October 16, 2020 – Feast of St. Gerard Majella,CSsR – Redemptorist Brother
When we experience rejections and deprivations in life, is it not that we also experience discouragements? And when there is a series of tragedies happening in our life, we would certainly feel desperate and begin to have a sense of hopelessness. A possible reaction could be self-blame, or blaming others or blaming God because of the unfortunate events in our life. This is a possible reason why there are people who would yield to a very low self-worth and low self-esteem because of such negative experiences. For others, this leads to desperation, depression and chronic loneliness. Others too would go to the other side that leads to a life filled with bitterness and then to that desire to always seek recognition, acceptance, and satisfaction. To compensate what had been deprived, what was lost or lacking, the person may seek them in many ways. When these desires remain unconscious and become unsatisfied, the person turns to be selfish, corrupt and abusive in his or her relationships.
However, negative experiences can also become opportunities for us to grow more as a person and into how God desires us to be. Our painful experiences of rejections, deprivations and even traumas in life are also doors that will lead us into a life filled with confidence, meaning and freedom.
This possibility of living life fully is the life shown to us by St. Gerard Majella whose feast we celebrate today. Before St. Gerard was known to be a patron for mothers and particularly in time of pregnancy and for their infants, the young Gerard experienced hardships.
At a very young age he was deprived of a father. His father died and being the only boy, he became a father to his sisters. Though he was very young, he was forced by that circumstance to work and support his family. Consequently, the hard work that he endured caused his health to fail. He had a very poor health as a young man. However, despite these difficult circumstances, Gerard was never bitter towards others who were better and well-off. He never blamed God for the difficulties he experienced.
In fact, Gerard desired that he will offer his whole life in the service of God. But then, because of his poor background and poor health, he was rejected by a religious congregation that he wanted to join. Despite this rejection, Gerard never wavered his decision. When the Redemptorists came in his hometown, he was inspired by them and asked to join their group. Again, because of his poor health, he was rejected. But because of his persistence, he was able to join, but the Redemptorists reluctantly accepted him.
In terms of intellectual capacity, Gerard was very far from St. Alphonsus, yet, what inspired the people around him was his sincerity. In all the things that Gerard did, he was always sincere, kind and grateful. The words that he expressed were filled with sincerity. Gerard was not after any recognition or just to satisfy his cravings because of the many deprivations in his life.
Gerard was just happy and sincere because he was very confident with Jesus. His confidence and intimate friendship with the Lord made this poor and sickly Gerard satisfied and filled with gratitude. This is the very attitude proclaimed in our Psalm today, “You are my God, my only good.” Consequently, the very presence of Gerard uplifted and inspired others particularly those who were afflicted with illness, with loneliness, with poverty and other needs. Thus, even in his poverty, Gerard was generous; even in the midst of rejections, Gerard was most compassionate.
In the same way, Paul expressed this in his letter to the Philippians, he said, “I regard everything as a loss… for his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him.”
This is what Jesus told us in the Gospel today. The life of Gerard was a concrete example after Jesus, of a seed that dies and bears much fruit. Those painful and negative experiences of Gerard were his experiences of dying; his choice to make others happy and to bring others closer to Jesus were his ways of self-denial and denial from his personal cravings. Hence, by his sincere actions and words, Gerard’s life bore much fruit.
This is the message also for us today. Let us not allow our negative experiences of rejections, deprivations and traumas to bring us farther away from ourselves, away from others and away from the grace of God. Let us rather make them as opportunities for us to grow deeper in the knowledge of ourselves, in our relationship with God and others. As we become sincere and more grateful in our words and actions, we may also become God’s instruments in bringing miracles in your community. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR