Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 13, 2011

The Sermon on the Mount continues in Matthew's Gospel with some basic legal principles and a new ethic. Some of these are hard sayings to hear and seem to go against many of the principles Paul espoused in his letters a generation earlier. Scholars recognize their controversial nature and conclude no consensus can be reached on their interpretation. Matthew's audience is largely Jewish so it is understandable that he would emphasize validity and propose strict adherence to the Torah.

Matthew, alongside James, stays on the conservative side of the early debates though Matthew is open to the Gentile mission - the thorniest issue for the early church that included the question of the necessity for circumcision. Paul's side eventually won out. Matthew stays faithful to the Torah and concentrates, not on following the letter of the law, but on important values. Paul prefers an ethic of values like faith, hope, love, and walking in the Spirit. Together, the two schools of thought center on love as the abiding principle. Jesus brings a superior ethic, a more abundant righteousness, and a higher justice to his followers.

In his sayings, Jesus goes beyond the Old Testament teaching by deepening and radicalizing it. He remains faithful always to God's will. When examining the moral life, he shifts evaluation from the acts themselves to the attitudes that cause such acts. Rather than focusing on murder, he focuses upon anger as a common experience that leads to murder. Jesus is not advocating a neurotic repression of anger, but a healthy way of releasing it. Our emotions are to be acknowledged but not acted out in rage, killing, or other forms of violence.

Matthew's Jesus addresses adultery with the same methodology as he did anger. He is not condemning thinking about sexual matters. All sin is about relationships. Adultery is a wrong of injustice as well as of unchastity. Adultery is about leaving the one whose affections are alienated vulnerable in a fragile society. Jesus is saying that any action that leads to adultery can be seen as wrong.

Divorce is also a complex teaching. I wish I had more space to clarify this because it is not easily understood today. Aristotle wrote "divorce is to family life what civil war is to the state" In Israel's evolution of marriage, no contract existed at first, polygamy was common, divorce was easy and informal. The intent of Jesus was to set out a clear and high ideal of human relations, a vision of marriage as a covenant of personal love between spouses that reflects the covenant relationship of God and God's people. We are to remember that we strive for ideals, but real life is messy. Tolerance and understanding help us to form better covenantal relationships. Ideals and reality are to be merged compassionately so we can respect the good that is within each person.

Lastly, Paul's letter to the Corinthians tells us of God's wisdom to those who are mature. He speaks of God's wisdom as mysterious and hidden. Yes, to those who prefer other gods, this wisdom is elusive, but for those who love God, all will be revealed in God's generosity. God's will and wisdom is more available than many realize. We simply need to ask in confidence and gratitude. God abundantly provides.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: The first human sin was committed when the resentful Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Sin reached a new level and God metered out further punishment on the human offspring. As the spiral of sin increased, human life became shorter. God saw the extent of human wickedness and decided to wipe out all living things upon the earth by flooding it so he could start again with creation. After forty days of torrential rains, Noah, the commander of the ark, spotted a patch of dry land. Noah offered burnt offerings to God for bringing them to safety. As a covenantal sign, God set a rainbow in the sky. Yet as sin continued to increase, God saw the great city the people were building and decided to confuse their language so they could not communicate effectively - thereby thwarting their plans to build the tower of Babel. By faith we come to know that the universe was ordered by the word of God.

Gospel: Pharisees put an argument forth to Jesus to test him, but Jesus does not bite. Jesus tells the hungry crowds to be wary of the leaven of the Pharisees because they are not acting as true shepherds. When Jesus comes to Bethsaida, he partially cures a man of his blindness, but when he repeated his laying of hands upon him, the man received full sight. At Caesarea Philippi, Jesus predicts his passion for the first time and the disciples reject his nonsense. He then explains to the gathering crowd that denial of self is a condition for discipleship. He then climbed a high mountain with Peter, James, and John where he was transfigured before their sight. This semi-private manifestation led to their confused discussions over the meaning of "rising from the dead."

Saints of the Week

Monday: Cyril, monk (827-869) and Methodius, bishop (815-884) were Greek brothers who became missionaries to Ukraine and Moravia. This area was a buffer zone between the Germanic and Byzantium people. Cyril organized an alphabet so that scripture and liturgy were accessible in the Slavonic language. Methodius became bishop and settled in Moravia.

Tuesday: Claude La Colombiere (1641-1682) is known for his spiritual guidance of Margaret Mary Alacoque of Paray-le-Monial who helped re-energize the devotion to the Sacred Heart. Later in his life, he was sent to preach to the Duchess of York, but was later arrested as a conspirator to the British throne and deported.

Thursday: Seven Founders of the Orders of Servites (13th century) were seven young men from Florence, Italy who pledged their lives to Our Lady around 1225. They retreated to a deserted mountain to build a church and hermitage where they lived in extreme austerity. They became the Servants of Mary, adopted a rule, and accepted new recruits.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Feb 13, 1787. In Milan, Fr. Rudjer Boskovic, an illustrious mathematician, scientist, and astronomer, died. At Paris he was appointed "Directeur de la Marine."
• Feb 14, 1769. At Cadiz, 241 Jesuits from Chile were put on board a Swedish vessel to be deported to Italy as exiles.
• Feb 15, 1732. Fr. Chamillard SJ, who had been reported by the Jansenists as having died a Jansenist and working miracles, suddenly appeared alive and well!
• Feb 16, 1776. At Rome, the Jesuit prisoners in Castel S Angelo were restored to liberty. Fr. Romberg, the German assistant, aged 80, expressed a wish to remain in prison.
• Feb 17, 1775. The French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Neapolitan Ambassadors in Rome intimate to the newly elected Pope Pius VI the will of their respective sovereigns that the Jesuits imprisoned in Castel San Angelo should not be released.
• Feb 18, 1595. St Robert Southwell, after two and a half years imprisonment in the tower, was removed to Newgate and there thrust into a dungeon known as "Limbo."
• Feb 19, 1581. The election of Fr. Claude Acquaviva as fifth general in the Fourth General Congregation. He was only 37 years of age and a Jesuit for only l4 years. He was general under eight popes. He had been a fellow novice with St Stanislaus.

Happy Valentine's Day

Saint Valentine's Day was removed from the Roman liturgical calendar in 1969 and was replaced with Cyril and Methodius. The custom of exchanging gifts of love, though, was never removed. Valentine was a (or several) Roman martyr(s) who was remembered by Pope Gelasius around the year 500.

Chaucer in 1382 first associated the feast as a day when lovers romantically exchanged gifts. He wrote of the day as one in which every bird comes to choose his mate. Shakespeare also wrote about it in Hamlet and Donne captured the legend of the marriage of the birds as a reference to the marriage of Elizabeth to Frederick V on this date in his sonnet Epithalamion.

The first mass produced Valentine's Day card of embossed paper lace was manufactured in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1847. Valentine's Day is the second most commercialized holiday in the U.S.

No comments:

Post a Comment