Isaiah 49:8–15; Psalm 145:8–9, 13cd–14, 17–18; John 5:17–30
One of the most affectionate lines in all of Scripture occurs in our First Reading today: “Can a mother forget her nursing child, / or show no compassion for the child of her womb? / Even these may forget, / yet I will not forget you” (Isaiah 49:15).
The beautiful comparison of God’s love to that of a mother for her child is captured in the life of St. Gianna Beretta Molla. Born in northern Italy in 1925, she pursued a career in medicine and became a physician and surgeon. Gianna and her husband Peter had three children. While pregnant with her fourth child, Gianna was told she had a uterine tumor. Among the options offered by her doctors was a complete hysterectomy or an abortion. Gianna refused to terminate the pregnancy. She chose instead to have the tumor removed, despite the risk to her own health.
Gianna observed before undergoing surgery, “I have entrusted myself to the Lord in faith and hope.. . . I trust in God, yes, but now I must fulfill my duty as a mother. I renew the offer of my life to the Lord. I am ready for everything, provided the life of my child is saved.”
Gianna’s priority, even as the pregnancy threatened her own life, was the life of her child. The infant, Gianna Emanuela, was born April 21, 1962. Mother Gianna struggled for seven days with severe pain and serious infection and died on April 28. The second miracle attesting to her cause for canonization was the healthy delivery of a baby to a mother whose own pregnancy was threatened at sixteen weeks.
Gianna’s life and death offers us a powerful image in itself of the intimate love of God for us.