All Things Work for Good

(Homily for Seventeenth Sunday - Year A)

Bottom line: "Everything comes from love, all is ordained for the salvation of man, God does nothing without this goal in mind." (Catherine of Siena)

Shakespeare said, "There's a divinity that shapes our ends, Rough-hew them how we will." Shakespeare sensed a power greater than our individual decisions. In today's second reading, St. Paul speaks more directly about that power: "All things," he says, "work for good for those who love God." Our lives are in his hand.

I'd like to tell you about someone who illustrates the power of God's providence - St. Catherine of Siena. She was the 24th (!) child of Giacomo de Benincasa and Lapa Piagenti. Her parents could have said, "23 is enough," and no one would have said they lacked generosity. Still, if they had not had their twenty-fourth child, they would have deprived the world of a remarkable saint. Catherine was a light in a time of great darkness - the fourteenth century. The people of that century experienced the Great Plague that killed about a third of Europe's population. And the Church endured a spiritual plague - for seventy years the popes abandoned Rome to set up court in Avignon, France.

No one could convince the popes to get back to Rome. The people of Italy sent delegations to plead with them. Kings applied pressure; theologians wrote learned letters. All to no avail. Finally, the solution came. God inspired a young Dominican Sister - Catherine of Siena. Even though she was only twenty-nine years old and had little formal education, the Holy Father listened to her. In 1376, Pope Gregory XI left Avignon and returned to Rome. By her holiness and simplicity, St. Catherine accomplished what politicians, scholars and merchants could not.

After persuading the pope to return to Rome, Catherine went back to her life of prayer and care for the sick, especially plague victims. She died at the age of thirty-three, leaving behind writings that were soon recognized as masterpieces of Tuscan literature. I would like to quote from one of her works because it illustrates the theme of our Scripture readings - that for those who love him, God can bring good out of misfortune. In her Dialogue on Providence, St. Catherine addresses "those who are scandalized and rebel against what happens to them." To them she writes, "Everything comes from love, all is ordained for the salvation of man, God does nothing without this goal in mind."*

Catherine of Siena was no Pollyanna. She knew great suffering, not only physical, but persecution from the envious. Among other things, her enemies accused her of being a "faker." Eventually a church court investigated the charges and dismissed them, but the gossip placed her under a cloud. Catherine never allowed those bitter experiences to get her down. How did she do it? We have the answer in today's Gospel. Catherine had found the one pearl of great price - and she sold everything to obtain it. Her writings make clear that the pearl is the salvation of one's soul: Everything comes from love because God orders everything to salvation. He does nothing without that goal in mind. Or as St. Paul says, "All things work for good for those who love God."


*You can find this quote in the Catechism (#313).

General Intercessions for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A (from Priests for Life)

Spanish Version

From Archives (for Seventeenth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):

2014: Life in the Spirit Week 4
2011: Hidden Treasure
2008: All Things Work for Good
2005: The Pearl of Great Price
2002: Either/Or
1999: What is Heaven?

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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