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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time 2009

September 6, 2009

Labor Day is upon us and the new academic year begins in earnest once again. The fresh faces, whether of schoolchildren or hardworking adults returning with vigor to their jobs, bring excitement and renewed energy to our lives. The fullness of summer is behind us and we have good work to do. We settle into the ordinariness of life with a keen attitude of hope in new beginnings.

We see that most clearly in Mark’s Gospel passage when Jesus heals a man with a hearing and speech impediment. We marvel at the new beginning for this man who can now take in the audible world and can speak of the goodness that he has encountered. I can only imagine the amazing stories he has to tell.

Notice that Jesus takes the impeded man away from the crowd for a brief moment together before the healing. So many voices assault our sensibilities and Jesus wants this man to hear clearly his own voice first. This is a remarkable display of compassion for it is Jesus’ voice that matters most to him. We have to likewise get to know the sound of Jesus’ voice so we can tune out those many voices that compete for our attention. By caring for this man in a most personal way, Jesus is able to pray that the man be opened (Ephphatha) to God’s power and benevolence.

We need that very openness if we are to understand the meaning of James’ letter that tells us that God has no partiality. James’ words are difficult to hear because he reminds us that our nature is to favor the wealthy and influential; it is just customary for us to do. We favor those we like or are like us and we judge those who are different from us and we seldom realize that we make natural judgments that James labels as “evil designs.” No one likes to be imputed with dark motives. When we read the Gospel in light of James’ letter, we see that we need to be opened to God’s view of the world in order to adjust our human tendencies that often hurt another or place someone on the outside of our inner circle. No, we are not evil, but we could stand to become more aware of the ways or choices affect others.

Think of the ways this week that you would like Jesus to pull you aside and give you the same cura personalis (good individual pastoral care) that he gave the man with the hearing and speech impediment. Consider the ways that Jesus would like you to be opened to God’s possibilities for you in relation to your neighbors. Let the words from Isaiah’s first reading stick in your consciousness: “Be strong. Fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.”

Quote for the Week

Since Mary is celebrated twice in the liturgical calendar this week, it seems fitting to remember one of the most famous prayers to her – her Memorare.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession, was left unaided.

Inspired with this confidence, I fly to you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to you do I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful.

O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

Paul suffers greatly for the people of Colossae so that they may be encouraged and brought to love in Christ and he exhorts them to seek those things that are from above. The test of the love of Christ that binds them together is how well they show their unity amidst their differences. As one Body in Christ, they are to practice moral perfection to show their gratitude for the magnificent gift of God to them – the faithfulness of Jesus that brought about their redemption and calls them to become a new community.

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus cures the man with the withered hand on a Sabbath day and he raises his eyes to God and declares the Beatitudes, which also contains “woes” to those who do not follow the way of righteousness. His Sermon on the Mount contains the golden rule and teachings on forgiveness. The people are to mirror the ways of Jesus whose good works testify to the power of God present within him.

Saints of the Week

Monday is Labor Day, the unofficial beginning of a new academic year and the end of summer. It is celebrated on May 1st in most of the world as International Workers’ Day. It is still a day to remember the economic and social achievements of workers and it founding date coincides with the advent of the eight-hour work day.

Tuesday is the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, as you would expect, nine months after the Immaculate Conception on December 8th. In the readings from Matthew’s genealogy, Mary’s holiness and purity is upheld as the virtues that lead to her vocation as mother of Jesus and Mother of God.

Wednesday is the memorial of Peter Claver, S.J., a Spanish-born Jesuit who volunteered for the missions in the New World where he worked among the newly arrive African slaves in Cartagena, Columbia. Because of his incredibly humane treatment of the slaves, the townspeople raised funds to give him a proper burial though most of his religious brothers shunned him because of his work with the most neglected in their society.

Saturday is the day in which Mary received her name a few days after her birth. The Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary was probably taken from the Egyptian name ‘mry,’ which means beloved.

This Week in Jesuit History

· Sep 6, 1666. The Great Fire of London broke out on this date with the Jesuits and the Papists receiving the blame. King Charles II banished all Catholic priests from England.
· Sep 7, 1773. King Louis XV wrote to Clement XIV expressing his heartfelt joy at the suppression of the Society.
· Sep 8, 1600. Fr. Matteo Ricci set out on his journey to Peking experiencing enormous difficulties in reaching the royal city, getting stopped on his way by one of the powerful mandarins.
· Sep 9, 1773. At Lisbon, Carvalho, acting in the king's name, ordered public prayers for the deliverance of the world from the "pestilence of Jesuitism."
· Sep 10, 1622. Charles Spinola and his companions were martyred at Nagasaki, Japan.
· Sep 11, 1681. At Antwerp, Fr. Geoffry Henschen, a man of extraordinary learning, died. He was Fr. Jan von Bolland's assistant in compiling the Acts of the Saints.
· Sep 12, 1744. Benedict XIV's second Bull, Omnium Sollicitudinum, forbade the Chinese Rites, ushering in a period of persecution in China.

Book Recommendations

Left to Tell: Discovering God amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza with Steve Irwin is an autobiographical story about survival during the 1994 Rwandan massacres. Immaculee tells of her struggle as a University student who watched her friends and neighbors get caught up in evil and hatred of their ethnic rivals. She is a Tutsi, whose party was the ruling elite, that was being exterminated by the Hutus, the overwhelming majority of the people. Despite the incredible thirst for blood and unbridled hatred, Immaculee trusted in God and was able to forgive those who took the lives of her countrymen, family and friends – all for a cultural distinction imposed upon them by the Belgian colonizers. This book is disturbing because we see both the human potential for good and evil.


Happy Labor Day to you all. May it be a day of rest and relaxation in honor of the good work that you do throughout the year. Also, let us remember and pray for the victims and their families of the September 11th attacks on the U.S. eight years ago. Let us pray for a lasting peace that maintains harmony and good will throughout the world.

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