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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

August 30, 2009

I like good hygiene and I like to wash my hands before I eat a meal, especially in these days of dangerous viruses and bacteria like the H1N1 (swine flu) virus. It just seems to make good sense to keep oneself and one’s community healthy. Before I visited the Holy Lands, I wondered why Jesus would intentionally avoid washing his hands, but when I observed the scarcity of water and the peasant farmer existence of most of the people, I could see that Jesus was once again making a statement that not all laws can be universally applied, but must be situated within a proper cultural context. His kingdom-centered theology conflicts with the Temple-centered theology of the ruling elite.

Moses in Deuteronomy tells us that the law is given to us for our benefit and our respect for the law will help us grow in wisdom and righteousness, which will in turn be a reflector of our response to God’s grace for all the nations to see. James tells us that the ways we care for our vulnerable neighbors will prove our trust in the saving word that we hear from God. As St. Ignatius writes in his pre-notes to the “Contemplation to Attain Love”: (1) love is expressed in deeds rather than in words, and (2) love consists of mutually sharing what one receives with the other.

Jesus illustrates to the Pharisees and scribes that our observance of the law can become rote or an empty manifestation of a religious practice that once had symbolic meaning; at times the law or a teaching can become our object of worship. He shows them that religious practices are to help us move towards a deeper affectivity toward God and our vulnerable neighbors. It is good for us to examine our motivations and the ways in which our hearts can move away from a loving intention and to get ourselves back on track if we have strayed. The law can never determine the depth of one’s religiosity; this can only be done through concrete acts that are inspired by God’s love for us.

The question posed by Jesus is still a good one for us to ask ourselves: what is my motivation for observing a particular law or teaching? Do I follow the law because I am guided by God’s love? Does my cherishing of the law help my neighbor’s suffering to be eased a little bit? How do I feel when I fulfill the spirit, not just the letter, of the law? These are healthy questions upon which to reflect this week. And oh, yes. By all means, before you eat a meal, wash your hands!

Quote for the Week

Brothers and sisters: Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him.

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the Body, the Church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be pre-eminent.

For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the Blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.

The Colossians Hymn

Themes for this Week’s Masses

Paul comforts the Thessalonians to reassure them that even though they may die, they will enjoy the rewards of God’s merciful judgment. Christians live in a new light that allows them to see the world through a different lens – more closely in the manner by which God sees us. Paul emphasizes this in Colossians as he encourages them to persevere in the life to which they have been called. The famous hymn in Colossians, outlining Christ’s role as creator and redeemer, reassures people to trust in God.

We leave Matthew’s Gospel this week and turn to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Luke where Jesus enters the Synagogue, preaches, and declares that the word of the Lord is fulfilled in the people’s hearing of Scripture. Both great wonder and fierce anger beset his entry into his world of ministry. He immediately begins to heal and show his power over the supernatural world; he calls disciples to be with him; he creates a new type of community and begins to explain what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.

Saints of the Week

We have few saints to celebrate this week so might as well sing on Thursday in honor of Gregory the Great for whom the famous type of chant is named. Gregory was a wealthy Roman who served as the Chief Magistrate, but resigned to become a monk. He is also a doctor of the church because of his many writings on the pastoral care of the faithful ones by the bishops and priests; he wrote many scriptural commentaries and emphasized great reverence in the liturgy.

This Week in Jesuit History

· Aug. 30, 1556. On the banks of the St. Lawrence River, Fr. Leonard Garreau, a young missionary, was mortally wounded by the Iroquois.
· Aug. 31, 1581. In St. John's Chapel within the Tower of London, a religious discussion took place between St. Edmund Campion, suffering from recent torture, and some Protestant ministers.
· Sep 1, 1907. The Buffalo Mission was dissolved and its members were sent to the New York and Missouri Provinces and the California Mission.
· Sep 2, 1792. In Paris, ten ex-Jesuits were massacred for refusing to take the Constitutional oath. Also in Paris seven other fathers were put to death by the Republicans, among them Frs. Peter and Robert Guerin du Rocher.
· Sep 3, 1566. Queen Elizabeth visited Oxford and heard the 26-year-old Edmund Campion speak. He was to meet her again as a prisoner, brought to hear her offer of honors or death.
· Sep 4, 1760. At Para, Brazil, 150 men of the Society were shipped as prisoners, reaching Lisbon on December 2. They were at once exiled to Italy and landed at Civita Vecchia on January 17, 1761.
· Sep 5, 1758. The French Parliament issued a decree condemning Fr. Busembaum's Medulla Theologiae Moralis.

Book Recommendations

Blood Brothers in its sixth printing by Elias Chacour, a Palestinian Christian priest/Archimandrate of the Melkite church, writes of the gripping events of the establishment of the Israeli nation on Palestinian land. The story tells of the genesis of his vocation as a priest who is called to reconcile the differences between Christians, Jews, Druzes, and Muslims right in the heart of the Holy Land. The tone of his writing style reflects his utmost trust in the words of Jesus in the Beatitudes for he refuses to behold the hatred that resides in the human heart. He will go beyond and look for the core of humanity to desires peace and goodwill with one’s neighbors. The serenity and calm writing style reflects the peaceful actions of the man who places his trust in God. I encourage you to read this book and to notice the manner in which Chacour chooses to live out his faith in the midst of conflict.

As a companion piece, I strongly recommend The Israel Lobby, now in paperback by Stephen Walt (Harvard University) and John Mearsheimer (University of Chicago.) In the first part of the book, the two political scientists outline the possible justifications for the exceedingly generous U.S. policies towards Israel today and they systematically debunk any moral or strategic explanation for our continued policies. The second half deals with the unsurpassed power of the lobby to unduly influence domestic and foreign affairs, including their unsurpassed power over the U.S. Congress. When one recognizes the efforts of the lobby, one can begin to understand the U.S. inability to: pressure Israel to pull out of Palestinian lands or to reduce exorbitant financial subsidies; to deal with Syria and Iran in respectful manners, to speak against Israel’s bombing of Lebanon in 2006, or to more reasonably enter into the conflict of the unjustifiable Iraq war. The strong academic credentials of the authors and their careful reasoning make their claims convincing and raises many questions that have long been unanswered satisfactorily. This book does not bash the Jewish people or their faith or negate their need for safety in their nation; it does question U.S. decision making in face of all the complexities of our contemporary world.

In Heroic Living by Chris Lowney, the author of Heroic Leadership sets out to integrate religious tradition with strategic management on order to help a person discover his or her deeper purpose in life. By using personal stories and tales from a religious perspective shaped by the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, Lowney outlines the ways in which one can turn around one’s life and orient it towards a successful business strategy in order to attain the integrity, satisfaction and wholeness.


May Almighty God bless Senator Edward Kennedy and receive him into eternal life. We pray for the Kennedy family, the people of Massachusetts, and all who mourn the loss of a friend and patriot.

Prayer Line

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