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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Thirty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

November 8, 2009

Compassion and care for widows and orphans was a hallmark of Jewish society because it expressed God’s preferential love for the poor. Today we hear about two widows who faithfully gave all they had to live on even though it imperiled their very existence. They are remarkable heroes to us because they had great enough trust to be able to share with others despite risking their lives in a tenuous future. While their radical generosity does not seem to make good sense, it speaks volumes about placing one’s ultimate trust in God’s providence.

The widow of Zarephath is down to her last morsel of flour and drop of oil in a time of drought when she meets Elijah who demands that she bake him a cake before she tends to her son and herself. This was to be her last meal before death by starvation. When she does, Elijah tells her that she will have enough to eat until the long drought ends and the rains come again. In the Gospel, Jesus eyes among many well-to-do faithful Jews a poor widow who drops her last two coins into the Temple treasury. She gave all that she had to live on in her duty to the Temple and love for her faith. Jesus upholds her as a woman who is able to give her entire self to God – a prefiguring of his own self gift as he moves closer to his Passion.

Jesus does not reject or ridicule the offerings of the many generous, rich people who gave out of their surplus. I would have to imagine that he was well pleased with their beneficence. He opposes the hypocrisy of the Temple authorities. He rejects the glory of humans that is exemplified in the actions of the scribes who flaunt their wealth at the expense of widows and the indigent of society. I suspect that Jesus was remarking on the underlying goodwill of those who rightfully are to be the recipients of our generosity. This woman seems to give cheerfully, even in the presence of the scribes who will feed off of her contribution for their own selfish gains. She relies upon the hope that someone less fortunate than herself will benefit from her sacrifice. She trusts not only in God, but in the good that is found in human hearts.

Quote for the Week

In light of Veteran’s Day, I attach a portion of Isaiah’s dream for the peaceable world as he wrote about in 11:6-9.

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

This week we shift back to the Old Testament texts as we prepare for the end of the liturgical year and the last judgment of the world. Wisdom tells us that we were formed to be imperishable and that we who are just and righteous will experience God’s abiding grace. The one who learns wisdom and does not sin will find immortality with God, but death comes to the presumptuous ones. Personified Wisdom is described as one who is fair and exceedingly attractive and will come to the aid of all who call upon her. The lovers of knowledge and riches of this world have missed the mark; their success cannot compare to the rewards of the truly wise ones for it is the Wisdom of God that makes all things new.

As we near the end of Jesus’ ministry in Luke, Jesus continues to describe how we are to live in anticipation of kingdom of heaven. We are to uphold the dignity of another person, even if by worldly standards they are lesser than us, and we are to show our gratitude to those who have been good to us, like one of the ten lepers who returned to Jesus after being healed. In looking for the kingdom of heaven, we are to be attentive to the slightest movements of God by reading the signs of the times and noting God as the source of these miraculous events. We will be surprised about the ones who will make it into heaven for it will include those who lose his or her life for the sake of others. Jesus reminds us that we are to pray unceasingly just like the persistent woman who pleads her case to the unjust judge who finally gives her what she seeks. We have to sustain our prayer until the end times come so we can be sure to recognize the Lord when he comes again.

Saints of the Week

Monday is the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, the cathedral church that serves as the Pope’s local parish as the Bishop of Rome. The church symbolically stands as the head of all churches of the city and of the world. Established in 324, it was eventually named St. John Lateran church because the funds were donated by the Laterani family and the baptistery was named after St. John. The church was renovated in the 1500’s in a baroque style after it had survived barbarian attacks, earthquakes, and fire.

Leo the Great is honored on Tuesday as Pope and Doctor of the church. A peacemaker, Leo reconciled the warring Roman factions that strengthened them against the impending barbarian attacks, and he also initially persuaded Attila the Hun from plundering and pillaging Rome. Attila eventually laid siege to Rome three years later. Leo wrote many sermons and his writings on the Incarnation influenced the doctrine at the Council of Chalcedon.

Ironically, on this Veteran’s Day (Wednesday), Martin of Tours could not reconcile his Christian faith with his military service and eventually left the army. He founded the first monastery in Gaul and soon was proclaimed bishop of Tours. Because of Martin’s administrative skills, we have inherited his division of dioceses into “parishes.”

Josaphat is remembered on Thursday as a Basilian priest who tried to unite the Ukrainian Church with the Catholic Church. His enemies killed him in 1623 and he is the first Eastern saint to be canonized in the Roman Church.

On Friday, Frances Xavier Cabrini is celebrated as the first American citizen to be canonized by Rome for her founding of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. In 1889, her congregation traveled across the U.S. to serve the Italian immigrants. Her order expanded to the rest of the Americas and Italy and England.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Nov 8, 1769. In Spain, Charles III ordered all of the Society's goods to be sold and sent a peremptory demand to the newly-elected Pope Clement XIV to have the Society suppressed.
• Nov 9, 1646. In England, Fr Edmund Neville died after nine months imprisonment and ill-treatment. An heir to large estates in Westmoreland, he was educated in the English College and spent forty years working in England.
• Nov 10, 1549. At Rome, the death of Paul III, to whom the Society owes its first constitution as a religious order.
• Nov 11, 1676. In St James's Palace, London, Claude la Colombiere preached on All Saints.
• Nov 12, 1919. Fr General Ledochowski issued an instruction concerning the use of typewriters. He said that they could be allowed in offices but not in personal rooms, nor should they be carried from one house to another.
• Nov 13, 1865. The death of James Oliver Van de Velde, second bishop of the city of Chicago from 1848 to 1853.
• Nov 14, 1854. In Spain, the community left Loyola for the Balearic Isles, in conformity with a government order.

Prayer for Veteran’s Day Holiday

Let us pray for all men and women who courageously gave their lives to the cause of freedom. We also pray for those who currently serve or have served our nation in the military at home and abroad. Protect our brothers and sisters with your blessing, Lord, especially those who live in chronic suffering from the injuries they sustained. We pray for an end to all violence and conflict everywhere across the world. We pray that people of goodwill in every nation will be united to work for peace and justice. All these we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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