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“Your sorrow will be turned into joy.”

Fr. Scott A. Haynes

In the Holy Gospel, Christ teaches us:
“A woman, when she is in travail, hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.”
A woman in childbirth bears sorrow with a purpose. If we suffer for our Catholic faith we will endure the sorrow of fines, imprisonment, torture and death for an even greater purpose. No child comes to birth without suffering. In our spiritual life this is even more true. Our faith, when tested by trial and persecution, will only become stronger. And the joy we have as baptized Catholics – no one can take this from us! Christ has told us:
“In the world ye shall have tribulation.”
This tribulation is not just an unfortunate accident: it is part of our dying with Christ. It is only in suffering and in trial that our salvation is worked out, as the Psalmist teaches:
“The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried by the fire, purged from the earth refined seven times.” (Psalm 12:6).
Only when we are put into the refiner’s fire can our best spiritual gifts be realized in us. According to the Providence of God, sorrow, fear, and persecution are not just unfortunate accidents; God uses these to fit us for glory. Christ’s wounds are the signs of his glory, and so must ours be.
A powerful example of this spiritual truth is seen in the life of St. Peter Maldonado Lucero. He was a Catholic priest in Mexico in the early 20th century. In 1937, this Mexican priest fought to his death to protect the Blessed Sacrament. He was a promoter of nocturnal adoration in Mexico during a time of great persecution of the Church. Because of the severe persecution, like most priests, Father Maldonado was in hiding most of the time, and so he would spend many hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

On Ash Wednesday, February 10, 1937, shortly after Father Maldonado had celebrated Mass, soldiers of Mexico's anti-Catholic government arrested him and forced him to walk barefoot all the way to the town where they were taking him. During this ordeal, he recited the Rosary of Our Lady.

After reaching the town, Father Maldonado was beaten over the head with a rifle butt to the point that his left eye was dislodged. When the soldiers discovered that he was carrying a pyx containing the Blessed Sacrament, one of them ordered him to consume it, saying:
“Eat this, this your last communion!”
Rather than allow the soldiers to desecrate the Blessed Sacrament, he quickly put the sacred Hosts in a pyx and held it close to his chest. The soldiers beat him with their rifles, screaming blasphemies at the Holy Eucharist.

The soldiers beat him until all of his teeth were broken, his left eye destroyed, his right arm fractured and a leg dislocated. In spite of his agony, he held onto the pyx with all his might. Finally, his persecutors cut off his hand with a knife so he could no longer clasp the pyx and it fell to the ground.

One of the soldiers who was beating him up was a fallen-away Catholic. At once when he saw the pyx containing the Eucharist fall to the floor, he was converted. In this moment, his conscience was awakened as his heart was moved by the priest’s heroic faith in the Blessed Sacrament, and so he hurriedly opened the pyx and consumed the hosts rather than let them be desecrated by the other soldiers.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass we celebrate this morning is our constant reminder that the signs of Body broken and Blood shed are the signs of the Crucified and Risen Lord, and new life in the Spirit. Jesus teaches us:
“Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”
Hold fast and stand firm for in heaven,
“Your sorrow will be turned into joy.”
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