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Saturday, May 15, 2010

(Ascension) Seventh Sunday of Easter

May 16, 2010

I love Luke’s question, “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?” It is reminiscent of his question during that Easter dawn when two men in white ask, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” These questions are placed there to help us transform our thinking. So what if we lived as if we were a transformed people? In the intermittent time between these two questions, we see the apostles acting with confidence and absolute trust that they are assured entrance into salvation. The disciples get a second chance to say their goodbyes to Jesus, but this time, instead of cowering in fear, they return to their lives with great joy continually praising God.

Where is our joy? It makes me wonder whether our worship patterns help us to glorify God for all he has done for us. Our church is the very instrument that is designed to mediate this joy from God to us. The very same Jesus who rose from the dead and appeared to the apostles is the same Lord who is active in our lives. The Spirit that he promised and we received in our confirmation is the Spirit who brings us wisdom and revelation. The Spirit continues the ministry of Jesus by teaching us about God through the rich meaning of Scripture and consoling us in our times of need. The Ascension makes it possible for Jesus to be invisibly present to us so we can be brought closer into the heart of God. This is a tremendous reason to praise God and live in glory. The promise of salvation is ours; it is the measure by which all other events are measured.

Perhaps this Ascension and Pentecost, we can fully receive the Spirit that is promised to us. Jesus has greater power than any other power in the universe and he gives us a share of this power through the Spirit. Consider the ways our church and world could be transformed if we really truly accepted the authority Christ gave to us. It is not only given to our religious leaders but to each and every believer. Vatican II says that we are to exercise our authority as priest, prophet, and king in imitation of Christ. Our church is confusion because of the conflict it faces with culture and we need our faithful ones to actively learn about our tradition, study theology, reflect upon moral issues so we can form our conscience and seek what we need. Let’s boldly consider the ways we can possibly use our God-given authority. It is good to remember that Jesus is not up in the sky, but imminently present around us and within our culture. Let’s find a way of praying and of becoming more keenly aware so we can discern the power we have inherited. Imagine how Christ can transform our lives if we pray that we can receive the power he offers us. That can bring us great joy.

Quote for the Week

From The Acts of the Apostles for the Ascension of the Lord:

When they gathered together they asked Jesus, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Judaizers, the opponents of Paul’s theology, present great trouble for him and the new church, but it caused the community to come together to report what God has done with them and to show how God opened the door to the Gentiles. The church members head to Jerusalem to speak with the disciples and elders about the necessity of circumcision as a requirement for entrance to the faith, but the disciples decide no further burdens are to be placed on them. They are to be welcomed into the community as they respectfully observe the essential aspects of the worship life.

Gospel: John’s Supper Discourse continues as the Twelve wonder where Jesus is going after his death. Jesus wishes them the type of lasting peace that is rare in this world so that they can continue to be with him in faith. He describes the way that they will remain together as he is the true vine and they are the branches. Discipleship, for John’s Jesus, is to believe in him and by doing so to keep his commandments - the greatest one being love of each other in the way the Father loves Jesus. Beware, though, that many people will persecute them because of the name of Jesus. Hold steadfast as God is steadfast.

Saints of the Week

Tuesday: John I, pope and martyr, was caught in a political feud between Emperor Justin I in Constantinople who was persecuting the Arians and Theodoric the Goth, an Arian, who ruled Italy. John was sent by Theodoric to Justine to end the persecution. John negotiated the end of the persecution and Justin accepted all of Theodoric’s demands, but Theodoric was dissatisfied. He imprisoned John and starved him to death in prison.

Thursday: Bernardine of Siena, priest, became an orphan at age 7 but was taken in by his noble relatives. During an outbreak of the plague in 1400, he inspired many men to risk their lives in service to others. He entered the Franciscans two years later and was ordained a priest. His preaching attracted the attention of many in northern and central Italy. Having refused to become a bishop, he became vicar general of the Franciscans where he brought about several reforms.

Friday: Christopher Magallanes, priest and companion, martyrs, worked with the indigenous people of Mexico as a priest to found schools and centers for catechism. He also began farming cooperatives and tried to form seminaries during an administration that was anti-Catholic. In 1927 because of his seditious activities of promoting rebellion, he was executed with 21 diocesan priests and 3 laymen.

Saturday: Rita of Cascia, religious was married to an angry man who treated her cruelly. Her twin sons wanted revenge on the person who murdered their father, but they died before they could carry out their plan. This gave Rita, who was from Umbria, the opportunity to enter a convent. Denied three times because she was no longer a virgin and had married in life, the Augustinians accepted her where she prayed for the church and the poor.

This Week in Jesuit History

• May 16, 1988. In Paraguay, Pope John Paul II canonizes Roque Gonzalez, Alfonso Rodriguez, and Juan del Castillo.
• May 17, 1572. Pope Gregory XIII exempted the Society from choir and approved simple vows after two years of novitiate and ordination before solemn profession. In these matters he reversed a decree of St Pius V.
• May 18, 1769. The election of Cardinal Lorenzo Ganganelli as Pope Clement XIV. He was the pope who suppressed the Society.
• May 19, 1652. Birth of Paul Hoste mathematician and expert on construction of ships and history of naval warfare.
• May 20, 1521. Ignatius was seriously wounded at Pamplona, Spain, while defending its fortress against the French.
• May 21, 1925. Pius XI canonizes Peter Canisius, with Teresa of the Child Jesus, Mary Madeleine Postal, Madeleine Sophie Barat, John Vianney, and John Eudes. Canisius is declared a Doctor of the Church.
• May 22, 1965. Pedro Arrupe was elected the 28th general of the Society of Jesus.

Plans for the Week

Thanks for your prayers for the retreatants at Xavier Catholic School in Hervey Bay. I am now visiting the Jesuit community in Brisbane before I return to Sydney to resume our month-long period of study of the Constitutions and our history.

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