Today we keep the Memorial of Saint Antoninus Pierozzi, who when he first applied to join the Order was refused due to his poor health and education. The prior of the community in Florence clearly thought he wasn’t a suitable candidate and said he could only enter if he could recite the whole of canon law from memory. A year later he did exactly that and was admitted as a novice. Antoninus went on to become Vicar-General of the Order and later Archbishop of Florence. Died 1459. Canonised 1523. His last words were: To serve God is to reign – words which became the motto of the Archconfraternity of Saint Stephen for Altar Servers.
Our Lord set an example for all of his disciples to follow. This example is manifested throughout the pages of the gospels. In today’s episode we witness Our Lord at prayer; and his love and devotion to his Father are evident. The Father occupies his mind and his heart. But Our Lord is praying to his Father, not for himself, but for us, his followers.
St. Paul followed Our Lord’s example. The first reading today contains a sermon that he preached to the leaders of the Church in Ephesus. He told them how he served the Lord in humility and never shrunk from telling them what was for their own good. He said all these things so that those coming after him would also follow Our Lord’s example as he had done.
And so in Our Lord and St. Paul we see two things today: dedication to God and service to his people. This ideal is intended not only for bishops, priests and religious but for everyone in the Church. It’s our common ideal, for it’s the fulfilling of the command to love God and our neighbour.
No one can begin to count the number of books which have been written about the meaning of Christianity, but in the final analysis the message comes down to a single word, and that word is love. Love God, love your neighbour. This simple message takes on a greater significance when we realise what the measure of our love should be. And that measure is the love which Our Lord himself has both for his Father and for his people.