, because
the people were too hard of heart. How do we find our hearts today?
Truth can dwell in our midst and we won’t see it either. As a people
we have a strong tendency to overlook our own faults. Maybe we can’t
figure everything out by ourselves, maybe we can use a little help from the
Lord. As we can see throughout all generations, God is always calling
us back towards this light of truth. Let us take advantage of the gift
we’ve been given in the Holy Spirit and ask to be enlightened on our life’s
controversies. And sometime this week, let us return to the sacrament
of Confession with its many fruits. We can call on St. Leopold Mandic
to help us discern to the most interior level of our being, those deep spaces
in our souls, where we may have stuffed some things away. The fruit
of this effort will be freedom, even though deeply repressed it has a stronghold
on our own spirit. Having returned to this sacrament in the last
decade, I still am not fully utilizing its benefits for, I think I end it
before I’m really finished. Today as in my childhood, it seems my confessions
sound a lot like the time before; and sometimes I’m hard pressed to even
think I’ve sinned at all. The result is I leave feeling I’ve fulfilled
an obligation, rather than feeling washed clean with my spirit unleashed.
So let us pray to St. Leopold Mandic to teach us about this sacrament that
he held most dear. Help us to grow in Faith and dependence on our Lord,
the One who sees all and is Truth itself. Our world could be much better
served if we would make this choice today to listen to God’s Spirit, and
it’s ours for the asking.