19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Heb 11:1-2, 8-19; Lk 12:32-48
“For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” We just heard these words in our gospel reading. They can be a good litmus test of how much we put God first in our lives. What’s the first thing we think about when we wake up in the morning? What do we spend most of our time thinking about during the day? What portion of our day is spent in remembrance of God and spiritual things? Whatever our answers, there’s always room for improvement, and it’s not a bad idea to reflect upon this verse from time to time.
Sometimes a person can put on a good act and seem on the surface to be very spiritual, but when they’re put to the test or find themselves in an unexpected situation that causes a knee-jerk response, their true colors come out. They didn’t have time to rehearse their actions. It becomes more obvious where their heart and treasure are. Conversely, someone who didn’t call attention to himself and blended in with the crowd, might rise to a degree of heroic virtue. With one spontaneous reaction, their hidden daily faithfulness and selflessness suddenly burst into view like fireworks.
I have in mind two women: St. Maria Goretti and Jamie Schmidt. Most of us are familiar with Maria Goretti. She was an eleven-year-old girl who died in Italy in 1902 from wounds received after refusing to give in to the desires of a sexual assailant. She and her family were very poor, especially after her father died when she was nine, and they shared a house with a family named Serenelli. Allessandro, the 20-year-old son of the Serenellis, tried to rape her. When she resisted him, he stabbed her 14 times. In the intervening hours before her death she said, “I forgive Allessandro with all my heart.” He spent 27 years in prison for his crime, during which time he eventually converted, thanks to her intercession. He finished out his years as a lay brother in a monastery. Maria was beatified in 1947 and canonized in 1950.
Jamie Schmidt is a little closer in time and place. She also died for refusing to comply with a sexual assault. Her death took place in St. Louis, Missouri on November 19, 2018 – so, less than a year ago. You may have heard of it. It was a Monday afternoon about 3:30 and not much was going on at the Catholic Supply store. 53-year-old Jamie stopped in to get some supplies since she made rosaries. Two women employees were on duty, one in her 50s, the other in her 20s. A man walked in and looked around then said he had to go back to his car and get his credit card. Instead, he returned with a pistol and herded the terrified women into a remote part of the store that wasn’t covered by the security cameras. He sexually assaulted the two women employees at gun-point and then turned to Jamie. In response to his command, she stood up straight and said very resolutely, “In the name of God, I will not take my clothes off.” The enraged assailant shot her point blank in the head with his gun and then ran out of the store. Jamie crumpled to the floor and lay there bleeding. One of the other two women quickly called 911. The two employees said they could hear her faintly whispering the Our Father. She was rushed to the nearest hospital but died later that evening. To the end, they could just barely hear her praying the Our Father. Her assailant was eventually caught and arrested.
Once you get to know more about Jamie, her whole-hearted decision without much time to deliberate should come as no surprise. Her genuine virtues, which she never tried to flaunt, suddenly blossomed forth in full view, and she spontaneously performed an act of heroic virtue. It became evident where her heart and treasure were. Not even the consideration of her family stood in the way: her high school sweetheart that she had been married to for 28 years, her three children – the youngest of whom was still in high school. It was a moment of grace, and the crowning of life lived for others and for God.
She was very much loved in her parish of St. Anthony of Padua about 25 miles southwest of St. Louis. She organized retreats for women and was always available when needed. She had a great voice and sang in the choir, sometimes doing solos. She was also very artistically talented and her artwork decorated some of the walls in the parish complex. She was unassuming, and if she was giving a tour to someone and they remarked on a particular painting, she would never say it was her own work. She led an ordinary, salt-of-the-earth type of life and worked as a secretarial assistant at the St. Louis Community College in the western suburb of Wildwood. She was very thoughtful of others and quiet. But the huge turnout for her wake and funeral showed the hidden effect she had had on others. Her dedication to chastity was a welcomed beam of light in a culture of so little restraint when it comes to sexual desires.
Both of these women have touched a chord in the hearts of many faithful Christians. Their treasure and their heart were not set on this world. The words of our second reading can well be applied to them: “But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”