Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fifth Sunday in Easter

May 22, 2011
Acts 6:1-7; Psalm 33; 1 Peter 2:4-9; John 14:1-12

We hear the familiar passage that is often proclaimed at funeral liturgies, "In my Father's house there are many dwelling places." It consoles the many who realize that God has a place for everyone in heaven even if the deceased was difficult, peculiar, a partial believer, or did not reconcile major relationships. We worry that someone might not make it to heaven or that he or she did not merit heaven. It causes us to consider the paths we choose and to make adjustments so Christ can welcome us into his Father's house. We want there to be a room set aside for us because we know of our imperfections. These words are comforting because of the deep sadness we feel from our losses.
Jesus consoles his believers saying, "Do not let your hearts be troubled" as they are grieving that their beloved teacher is going to his death. He makes the point once again that he and the Father are one. This is the purpose for the question of Thomas, "How can we know the way?" If we trust in Jesus, we will know him when he returns in his risen state. He is going to the Father's house to make a place ready for them, and he will return. Why? Because he cares for them as much as the Father cares for them and they both want to be with those in the world they have called. Jesus will remember them and come back to collect them. While the content of the words are reassuring, the tone of the message provides the real comfort. The heart of Jesus breaks because he will be separated from his friends.

We know our faith is alive if we are concerned for the well-being of neighbors. Our faith that does justice out of mercy is what distinguishes us from unbelievers and pagans. We get an example of the way the early church began to exercise their maturing faith when they called forth deacons to take care of their neglected widows. Service of neighbor was inextricably tied to digesting the word of God. It was not a decision made out of logic and reasoning, but out of compassionate concern for the more vulnerable community members. Because of the community's exceeding goodness, the faith spread and the number of disciples greatly increased. Everyone wants to be treated with respect and dignity.
We serve our church and world well if we step outside ourselves and concern ourselves more with neighbors than for ourselves. This does not mean to neglect or efface oneself because prudential self-care is a primary Christian virtue. It does mean that regardless of our resources we always can be extraordinarily, but appropriately compassionate in word and deed to others. We can become vulnerable to others' needs and they to ours. Together, we build a church based on our love of Christ who desires us longingly. With his merciful care for us, we can be mercifully caring to others and we can accept that we are, as Peter says in the second reading, ""a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that we may announce the praises" of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light.""

Themes for this Week’s Masses
First Reading: As Gentiles and Jews in Iconium were about to attack Paul and Barnabas, they fled to Lystra where Paul healed a lame man. The crowds began to put their faith in Paul and Barnabas as gods, but the men protested and told the story of the Christ event. Opposition to Paul arose shortly afterwards and he was stoned. They left for Derbe and strengthened the disciples in those cities and encouraged them during times of hardship. Some of Paul's Jewish opposition raised the question of circumcision and adherence to the Mosaic laws. Along the way to Jerusalem to seek the advice of the Apostles, they told everyone of the conversion of Gentiles. After much debate, Peter and James decided that no further restrictions are to be made of the Gentiles. The Apostles and presbyters were chosen to give news to Paul and Barnabas that the Gentiles were indeed welcomed into the faith with no extra hardships placed on them. The people were delighted with the news. Paul heard of a man named Timothy who was well-regarded by the believers.  Paul had him circumcised and they travelled to Macedonia to proclaim the good news.

Gospel: In The Farewell Discourse, Jesus reassures his disciples that he will remain with them if they keep his loving commandments. To punctuate his message, he tells them he will send an advocate to teach and remind them of all he told them. He leaves them his lasting peace that will help them endure many difficult times. This peace will allow us to remain close to him - we will be organically part of him as we are the branches and he is the vine. Remaining close to him will allow us to share complete joy with one another. Jesus once again proves his love to them by saying the true friend, that is, the Good Shepherd, will lay down his love for one's friends. However, even with the love of Jesus, we will experience hatred in this world, but as friends of Jesus and as God's elect, their harm can never really wound our souls.
Saints of the Week

Tuesday: Our Lady of the Way or in Italian, Madonna della Strada, is a painting enshrined at the Church of the Gesu in Rome, the mother church of the Society of Jesus. The Madonna Della Strada is the patroness of the Society of Jesus. In 1568, Cardinal Farnese erected the Gesu in place of the former church of Santa Maria della Strada. 

Wednesday: Bede the Venerable, priest and doctor, (673-735), is the only English doctor of the church. As a child, he was sent to a Benedictine monastery where he studied theology and was ordained. He wrote thorough commentaries on scripture and history as well as poetry and biographies. His famous work is the "Ecclesiastical History of the English People," the source for much of Anglo-Saxon history.

Gregory VII, pope (1020-1085), was a Tuscan who was sent to a monastery to study under John Gratian, who became Gregory VI. He served the next few popes as chaplain, treasurer, chancellor and counselor before he became Gregory VII. He introduced strong reforms over civil authorities that caused much consternation. Eventually, the Romans turned against him when the Normans sacked Rome.

Mary Magdalene de'Pazzi (1566-1607), a Florentine, chose to become a Carmelite nun instead of getting married. Her biography, written by her confessor, gives accounts of intense bouts of desolation and joy. She is reputed to have gifts of prophecy and healing.

Thursday: Philip Neri, priest (1515-1595), is known as the "Apostle of Rome." A Florentine who was educated by the Dominicans, he re-evangelized Roe by establishing confraternities of laymen to minister to pilgrims and the sick in hospitals. He founded the Oratorians when he gathered a sufficient following because of his spiritual wisdom.

Friday: Augustine of Canterbury, bishop (d. 604) was sent to England with 40 monks from St. Andrew's monastery to evangelize the pagans. They were well-received. Augustine was made bishop, established a hierarchy, and changed many pagans feasts to religious ones. Wales did not accept the mission; Scotland took St. Andrew's cross as their national symbol. Augustine began a Benedictine monastery at Canterbury and was Canterbury's first archbishop.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         May 22, 1965. Pedro Arrupe was elected the 28th general of the Society of Jesus.
·         May 23, 1873. The death of Peter de Smet, a famous missionary among Native Americans of the great plains and mountains of the United States. He served as a mediator and negotiator of several treaties.
·         May 24, 1834. Don Pedro IV expelled the Society from Brazil.
·         May 25, 1569. At Rome the Society was installed by Pope St Pius V in the College of Penitentiaries. Priests of various nationalities who were resident there were required to act as confessors in St Peter's.
·         May 26, 1673. Ching Wei‑San (Emmanuel de Sigueira) dies, the first Chinese Jesuit priest.
·         May 27, 1555. The Viceroy of India sent an embassy to Claudius, Emperor of Ethiopia, hoping to win him and his subjects over to Catholic unity. Nothing came of this venture, but Fr. Goncalvo de Silveira, who would become the Society's first martyr on the Africa soil, remained in the country.
·         May 28, 1962. The death of Bernard Hubbard famous Alaskan missionary. He was the author of the book Mush, You Malemutes! and wrote a number of articles on the Alaska mission.