Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Second Sunday in Lent

March 20, 2011 Genesis 12:1-4; Psalm 33; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; Matthew 17:1-9

The Transfiguration of Jesus is common to the Gospels. Matthew, speaking to his Jewish audience, sets Jesus up to be the new Moses. He makes references to two significant Jewish events. In Exodus 24, God reveals himself to Moses after six days. This brings to mind the creation narrative where God rested on the seventh day to behold his glorious creation. It also brings forth Deuteronomy 16, which is the last day of the Festival of Booths. Hence, Peter’s desire to make three booths or tents to honor Jesus. In each Transfiguration narrative, Jesus brings his friends up a mountain, which is a symbol of God’s revelation. The clouds also stand for the divine presence as a place where God is met and heard. To Matthew, Jesus is plainly the new Moses – but with even greater significance and authority.

The transfiguration account depicts Jesus as one who becomes a being of light. His nature is luminous. He is transparent to disciples’ gaze. They can see clearly who he is and he is greater than any historical figure in their sacred scripture. This is Matthew’s central point.

Jesus is seen with Moses and Elijah who are the preeminent seers of God in the Old Testament. Jesus is above and beyond the Law, the prophets, and Wisdom figures. Jesus is the one who remains as the others fade. A voice from God declares, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” From this point on, the disciples are certain of the identity of Jesus. All that he taught, and all of scripture for that matter, authenticates him. Jesus is the unique revealer of God and the kingdom. The fuller revelation no longer is present in the law and the prophets. It is found perfectly in the person of Jesus.

The proximate actions of Jesus are often overlooked. The first thing he does is qualms the disciples’ fears. God tells them to listen to Jesus, but their fear prohibits them from speaking about this event to others. They weren’t merely afraid. They were very much afraid. We don't grasp the ways this event shook the disciples. It is overwhelming for them to be in the presence of Moses, Elijah, and now the Son of God. Jesus comes to them and touches them asking them to rise up. They realize that it is God who is touching them. God is gentle with them. God comes to them concerned for their well-being. This compassionate touch allows them to overcome their fears

Have you examined your reaction to a time when God touched your life? Fear and disbelief grips us and we try to intellectualize the encounter. We don’t want to trust our feelings and we hide ourselves. Even a little bit of God is too much for some. Many of us will divert our eyes and will stop praying because of the consequences of this encounter. We deprive ourselves of the chance of having God reach out to us again to calm us and reassure us. God wants us to rise up and go forth on our new way. Abram and Sarai are examples of this in the first reading when they are called to set forth towards a new land where blessings will abound. God sets forth reminders of his presence along the way to guide them. This very same God continues to place reminders in our paths to guide us to a place of many blessings. The way of Jesus is our way. We are to walk confident in God's desires to bless us and call us specially beloved as well.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Daniel comes clean and recognizes God as Lord over all. On behalf of the people, he confesses their sins and asks for help to live by the law given to them by God. Isaiah implores the people to listen to God’s instructions, to cease doing evil, and to make justice their aim. Jeremiah writes about the wicked plot of the people of Judah to destroy him. He called upon the Lord to remember that he stood by the Lord and spoke on his behalf. Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings; blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord. The Lord alone probes the mind and heart of each. Micah appeals to God to shepherd the people in a kindly way. No one else is as benevolent and as steadfast as God.

Gospel: Jesus tells us that God is merciful and we ought to likewise be merciful. We are to model our life after God. We can’t even trust the Pharisees who have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. We are to do as they say, but not to follow their example. Jesus tells the Twelve of his impending Passion. James and John respond by asking if they can sit at his right and left while drinking the cup he drinks. Jesus then tells the story of Lazarus who gains eternal reward in contrast to the wealthy man who would not listen to the cries of poor. The wealthy man was excluded from heaven and would not heed divine wisdom even if someone was raised from the dead. While Jesus was eating with tax collectors and sinners he told them about the character of God as father who welcomes not only the dutiful son but also the wayward son back into the family. God’s generosity is immense.

Saints of the Week

Wednesday: Toribio of Mogrovejo, bishop (1538-1606) was a Spanish law professor in Salamanca who became the president of the Inquisition in Granada. He was made the Archbishop of Lima, Peru and became quickly disturbed at the treatment of the native populations by the European conquerors. He condemned abuses and founded schools to educate the natives. He opened the first seminary in Latin America.

Friday: The Annunciation of the Lord celebrates the announcement that God chose to unite divinity with humanity. God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary to inform her of God’s intentions to have her conceive the future Messiah. The boy’s name was to be Jesus – meaning “God saves.” This date falls nine months before Christmas Day.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Mar 20, 1602. The first "Disputatio de Auxiliis" was held before Clement VIII. The disputants were Fr. Gregory de Valentia SJ and Fr. Diego Alvarez OP.
• Mar 21, 1768. In Spain, at a special meeting of the Council of State in the presence of King Charles III, the Suppression of the Society was urged on the pretense that it was independent of the bishops, that it plotted against the State, and that it was lax in its teaching.
• March 22, 1585: In Rome, the three Japanese ambassadors were received by Fr. General with great solemnity in the Society's Church of the Gesu.
• March 23, 1772: At Rome, Cardinal Marefoschi held a visitation of the Irish College and accused the Jesuits of mismanagement. They were removed by him from the direction of that establishment.
• March 24, 1578: At Lisbon Rudolf Acquaviva and 13 companions embarked for India. Among the companions were Matthew Ricci and Michael Ruggieri.
• March 25, 1563: The first Sodality of Our Lady, Prima Primaria, was begun in the Roman College by a young Belgian Jesuit named John Leonius.
• March 26, 1553: Ignatius of Loyola's letter on obedience was sent to the Jesuits of Portugal.

Lenten Environment

To create a solemn atmosphere, the church environment is stripped bare of its decorative luxuries. Flowers are seldom brought into churches, except during funerals. Music is simplified. The tone for the solemn season is simplicity and sparseness. In a sense, the liturgical environment fasts in preparation for its great season of feasts.

New Book “Changed Heart, Changed World” by William Barry, S.J.

Developing a friendship with God may be the starting point for the spiritual journey, but how can that important internal relationship move us to make an impact on—and even transform—the world around us?

In Changed Heart, Changed World, renowned spiritual director William A. Barry, SJ, delves into such topics as how friendship with God impacts our role in society, how to see forgiveness as a way of life, and how compassion can make its mark on the world. Throughout the book, Fr. Barry provides many practical ways to integrate the inner life, where we experience a relationship with God, with the outer life, where we live in relationship with our world.

Above all else, Changed Heart, Changed World reminds us that God has a dream for his creation here and now—a dream that can only be realized by our becoming “other Christs in this world.”

Order at Loyola Press:

Japan’s Earthquake and Tsunami

You have seen many images and newsreels of the tragedy that struck Japan this past week. The photos and videos are haunting. I have tried this week to spend time in prayer to feel the pain and suffering of the people, and as much as I try, I can insufficiently do it. May many blessings be upon you as you reach into your pocketbooks to provide needed financial funds for their relief. The needs are enormous.