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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

July 19, 2009

We all want leaders who will care for us and use their authority justly, but regrettably most of us have too many unresolved authority issues that prevent us from trusting even those worthy leaders of our day. The result of our lack of trust is that we do not live as fully and as completely as we would like. Some of us withdraw; some become cynical; still others will be outwardly confrontational. None of these paths are fulfilling ways to holiness or wholeness.

Jeremiah, the God-seduced prophet, rightly names the leaders of his day as false shepherds who have scattered the flock and driven the people away from what is most important – unity. However, he announces that the Lord will gather the remnant of the flock and they shall inherit the new type of shepherd, who will govern with justice, tenderness, and wisdom. This will be a leader who tenderly demonstrates that he will care for the needs of the people and will be abundantly kind and good to them.

Mark’s Gospel completes this image of shepherd-leader by telling us about the actions of Jesus. He is the one who delights in the good works the disciples have accomplished as they return from their mission to teach and drive out demons. He wants to spend time with them so he calls them to a deserted place to rest for a while. This is a terrific model because we all need more rest and affirmation and we do not know how to get it. However, goodness and happiness attracts and many people come seeking the good that Jesus and his disciples bring to others. They crave more and more.

Remarkably, Jesus does not turn the people away, but has compassion on them because he realizes that they are seeking this coveted happiness that only comes from being in his presence. His heart is moved by their searching and he does not disappoint. When people seek that which will fulfill them, they will find Jesus, and he brings about a reconciling peace that strives for unity among God, self, and neighbor. Jesus is the one who bridges our world to God’s – thus assuring us that our greatest needs will be met.

Assess this week, if you will, your own history of using authority justly or of being a recipient of a prudentially-exercised justice. Notice the good that these actions generate and that trust that is gained. Also, review the areas of your life that need some sort of reconciliation. If you are able, since it is summer, take some time out of your routine so that you may find a deserted place where you can rest for awhile. Rest in our society is underrated. Invite God into that rest. Do no work. Just spend time with your God.

Quote for the Week

“Prayer is the raising of the mind to God. We must always remember this. The actual words matter less.” – Blessed John XXIII

Themes for this Week’s Masses

As we continue in the Book of Exodus, we experience the generous compassion of the Lord God to his people that Moses is leading out of Egypt. Once Pharaoh realizes what he has agreed to do, he relents and sends his army against the defenseless Hebrews, but the Lord God protects them as Moses and Aaron lead them through the sea. The pursuing Egyptian army is extinguished by the walls of water that engulf them. A month after reaching safety, the Hebrews grumble and doubt God, but Moses intercedes for their nourishment and God provides them with quail at night and manna, bread from heaven, at morning. The Lord provides for their need. Two months later, Moses assembles the community at the foot of Mount Sinai. While Moses intercedes, God speaks and calls Moses up the mountain to give him the law, the commandments, that are a sign of God’s covenant.

Jesus moves further along in his mission in Matthew’s Gospel and we are able to notice the conflict that he generates. The scribes and the Pharisees who are closely related to Jesus’ theological positions are stung by Jesus’ reply to them when they asked for a sign. Biblical Jews were always looking for a Theophany – a sign that an event comes directly from God. Even Jesus’ mother and brothers are rebuffed by him as he redefines who can belong to the new family that he is establishing in God’s kingdom. He then tells his disciples that they must have discerning ears attuned to hearing the true meaning of his teachings and parables, using the example of the sower as a metaphor for the proper type of discipleship. Certainly, the path of discipleship will be a difficult one as he explained to his disciples in last week’s readings.

Saints of the Week

On Monday, Apollinaris, one of our Church’s first bishops and one directly chosen by Peter, is honored for his evangelical work until his martyrdom in the first century.

On Tuesday, the Franciscan Capuchin Lawrence of Brindisi is honored as a Doctor of the Church as he worked for the conversion of the Jews and to stop the spread of Protestantism in Europe. He served as a diplomat and missionary because of his brilliance with Scripture and his fluency in several languages.

Mary Magdalene is revered on Wednesday as the “apostle to the apostles.” The poor woman is presented through distorted lenses because our tradition conflates various stories into one portrait of her. She is attributed to be an unclean woman in several Scripture passages, but there is no direct mention of her. Mary, with some other women, is known to have traveled with Jesus and his apostles during his ministry. She faithfully stood near Jesus as he died on the cross while the other disciples fled. Her fidelity brought her to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body on Easter morning and was the first witness to the Resurrection.

Thursday is the patronal feast of the people of Sweden who remember Bridget of Sweden. She is also co-patroness of Europe along with Catherine of Siena and Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein.) After bearing eight children to a husband who died in 1344, Bridget began a religious order for men and women that emphasized prayer and penitence.

Friday is the memorial of Sharbel Makhluf of Lebanon. He joined a monastery in the Catholic Maronite rite for fifteen years before he became an ascetical desert hermit in 1875. He is known for his holiness, wisdom and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

On Saturday, we celebrate the feast of James, the Greater, one of the “Sons of Thunder”, the brother of John of Zebedee. As a fisherman, James left with his brother to follow Jesus and he was among the inner circle of Jesus. Many scriptural texts will cite him as present for such events liked the transfiguration, the raising of Jairus’ daughter, and accompanying Jesus at the garden of Gethsemane. The church in Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain is venerated in his honor – the second most visited pilgrimage site in Catholic history. James is depicted as a pilgrim. He is also one of the leading figures of the early Church in Jerusalem.

Baghdad Reunion

Alumni from Baghdad College (High School) and Al-Hikma University in Baghdad gathered for a reunion in Detroit this weekend. The New England Province operated those schools until 1968 and 1969 until the Ba’athist Party rose to power and nationalized all Iraqi schools. Alumni have faithfully gathered every two to three years to connect with old friends and to honor the work the Jesuits have done for them.

Pope Benedict’s New Encyclical

The Holy Father has issued a new encyclical called Caritas in veritate (Charity in Truth) to address the global economic systems that need to be shaped by Gospel values of ethics that are people-centered, not profit-driven. He states that every economic decision is a moral one; thus justice must be applied to every phase of economic activity. The dense encyclical will take some effort to digest, but the radical rethinking of today’s economic models will provide for a greater respect and dignity of every human person. This papal statement is revolutionary and is more liberal than most Americans would like to hear.

1 comment:

  1. Hi. My name is RAnn and I'm the hostess for Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. We are a group of Catholic bloggers who share our best posts with each other weekly. I'd like to invite you to join us. You can see this week's post and links at http://rannthisthat.blogspot.com/2009/07/sunday-snippets-catholic-carnival_18.html