Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

May 29, 2011
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; Psalm 66; 1 Peter 3:14-18; John 14:15-21

External opposition faced the early church through its fragile beginnings. The Farewell Discourse by Jesus in John's Gospel bolstered the community's faith in times of misunderstanding by the larger Greek population and from the intense hostility of the Jews who moved in the direction of rabbinic Judaism. These new Christians were forbidden to worship with their Jewish cousins and they experience radical isolation. The debates were as heated as today's uncivil rhetoric between the conservative-progressive political factions in the church and civil society. Trust between the Johannine Christians and the Rabbinic Jews eroded precipitously after the fall of the Jerusalem Temple. Neither side could tolerate each other and they sought to protect themselves while correcting the other's miscalculations.
It seems that we often despise most those who are most alike to us in thought and of common ancestry. Sibling rivalries are complex relationships. The early church experienced wonder when Philip went to Samaria and proclaimed Christ to them and performed many healings and exorcisms in Christ's name. The city was taken up with great joy. Samaria and the Jews were at odds for centuries though they were very alike. Israel's opponents accepted Philip's testimony. Peter and John visited them and prayed with them to receive baptism through the Holy Spirit. By paying attention to signs and wonders, two ancient peoples of common origin were able to reconcile with one another again - another sign of divinity at work in building up the church.

Jesus promises his return and an indwelling with the believing community, however this divine presence is evident only in believers and not with the outside community. The Advocate who Jesus will send is to remain permanently with them and will testify to the truth, but since the Christians exist in a hostile world, the Advocate takes on a role of a prosecutor. He will convict those who threatening the believing community. Jesus, in his heavenly realm takes on the role similar to Moses' who will plead as intercessor to the Father on behalf of the believers. Likewise, the Paraclete will accuse the sinful people before God who fail to believe in Jesus.
The Paraclete is called the Spirit of Truth in this Gospel - the Spirit that will align with the spirits operative within us to lead us to the good, beauty, and truth. Jesus tells us this Spirit will be in his believers and will help us see him again because he lives and we live. We are not alone in our hardships. This Spirit will guides us to all good things - even reconciliation with our neighbor or family. This Spirit will remind us of all that is life-giving. We have to search with discerning eyes to follow the paths before us that are life-giving. Too often we simply acknowledge them and then choose a familiar path that does not lead us where we would ultimately like to go. Think of the adventure we would be on if we simply learned to follow that which gives us life. It doesn't mean life will always be idyllic and without suffering, but we will reflect upon our lives and find great integrity, beauty, joy, and truth for having lived well and fully. We will know that we made choices aligned to the will of Christ who will do everything possible for us to share God's love and affection with us.

Themes for this Week’s Masses
First Reading: Paul and Barnabas set sail for Philippi, a leading city of Macedonia and a Roman colony. Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, listens to their preaching and opens her heart to them. She is baptized and invites them to stay with her. Paul is brought to the Areopagus in Athens and tells them of the "Unknown God" they worship. This God is the same God as the Christians worship and has brought about salvation, including the resurrection of the dead. This concept unsettles some who find it a difficult teaching to accept. Paul travels to Corinth and meets the Jews, Aquila and Priscilla, who were forced to leave Rome because of Claudius' dispersion edict. He learns the tent-making trade and preaches to Jews who reject him. He encounters Titus Justus and Crispus, a synagogue leader, who come to believe. The entire congregation believes the news of Jesus Christ. While in Corinth, Paul receives a vision from the Lord urging him to go on speaking as no harm will come to him. Others are harmed, but Paul escapes injury. Paul travels to Antioch in Syria. Priscilla and Aquila meet Apollos, a Jewish Christian, who is preaching the way of Jesus, but of the baptism by the Holy Spirit he is not informed. They take him aside and teach him the correct doctrine. He then vigorously refutes the Jews in public, establishing from the Scriptures that the Christ is Jesus.

Gospel: Jesus tells his friends that the Advocate will come and testify to him. Meanwhile, they will be expelled from the synagogues and harmed - even unto death. The Spirit of truth will guide his friends to all truth. Jesus confuses them by saying, "a little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me." As they debate, he tells them their mourning will become joy - just like a woman who is groaning in labor pains. As Jesus tells them again that he is part of the Father, he instructs them to ask for anything in his name and God will grant it for Jesus is leaving the world and going back to the Father. The Father loves them because they have loved him. The Father will reward them for their generosity.
Saints of the Week

Tuesday: Visitation of the Virgin Mary commemorates the visit of Mary in her early pregnancy to Mary, who is reported to be her elder cousin. Luke writes about the shared rejoicing of the two women - Mary's conception by the Holy Spirit and Elizabeth's surprising pregnancy in her advanced years. Elizabeth calls Mary blessed and Mary sings her song of praise to God, the Magnificat.

Wednesday: Justin, martyr (100-165), was a Samaritan philosopher who converted to Christianity and explained doctrine through philosophical treatises. His debating opponent reported him to the Roman authorities who tried him and when he refused to sacrifice to the gods, was condemned to death.

Thursday: Marcellinus and Peter, martyrs (d. 304) died in Rome during the Diocletian persecution. Peter was an exorcist who ministered under the priest, Marcellinus. Stories are told that in jail they converted their jailer and his family. These men are remembered in Eucharistic prayer I.

Ascension Thursday is celebrated in some dioceses today while most of the world recognizes it on Sunday. A celebration on Ascension Thursday allows for the novena to be said as we await the arrival of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

Friday: Charles Lwanga and 22 companion martyrs from Uganda (18660-1886) felt the wrath of King Mwanga after Lwanga and the White Fathers (Missionaries of Africa) censured him for his cruelty and immorality. The King determined to rid his kingdom of Christians. He persecuted over 100 Christians, but upon their death new converts joined the church.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         May 29,1991. Pope John Paul II announces that Paulo Dezza, SJ is to become a Cardinal, as well as Jan Korec, in Slovakia.
·         May 30, 1849. Vincent Gioberti's book Il Gesuita Moderno was put on the Index. Gioberti had applied to be admitted into the Society, and on being refused became its bitter enemy and calumniator.
·         May 31, 1900. The new novitiate of the Buffalo Mission, St Stanislaus, in South Brooklyn, Ohio, near Cleveland, is blessed.
·         Jun 1, 1527. Ignatius was thrown into prison after having been accused of having advised two noblewomen to undertake a pilgrimage, on foot, to Compostella.
·         Jun 2, 1566. The Professed House was opened in Toledo. It became well known for the fervor of its residents and the wonderful effects of their labors.
·         Jun 3, 1559. A residence at Frascati, outside of Rome, was purchased for the fathers and brothers of the Roman College.
·         Jun 4, 1667. The death in Rome of Cardinal Sforza Pallavicini, a man of great knowledge and humility. While he was Prefect of Studies of the Roman College he wrote his great work, The History of the Council of Trent.

Graduations

Congratulations to all graduates! Thank you for your hard work and dedication to studies. Formal and continuing education are essential ingredients to making our world a better place. May you also continue to form and inform your faith. Educating your mind, heart, and conscience will create an environment of making prudential decisions that benefit the common good. Thanks for your work. I hope you had fun too!