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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

“That I may not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me. I begged the Lord that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me…. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:8-10)

All too often the expectations of others hinder the pursuit of our dreams and callings. We see that dynamic happening in our three readings today. Ezekiel is sent into the rebellious Israelite community that God calls “hard of face and obstinate of heart.” Paul is wounded by those who ought to be on his side – members of his own faith who fight for a certain type of conservative, hard-line, Torah-driven, Judeo-Christianity. Jesus is weakened by the lack of faith of his own hometown people who do not want him to get ahead. They think, “Who the hell does he think he is? What an audacious man who thinks he is better than us. We will show him that he is just like us and nothing more.” All too often we pay attention to these horrible voices that stop us from becoming the one who our Creator wants us to be. All too often we believe the deadening words of others and turn away from words that feed our dreams. What a terrible tragedy. Life is difficult enough without this type of wisdom and advice to stamp the life out of us. No. We have to hold onto the dreams that our God has for us.

I often invite people to think back on the books they read or the hobbies they delighted in as a child – just so they could reclaim a bit of their childhood – and so they can remember their earliest dreams that ignited their passions. I ask them to let those good desires enter into their consciousness once again. We have to remember our stories and we have to tell it whenever we can because we notice a different insight each time. Everyone loves to hear a good story and in a world that can beat us down because sin and death is all around, we have to discover who we are over and over again. We must cherish our stories – even if it contains great pain, debilitating shame, sorrowful loss, or damaged hope. These may be our thorns in our flesh and we are to value them as our source of grace.

We hide aspects of our lives that we think others do not see. In healing narratives, we see Jesus forgiving sins, but he always does more – he heals the wounded one of that which most debilitates them. Healing takes away the shame we experience – of not measuring up, of low self-esteem, of self-hatred, of being unloved, of not being in control of our fate in life. These are our areas to be transformed and this is where Christ’s story embraces ours. He wants you to know his love for you – by being with you – especially in your pain and chaos, listening to you, accepting every aspect of who you are, and calling forth the person that he knows you can be. Christ wants to embrace you tightly and not let go. I believe that for sure. Only his love – a greater, deeper affection – can bring about such miraculous events. Such an action frees us and causes us to live in the world in a new way.

Quote for the Week

“A true Eucharist is never a passive, comforting moment alone with God, something which allows us to escape the cares and concerns of our everyday life. Eucharist is where all these cares and concerns come to a focus, and where we are asked to measure them against the standard lived by Jesus when he proclaimed for all to hear that the bread that he would give would provide life for the entire world. But it will do so only if, finding ourselves with a basket of bread, we have peered deeply enough into the heart of Christ to know what to do with it.” Fr. Paul Bernier, SSS Bread Broken and Shared (1981)

Themes for this Week’s Masses

We continue to read of the Patriarchs of our faith – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Old Testament passages. Jacob, through a dream, experiences God and marks the place of his encounter. After wrestling with a stranger for a blessing, he receives a new name – Israel – the one who wrestled with God and humans. We then hear the story of Joseph, one of Israel’s twelve sons, the lost one who turns up in Egypt. He helps his brothers and Jacob (Israel) who are starving to death. Finally, Jacob’s asks that his bones be carried to the resting place with Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Leah. Joseph and his brothers’ families prosper in Egypt, but they swear an oath to return Joseph’s bones to the land of his fathers.

After this Sunday’s account of Jesus saying the “a prophet is without honor in his hometown,” we see him move forth to carry out his mission. We hear of the crowd’s amazement when they experience Jesus healing the sick, expelling supernatural demons, and even raising a dead child to life. He then calls disciples to his way of life and sends them on mission. He instructs them to go forth without fear, to act honorably and with integrity, and to ready themselves for the insult and persecutions they are to expect. This boldness is refreshing after reading about the rejection and the hardness of heart the people of Jesus’ own village.

Saints of the Week

Monday is the memorial of Maria Goretti, a daughter of poor Italian farmworkers who at age twelve resisted the sexual advances of an 18 year old neighbor. In his rejection and rage, he stabbed her and she died the following day. Before dying, she forgave him. He witnessed her canonization in 1950. One hundred and twenty Chinese martyrs are remembered on Thursday. Augustine Zhao Rong and his companions were persecuted in the 19th century for their evangelization and education of the people. Zhao Rong, a soldier, converted to Catholicism while escorting a French missionary bishop and he was ordained a priest, which was enough to cause the Chinese government to execute him. On Saturday, the church memorializes Benedict the Abbot, who became a monk at Subiaco and attracted new followers – enough to found twelve monasteries. When he founded the monastery at Monte Cassino, we wrote his Rule, which established western monasticism. Concern and charity are the hallmarks of his way of life.

Ignatius’ Prayer for Generosity

Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for reward save that of knowing that I do your will. Amen.

Summer Blessings and much sunshine to you! May the summer days recreate you.

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