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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

“God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living” (Wisdom 1:13.) These are strong words to hear today as we begin Mass because we know of the immense stranglehold that the power of death and suffering has on our world. Even in light of God’s goodness, we struggle to understand the nature of evil and the weightiness of suffering and we find no easy answers. We are told that by the devil’s envy, death entered the world to thwart God’s plan for humanity’s undying justice and imperishability.

Mark’s Gospel shows us deep suffering of two individuals – Jairus, a synagogue official, and an unnamed woman who is of no account to society. Jairus is distraught because his twelve-year old daughter is alarmingly near death. He recognizes the healing power of the compassionate Jesus. The woman, who for twelve long years has had no one to intercede for her, wants the same intervention – that merely touching the cloak of Jesus will heal her affliction. Once more, blood will flow freely and correctly for these two females. The number twelve is an important symbol in biblical Israel, and it also shows the longstanding torment and the desperation of those who suffer.

In the end, Jesus displays remarkable power. He makes the blind see, the lame walk, quiets the storms, casts out demons, and today he shows that he can heal the most severe suffering and raise the dead. His power attests to his identity as one sent by God. Faith is the ingredient that makes Jesus’ healings possible. Jairus’ faith leads him to take drastic steps to place his trust in Jesus; the forgotten woman who exhausted all her resources takes one last desperation shot by placing her trust in this healing rabbi. Jesus points out that, in a small way, they are participating in his future Passion where faith if of ultimate necessity. The faith of Jesus saves us. It is important for us to place our trust in Christ who, through his compassion, wants to heal and save us from suffering and death.

Quote for the Week

During the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the following passage from Second Timothy is used during the second reading.

“I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance. The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it.”

Themes for this Week’s Masses

The Old Testament passages covenant’s continuation in the descendants of Abraham. We hear Abraham’s plea to God to spare the inhabitants of the doomed, wicked city of Sodom, most notably the innocent ones. He fails to persuade God, but his efforts do spare his nephew Lot, though Lot’s wife is turned into a pillar of salt. We then see Abraham in an awful predicament as he is asked to sacrifice his natural-born son, Isaac. He is ready to carry out the sacrifice when God intervenes by sending a ram to be slaughtered instead. As Isaac grows, he marries Rebekah and is blessed to beget Jacob. The covenant will continue, but we see the tenuousness of our salvation history.

Matthew’s Gospel continues with scenes of Jesus’ compassion through calming the storm waters and rescuing his friends, healing a paralytic, and calling Matthew into a radically new discipleship.

Saints of the Week

Monday is the great feast of Saints Peter and Paul - two major apostles martyred in Rome. Simon was renamed Peter by Jesus to indicate that it would be upon his shoulders that the church would be built, thus becoming known as the leader of the apostles. Paul, an educated Roman citizen and a zealous Jewish Pharisee, became the apostle to the Gentiles. The efforts of both of these men were instrumental is allowing Christianity to take root in the Mediterranean world, settling some challenging issues that confronted the fledgling communities of faith, and for securing unity among the faithful. Like Peter and Paul, many other martyrs testified to the faith. On Tuesday, the First Holy Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church is celebrated to remember the countless numbers of Christians who were killed during the reign of Emperor Nero. Nero falsely assigned blamed and persecuted the Christians after a devastating fire broke out in Rome.

On Wednesday, the Franciscan Blessed Junipero Serra is remembered for this missionary efforts to Mexico and California, most notably in founding the missions of San Diego, Santa Clara, and San Francisco. Three Jesuits are memorialized on Thursday, Bernadino Realino, John Francis Regis, and Francis Jerome for their preaching skills that drew many to the faith. Regis College in Denver, Colorado is named after John Regis. Thomas the Apostle is honored on Friday as the Apostle of India. He is known as the Twin and as the doubting one who exclaimed “My Lord and My God” after meeting the Risen Christ’s wounds with the other ten disciples in the locked room. On Saturday, Elizabeth (Isabella) of Portugal is celebrated for her peacemaking efforts in her noble family. She gave up her wealth and privilege to join the Poor Clares after her husband’s death.

Meeting of the Middle Generation Jesuits

Two hundred Jesuits between the ages of 40 and 60 gathered at Santa Clara University in California this past week at the “Keepers of the Flame” conference that arose from the spirit of the recent 35th General Congregation. We reflected on our identity as disciples of Christ in the footsteps of Ignatius of Loyola and his companions. We examined how we are living the apostolic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience along with our availability for mission. Finally, we shared our hopes for the newly aligned province configurations that will occur during the next decade. Mostly we gave thanks to God for our distinct and common vocations as Companions of the Lord.

Interesting Reading

I just read Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris, author of The Cloister Walk and Dakota. Norris brings back into our consciousness the concept of acedia, which can be likened to a spiritual sloth that brings about the inability to care. This is not a “feel-good” type of book like Marley and Me, but it does raise some serious issues for this almost-forgotten concept. She is able to look back on her life and notice where acedia has been a present reality to her in her marriage, her writing, and her devotion to the ways the monastic tradition has influenced her daily rhythm of life. Norris candidly talks about her husband’s battles with depression and his struggle for life in the midst of a grave illness. Norris discovers that acedia is the framework that defines her life. It brings about a restless boredom and a pervading despair and she acknowledges that is has potency enough to undermine her capacity for joy and her commitment to her career, family, friendship and her faith. By identify acedia as a strong factor in her life, she is able to integrate healthy coping mechanisms into her daily routine.

Happy Fourth of July

May you have safe and festive celebrations at your Fourth of July parties to remember our nation’s founding. Let us continue to pray for our overseas troops that they may be free from harm and may soon return home. We pray also for our legislators who continue to uphold the Constitution that our Founding Father’s established. May our country remain free from harm and conflict in a world that all too often settles its disputes through violence and aggression.

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