Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 27, 2011
Isaiah 49:14-15; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34

It is difficult to trust in God. If God felt more real and more accessible to us, more would trust with greater ease. Psalm 62 is the great song of trust in God in whom our souls can find rest. Matthew's Gospel reminds us that we need to make a basic decision to love God above all things and all other things insofar as they fit into that basic love. We are to steer clear of idol worship because an idol is anything or anyone who stands between us and God.

Matthew takes some time to help us focus on how to consider our earthly anxieties and God's care for us. We typically think of our basic human needs as eating, drinking, clothing and shelter, and most of us have tended to those conditions satisfactorily. Many, however, still live on a delicate plane of existence when missing a paycheck means falling into dire levels of poverty. Life on the edge is uncomfortable and anxiety producing.

Each of us, regardless of wealth and perceived security, has the same basic needs. We want interpersonal connection with others (belonging, appreciation, companionship, intimacy, mutuality, respect, trust, and to be understood.) We want physical well-being like exercise, good food, rest/sleep, sexual expression, shelter, and touch. Honesty, play, peace, and a healthy level of autonomy (choice, freedom) are necessities for a joyful life. We search for meaning where we seek to know if we matter to others. This is expressed through our creativity, generativity, purpose, growth, and the ways we celebrate life.

Jesus is telling us that we are not to be absorbed by or preoccupied with these matters because God will provide for even our most basic needs. God's parental care gives us hope in God's providence. Our faith is rooted in our special relationship with God as we are children of the kingdom of heaven. Our ethical behavior consists in learning the way and the manner in which God loves and preserves creation.

The crucial part of the teaching of Jesus in this passage is that we are to seek first the kingdom of God and along with it, God's justice. This is the most important activity of our lives. It causes us to be concerned, not for our own welfare, but for others who are at the fragile margins of society. We cannot have the kingdom of heaven without justice because this is not only God's justice, but also a justice that we are able to produce on earth ourselves.

Seeking the kingdom of heaven helps us to put our actions into perspective. We see that God cares less about our accomplishments than for our development of ethical relationships with others. It becomes much less about what we can do or who we can become, but about who we presently are and the way we have chosen to live in God's world. We become preoccupied with matters that are out of our control and we dupe ourselves to think we can provide for our needs. Relax. Enjoy life with its vulnerabilities and fragility. We lack control over the main parts of life. God will care for us in a greater way than a mother cares for her infant. God pledges never to forget us. We might as well let go of our worry and give ourselves to a great trust in God, who alone can give our souls rest and who alone can provide for our deep happiness.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: The Book of Sirach beckons penitents to return to God. The dead cannot praise God; this is the appointed time to renew your relationship with God. The one who is just will reap the blessings of the Lord. The just one keeps the law, does works of charity, refrains from evil, and makes appropriate sacrifices. The God of the universe is the only true God and we beckon the Lord to gather us and protect us. As we recall God's works, we see glory shining through all his works. The memory of godly people will live on while the others in the world will merely cease to exist in memory. God's glory, radiating in the virtuous, will never be blotted out. We therefore give thanks to the Lord and we seek God's wisdom. Wisdom will be our teacher.

Gospel: As Jesus sets out, a wealthy man approached him with the question, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" After Jesus answered, the man walked away sad because he could not sell his possessions. The perplexed disciples ask, "what about us?" and Jesus replies, "those who have given up everything will receive one hundred times more than what was given away. As the Twelve with Jesus traveled to Jerusalem, John and James asked for the authority to sit at the right hand of God in heaven. The same chalice from which Jesus drinks will be the same one from which the disciples drink. On their way, they meet the blind Bartimaeus who wants his sight restored. He becomes the example of the faithful one who follows Jesus along the way. Jesus went to the Temple area, cursed a fig tree, and overturned the money changers and vendors. Jesus returns once more to the Temple and the authorities ask him about the origin and nature of their power. He does not answer them.

Saints of the Week

Thursday: Katherine Drexel (1858-1955) was a daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia banker. When her parents died and they left a substantial fortune to her, Katherine joined the Sisters of Mercy. She established schools and missions in the South and on Native America reservations.

Friday: Casimir (1458-1484) refused to fight against soldiers from other Christians nations. He was the son of the King of Poland. He also refused to marry Emperor Frederick III's daughter because he chose a life of celibacy and asceticism. He did bring about governmental reforms that cared more directly for the poor.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Feb 27, 1767. Charles III banished the Society from Spain and seized its property.
• Feb 28, 1957. The Jesuit Volunteer Corps began.
• Mar 1, 1549. At Gandia, the opening of a college of the Society founded by St Francis Borgia.
• Mar 2, 1606. The martyrdom in the Tower of London of St Nicholas Owen, a brother nicknamed "Little John." For 26 years he constructed hiding places for priests in homes throughout England. Despite severe torture he never revealed the location of these safe places.
• Mar 3, 1595. Clement VIII raised Fr. Robert Bellarmine to the Cardinalate, saying that the Church had not his equal in learning.
• Mar 4, 1873. At Rome, the government officials presented themselves at the Professed House of the Gesu for the purpose of appropriating the greater part of the building.
• Mar 5, 1887. At Rome, the obsequies of Fr. Beckx who died on the previous day. He was 91 years of age and had governed the Society as General for 34 years. He is buried at San Lorenzo in Campo Verano.

February's Fewer Days

It seems to us today that it would be easy to shift some of the seven months with 31 days in it to February in order to round it out. Original Roman calendars did not even have January and February in them.

Attempts were made to reconcile the moon's 29 1/2 day moth with the sun's 365 1/4 day year. Julius Caesar finally ignored the lunar calendar and got rid of the extra month called Mercedinus that balanced off the days. February wound up with 29 days plus an extra day every fourth year.

We use the Julian calendar today. However the Emperor Augustus shifted February 29 to August, the month named after him. It balanced it with July, named after Julius.

One recent proposal seeks to make every month have 28 days but to add another month. This would bring the fixed calendar to 364 days, requiring one extra day per year, two during leap years. However, as those before us have recognized, changing a calendar is not easy.

New Zealand Relief

Christchurch in New Zealand has suffered another terrible earthquake, the second in the past six months. Loss of life and property has been devastating. If you can provide some funds for relief, I provide the following contact information below:

Phone 0800 22 10 22 to make credit card donations or

Donate online using a credit card at www.caritas.org.nz or

Post to Caritas, PO Box 12193, Thorndon, Wellington 6144, New Zealand.

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is a member of Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 165 Catholic aid, development and social justice agencies active in over 200 countries and territories.

Prayers for the Middle East

The events in northern Africa and the Middle East are certainly filled with tension and hope. We watch expectantly hoping that only the best comes from the demonstrations of people who seek freedom to govern their lives within the best possible civic and religious freedom. It is best not to impose our Western expectations upon them, but to encourage them to find a solution that works well for them and contributes to the build-up of social justice and general welfare of the people. Let's honor and respect their struggle and encourage them in their efforts to create a better common good.