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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 27, 2010

Paul frames our state of life in some amazing words: For freedom, Christ set us free. Too often the lectors at Mass speak too rapidly and we do not get to digest the import of the words we have just heard. Did we hear what was just spoken? Christ has freed us. Our questions become: from what and for what? For Paul, we are set free from the slavery brought on by sin and death and is most in evidence by own desires of the baser earthly life rather than the life of the spirit. When Paul writes about the life of the flesh, he is not writing only about sexual acts committed outside of one’s primary relationship, but about those behaviors that bring down another person, like gossip, lies, slander, or anything that causes division among peoples. Paul says that we are free, but we have to use our freedom responsibly, that is, through serving one another through love and loving your neighbor as yourself. The whole law for Paul is summed up in this statement.

Jesus catches on fire with his mission as his determination to enter Jerusalem builds even as opposition to him increases and hospitality is denied him. He is focused when he encounters three potential disciples who ask to join him and he outlines stringent consequences of joining him on mission. His first response stresses mobility and itinerancy (having no place to call home), the second is to be urgently immediate in moving forward to care for more people than only one’s family (and letting the dead bury the dead), and the third, unlike the prophet Elisha who receives his mission in the first reading, is told to resolutely look forward (not even to say goodbye to one’s parent) in order to insistently proclaim the imminent arrival of the kingdom of God. For Jesus, discipleship means an abrupt and complete halt from one’s earlier life so that he or she can give it entirely to the service of the kingdom. Discipleship is difficult and one has to be resolutely available for the inherent unexpected demands. The change one will experience will be irrevocable.

While many preachers reflect upon vocational stories from these passages, I think of it as our personal degree of receiving Christ into our midst. To what degree are we hospitable to Christ? The Samaritans, who were ancient enemies of the Jews because of competing scriptural interpretations including the proper location where God is to be worshipped, adamantly refused hospitality to Jesus. Two of the potential disciples who approach Jesus are given exacting consequences of following him. Jesus practices truth-in-advertising. His responses ask them to consider whether they can do it. Jesus asks the other to follow him, tells him to forget the past, and to go on mission. We have no idea if any of these people accepted the invitation. Discipleship, whether it is a religious vocation or one manifested in other ways, demands that we fully receive Christ’s mission into our lives as our own and that we are essentially changed by the degree of our response to him. He is asking us, “how much does the fulfillment of God’s vision to mean to you” and “how much do I mean to you?” I wish I knew the answer the three potential disciples eventually gave. I wish I knew your answer.

Quote for the Week

Vatican archaeologists announced an image of Paul was found as part of a square ceiling painting that included icons of three apostles – Peter, John and Andrew – surrounding an image of Christ as the Good Shepherd. "They are the first icons. These are absolutely the first representations of the apostles," said Fabrizio Bisconti, archaeology superintendent for the catacombs.

Inside the intimate burial chamber, its walls and ceilings are covered with paintings of scenes from the Old Testament, including Daniel in the lion's den and Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac. The gem is on the ceiling, where the four apostles are painted inside gold-rimmed circles against a red-ochre backdrop.

The images in the catacomb – with their faces in isolation, encircled with gold and affixed to the four corners of the ceiling painting – are devotional in nature and are the first known icons. They are the most antique testimonies we have. The images of Andrew and John show much younger faces than are normally depicted.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In the book of Amos, the Lord God declares that he will keep his word and will not be like the unfaithful Israel who cares not for God or each other. The Lord wants the people to seek the good and hate evil. This will bring about life. Amos explains the origins of his vocation as prophet saying that the Lord told him to prophesy to Israel that its wife shall be like a harlot and its sons and daughters shall fall by the sword. A great exile will occur. The Lord will scatter the people and will cause a famine of food, but mostly because the people will crave to hear the word of the Lord.

Gospel: Jesus tells potential disciples that the Son of Man has no place to lay his head and a disciple’s home is wherever Jesus leads them. His mission brings him to the area of the Gadarenes where he exorcises two demoniacs and causes great havoc in the town. Jesus crosses the sea by boat to his home town where he cures a paralytic and causes more havoc by forgiving his sins. He creates more distress by summoning Matthew, a dreaded tax collector, to follow him. He spends time with sinners and betraying tax collectors.

Saints of the Week

Monday: Irenaeus, bishop and martyr, was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John the Evangelist. Irenaeus was first a missionary to Lyons, but on a mission to Rome, the church back in Lyons was facing severe persecution. Upon his return he was made bishop. He is known for combating heresies in the early church and for declaring that creation is good, but made sinful by fallen human nature.

Tuesday: Peter and Paul, apostles, are two of the great apostles upon whom the church was built. Both were martyred in Rome. Peter is regarded as the chief of the Apostles and Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles. These two men are celebrated for their significant contributions of dealing with internal and external church conflict.

Wednesday: The First Martyrs of the Roman Church are honored today because they were the first to be killed during Nero’s persecution after the great fire that burned down the city. Christians were made the scapegoats so they could be mocked and brutalized. A monument in Vatican City honors their lives.

Thursday: Junipero Serra, priest, was a Franciscan missionary who founded missions in Baja and traveled north to California starting in 1768. The Franciscans established the missions during the suppression of the Jesuits. San Diego, San Francisco, and Santa Clara are among the most famous. Serra’s statue is in the U.S. Capitol to represent California.

Saturday: Thomas, apostle, is thought to have been an apostle to India and Pakistan and he is best remembered as the one who “doubted” the resurrection of Jesus. The Gospels, however, testify to his faithfulness to Jesus during his ministry. The name, Thomas, stands for “twin,” but no mention is made of his twin’s identity.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Jun 27, 1978. Bernard Lisson, a mechanic, and Gregor Richert, a parish priest, were shot to death at St Rupert's Mission, Sinoia, Zimbabwe.
• Jun 28, 1591. Fr. Leonard Lessius's teaching on grace and predestination caused a great deal of excitement and agitation against the Society in Louvain and Douai. The Papal Nuncio and Pope Gregory XIV both declared that his teaching was perfectly orthodox.
• Jun 29, 1880. In France the law of spoliation, which was passed at the end of March, came into effect and all the Jesuit Houses and Colleges were suppressed.
• Jun 30, 1829. The opening of the Twenty-first General Congregation of the order, which elected Fr. John Roothan as General.
• Jul 1, 1556. The beginning of St Ignatius's last illness. He saw his three great desires fulfilled: confirmation of the Institute, papal approval of the Spiritual Exercises, and acceptance of the Constitutions by the whole Society.
• Jul 2, 1928. The Missouri Province was divided into the Missouri Province and the Chicago Province. In 1955 there would be a further subdivision: Missouri divided into Missouri and Wisconsin; Chicago divided into Chicago and Detroit.
• Jul 3, 1580. Queen Elizabeth I issued a statute forbidding all Jesuits to enter England.

World Cup

The World Cup is certainly a world event that has gripped the attention of all sports enthusiasts, even in the United States. Much drama has unfolded and many stories of honor and respect have been witnessed. While I’m half-Italian, I’m sorry to see Italy drop out of the competition, but I’m thrilled that my host country, New Zealand, has remained undefeated (though they did not advance.) All eyes remain fixed on the generous hospitality of the host nation of South Africa, as it represents the continent of Africa. May tons of goodwill be generated by the good sportsmanship and high levels of competition involved in these games.

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