Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time
August 24, 2014
Isaiah 22:19-23; Psalm 138; Romans 11:33-36; Matthew 16:13-20

As I read the daily news of mass destruction in Gaza, Ukraine, Iraq, and Syria, I wonder what it will be like when they begin to rebuild. New houses, commercial buildings, roads and infrastructure will be constructed for residents, but the question that emerges is, “Who gets the contracts?” The new jobs will be discreetly given to particular companies and workers. When you put up buildings, the last exterior portions are doors and windows that will allow some people in and keep out most others. A key is given to those new doors to select people. Access is the advantage.

In Isaiah, the Lord says to Shebna, the soon-to-be-overthrown master of the new palace, “I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut; when he shuts, no one shall open.” Jesus tells Peter that he will build his house, his church, upon Peter’s faith and that Peter will be the guardian of the key with the terrific powers of access that it provides. We have to remember that for many, denying people access to the church is to deny them access to God. We therefore need to remember that we ought not to place undue burdens upon a person as they seek to integrated God sacramentally and communally into their lives.

Our actions have long-lasting effects on the church and society when we adhere too rigidly to rules without regard for the person standing in front of us. Do our actions lubricate or agitate society? It is far easier to lubricate, to work with what we have and to find ways to make something work than it is to agitate, to step on the brakes and place obstacles along the path. When driving in traffic, it is simply easier to let the annoying driver who is using her blinker access to get right in front of you when it would be more advantageous for her to be behind you. Let her in. Go with the flow and stop fighting it. You’ll get to your destination. You may be right in denying her that privilege, but at what cost to you both. Let her into traffic rather than creating anger and road rage. The same goes with the church. Find ways to help people come to mass, to get marriages regularized, to have children baptized, and to educate the people on the positive role the church can have in their lives. Talking about forms and the rules will keep people far away because they would rather not bother with necessary protocols. A smoother system with less fighting makes everyone happier.

We need to know when to agitate. Peter was not entrusted with the keys just to let people in; they are also meant to lock. Doors that are closed might need to be opened through agitation. During the past decade, the laity has learned to speak with various voices when their normal voices are not heard. They withhold money, speak with media professionals, remain vigilant in shuttered buildings, and assert pressure at pastoral and finance council meetings. Some speak with their feet and go elsewhere or nowhere at all and some speak with the power of the purse. No one ever disputes that rules are needed, but the style our church leaders present to the laity determines whether they want doors opened or closed. Just a few years ago, bishops were gleefully saying they want a smaller, purer, more obedient church that follows their commands without question. With the emphasis on style coming from Pope Francis these days, that rhetoric has ceased.

With Christ, we continue to build the church founded upon Peter’s faith. Have we sufficiently reflected upon what we want to build? …what Christ wants us to build? As members of the church, we hold the keys to permit or deny access. Our styles will determine whether we are open or not. Peter was open when he answered the question Jesus asked him because he did not rely upon traditional answers, like, “You are John the Baptist, Jeremiah, or Elijah.” No, Peter had to think for himself and let his experience of his friend dictate his answer. He said, “Dear Jesus, you are my Christ! You are more than all the others. You are the Son of the Living God.” Because Peter was free enough to think differently, he could see the possibilities that were open before him. Like Peter, we must always look for the possibilities. They may lead us to uncomfortable opposition, but because we are people of classy style, we can lead others along the path the matters most – to the heart of God through Jesus Christ. For from him and through him and for him are all things. Any path we are on can lead us to Christ; we have to be playfully adventurous enough to find our unique way, but let it lead you back to the church where you can be an instrument that transforms it. No one will ever damn you for leading them to Christ’s beating heart.

 Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Second Thessalonians, Paul greets the Greek Gentiles affectionately and reminds them that he prays for them often, and when he does, he receives joy. Paul implores the people to stand firm in the faith and not to be shaken by the slightest affront from others who fail to understand the reasons for our conduct. People are to act in accord with the tradition handed onto them. If someone walks in a disorderly way, then that person ought to be shunned. Paul gave himself as a model to imitate. ~ In First Corinthians, Paul greets the leaders and the people will great joy reminding them that he is always praying for them and commending them for their rich testimony to Christ. ~ On the martyrdom of John the Baptist, Paul tells the people that Christ sent him to preach the gospel so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning. The wise one prays to a crucified God who suffered on the cross because God’s wisdom is strong than human strength. He reminds them that none of them is remarkable, but that God’s grace has made something more of them. God’s wisdom is at work when we see something that seems foolish. God has made Jesus the wisdom of God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

Gospel: Jesus rips apart the conduct of the Pharisees and scribes who act hypocritically in taking in converts to themselves instead of the faith and who swear by gold at the altars of worship. He then rips them apart for making sure everyone pays tithes, but they neglect the weightier aspects of the law: judgment, mercy, and fidelity. Jesus rants about paying attention to unclean utensils when the inside of a person is filthy. He also destroys them for memorializing the prophets, but in maintaining the same behavior as those who killed the prophets. Jesus asks his disciples to remain vigilant because they cannot know when the end of days is coming. The blessed disciple is the one whom upon his master’s arrival finds him tending to the duties entrusted to him. ~ On the martyrdom of John the Baptist, the story of Herod’s promise to Salome is told. She danced so beautifully that he promised her anything she wanted, up to half of his kingdom, but she asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Jesus told his friends a story about a man who is leaving for a journey who entrusts his money to servants. All but one of the servants invested the talents and brought back nice returns, but one servant was fearful and hid his talent so that it produced nothing. The owner took the talent from him in anger and cast the man out of his job.

Saints of the Week

August 24: Bartholomew (First Century), according to the Acts of the Apostles, is listed as one of the Twelve Disciples though no one for sure knows who he is. Some associate him with Philip, though other Gospel accounts contradict this point. John's Gospel refers to him as Nathaniel - a Israelite without guile.

August 25: Louis of France (1214-1270) became king at age 12, but did not take over leadership until ten years later. He had eleven children with his wife, Marguerite, and his kingship reigned for 44 years. His rule ushered in a longstanding peace and prosperity for the nation.  He is held up as a paragon of medieval Christian kings.

August 25: Joseph Calasanz, priest (1556-1648), was a Spaniard who studied canon law and theology. He resigned his post as diocesan vicar-general to go to Rome to live as a pilgrim and serve the sick and the dying. He used his inheritance to set up free schools for poor families with children. He founded an order to administer the schools, but dissension and power struggles led to its dissolution.

August 27: Monica (332-387) was born a Christian in North Africa and was married to a non-Christian, Patricius, with whom she had three children, the most famous being Augustine. Her husband became a Christian at her urging and she prayed for Augustine's conversion as well from his newly adopted Manichaeism. Monica met Augustine in Milan where he was baptized by Bishop Ambrose. She died on the return trip as her work was complete.

August 28: Augustine, bishop and doctor (354-430),  was the author of his Confessions, his spiritual autobiography, and The City of God, which described the life of faith in relation to the life of the temporal world. Many other writings, sermons, and treatises earned him the title Doctor of the church. In his formative years, he followed Mani, a Persian prophet who tried to explain the problem of evil in the world. His mother’s prayers and Ambrose’s preaching helped him convert to Christianity. Baptized in 387, Monica died a year later. He was ordained and five years later named bishop of Hippo and defended the church against three major heresies: Manichaeism, Donatism, and Pelagianism.

August 29: The Martyrdom of John the Baptist recalls the sad events of John's beheading by Herod the tetrarch when John called him out for his incestuous and adulterous marriage to Herodias, who was his niece and brother's wife. At a birthday party, Herodias' daughter Salome danced well earning the favor of Herod who told her he would give her almost anything she wanted.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Aug. 24, 1544: Peter Faber arrived in Lisbon.
·      Aug. 25, 1666: At Beijing, the death of Fr. John Adam Schall. By his profound knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, he attained such fame that the Emperor entrusted to him the reform of the Chinese calendar.
·      Aug. 26, 1562: The return of Fr. Diego Laynez from France to Trent, the Fathers of the Council desiring to hear him speak on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
·      Aug. 27, 1679: The martyrdom at Usk, England, of St. David Lewis, apostle to the poor in his native Wales for three decades before he was caught and hanged.
·      Aug. 28, 1628: The martyrdom in Lancashire, England, of St. Edmund Arrowsmith.
·      Aug. 29, 1541: At Rome the death of Fr. John Codure, a Savoyard, one of the first 10 companions of St. Ignatius.
·      Aug. 30, 1556: On the banks of the St. Lawrence River, Fr. Leonard Garreau, a young missionary, was mortally wounded by the Iroquois.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Photo: Roman Cistern

Spirituality: Decree 2 of GC35

From Decree 2 of the Society of Jesus' General Congregation 35 (2008):

Our way of proceeding is to trace the footprints of God everywhere, knowing that the Spirit of Christ is at work in all places and situations and in all activities and mediations that seek to make him more present in the world. This mission of attempting "to feel and to taste" (sentir y gustar) the presence and activity of God in all the persons and circumstances of the world places us Jesuits at the centre of a tension pulling us both to God and to the world at the same time...

Being and doing; contemplation and action; prayer and prophetic living; being completely united with Christ and completely inserted into the world with him as an apostolic body: all of these polarities mark deeply the life of a Jesuit and express both its essence and its possibilities. The Gospels show Jesus in deep, loving relationship with his Father and, at the same time, completely given over to his mission among men and women. (GC 35, D. 2, n. 8, 9)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Photo: Summer Moon

Spirituality: The Two Standards

The Two Standards of St. Ignatius Loyola from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola:

heartImagine the enemy seated himself in that great field of Babylon, as in a great chair of fire and smoke, in shape horrible and terrifying. Consider the discourse which he makes them, and how he tells them to cast out nets and chains; that they have first to tempt with a longing for riches - as he is accustomed to do in most cases - that people may more easily come to vain honor of the world, and then to vast pride. So that the first step shall be that of riches; the second, that of honor; the third, that of pride; and from these three steps he draws on to all the other vices.

So, on the contrary, one has to imagine as to the supreme and true Captain, who is Christ our Lord. He puts Himself in a great field of that region of Jerusalem, in lowly place, beautiful and attractive. Consider the discourse which Christ our Lord makes to all His servants and friends whom He sends on this expedition, recommending them to want to help all, by bringing them first to the highest spiritual poverty, and - if His Divine Majesty would be served and would want to choose them - no less to actual poverty; the second is to be of contumely and contempt; because from these two things humility follows. So that there are to be three steps; the first, poverty against riches; the second, contumely or contempt against worldly honor; the third, humility against pride. And from these three steps let them induce to all the other virtues.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Photo: The Jesuit Seal

Prayer: Margaret Mary Alacoque

I cannot better show my love for God than by loving my neighbor. I must work for the salvation of others, forgetting my own interest in order to espouse those of my neighbor, both in my prayers and in all the good I might be able to do by the mercy of God.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Prayer: Symeon the New Theologian

We should always pray for everyone who grieves or reviles us for whatever cause and for all who are hostile toward us because of an evil disposition, and, indeed, for all the faithful and unfaithful, in order that we may attain to perfection and they be delivered from error and draw near the truth.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Photo: Red Sea Sailing

Spirituality: Pope Francis on Opening Up

But there is also another transcendence: opening oneself up to others, to one’s neighbour. We must not be a Church closed in on itself, which looks at its navel, a self-referential Church, who looks at itself and is not able to transcend. Twofold transcendence is important: toward God and toward one’s neighbour. Coming out of oneself is not an adventure; it is a journey, it is the path that God has indicated to men, to the people from the first moment when he said to Abraham, “Go from your country.” He had to go out of himself. And when I come out of myself, I meet God and I meet others. How do you meet others? From a distance or up close? You must meet them up close, closeness. Creativity, transcendence and closeness. Closeness is a key word: be near. Do not be afraid of anything. Being close. The man of God is not afraid. Paul himself, when he saw many idols in Athens, was not scared. He said to the people: "You are religious, many idols ... but, I'll speak to you about another." He did not get scared and he got close to them. He also cited poets: "As your poets say..." It’s about closeness to a culture, closeness to people, to their way of thinking, their sorrows, their resentments. Many times this closeness is just a penance, because we need to listen to boring things, to offensive things.