Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 28, 2011
Jeremiah 20:7-9; Psalm 63; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16:21-27

It is frustrating when we set out to do something good and it gets twisted around on us. Our motives are pure, our actions are decent, and still we get slapped around because it doesn't meet someone else's expectations. Jeremiah experiences this after he has been preaching for a while. He is a reluctant prophet and feels that God has enticed him through noble words, but has let him stand alone without support. He feels duped. He is quite angry with God because he is doing what God has asked of him and God simply remains silent. Now it is Jeremiah's turn to clam up. He is the one who will remain silent. He swears that he will not mention God's name again or do his bidding for him. He has had enough. His good will has been betrayed. If this is the way God treats his servants, God can do his work on his own.

Peter also gets figuratively slapped on the side of the head. Just a short while ago Peter was praised because he assertively answered the question of Jesus, "Who do you say that I am?" with "the Christ!" He was also given the keys to kingdom for his smart and prayerfully observant answer. Upon the fragile person of Peter, the church of Christ is to be built, but almost immediately Peter gets rebuked when Jesus tells him and the others that Jesus must suffer greatly, be handed over, and killed, but raised on the third day. Understandably, Peter stands up for his friend and says, "God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you." Instead of admired for his steadfast courage (because many others would not have supported Jesus as strongly), Peter gets unexpectedly whacked. It seems like a harsh response to his bravado. Like Jeremiah, he feels duped.

Suffering is a reality of discipleship. We expect to be misunderstood, taunted, ridiculed, and threatened by those who do not share our beliefs. We hardly expect people from our own faith tradition to be an adversary, but it hurts most when the people who are closest to us slap us on the side of the head. The harshest divisions are often within our own camps and understandably we feel duped and betrayed.

Fortunately, we know this is not the end of the story. Jeremiah returns to his important ministry with God's support; Peter learns of the greater intricacies of discipleship and becomes an exemplary leader. We, too, learn to travel along a road that has unexpected twists and turns. The suffering that we face will mysteriously lead us to grace and give us hope. We know that by giving ourselves away to others, even if it causes us great discomfort and pain, our sacrifice will be the vehicle to greater meaning, satisfaction, and a sustained contentment that we have lived well.

Perhaps our great lesson is to examine how we hold each other's pain. We often want to fix someone's situation and alleviate the causes of their suffering, but that is not what we are asked to do. We are simply asked to hold the person's pain while they move through their issues with Christ. Recovery from pain is a process that takes time. Running from the pain or avoiding it causes greater pain. This we know: everyone will confront the cross and it will cause great suffering. Can we be a companion that honors and respects a friends' suffering? Let us just hold their pain so they know that the love and grace of Christ flows from you to them for their benefit. The glory of God will be revealed through you in ways that will surprise you.

Themes for this Week’s Masses 

First Reading: In Thessalonians, Paul assures the community of their brothers and sisters in the faith who have died before the Day of the Lord has come. They and those who are alive will be taken up together to meet the Lord. We will always be with him. Concerning times and seasons, we are not to worry as we will stay alert and sober for the Lord's return. Colossians begins with Paul's thanksgiving for the easy reception of the Gospel by the people. Paul thanks God for their strength and patient endurance that he delivered them from darkness into the light of the Kingdom. The great hymn to Christ is then sung: Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. He is the head of the Body, the church, the alpha and omega, the firstborn from the dead. All things are reconciled in him. God has reconciled the Colossians who were once hostile to the Gospel and has made them holy, without blemish, and irreproachable. They are to persevere in the faith and remain grounded to receive the rewards of heaven.

Gospel: Jesus heads to Capernaum to teach on the sabbath. A man with the spirit of an unclean spirit recognizes Jesus and cries out, "What have you to do with us?" Jesus reveals his authority over demons. He then goes to Simon Peter's house and heals his mother-in-law. People hear of his great wonder-working and bring many people to be healed. To get some relief from the crowds, Jesus gets into a boat at the Lake of Gennesaret and instructs the unproductive fishermen to cast their nets where he tells them. Peter, James, and John leave their work and become his disciples. The scribes and Pharisees criticize the disciple of Jesus about their lack of fasting like John's disciples to which Jesus responds, "Do you expect the wedding guests to fast in the presence of the bridegroom?" The Pharisees once again criticize Jesus for picking grains and eating them on the sabbath. Jesus declares that the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.

Saints of the Week 

Monday: The Martyrdom of John the Baptist recalls the sad events of John's beheading by Herod the tetrarch when John called him out for his incestuous and adulterous marriage to Herodias, who was his niece and brother's wife. At a birthday party, Herodias' daughter Salome danced well earning the favor of Herod who told her he would give her almost anything she wanted.

Saturday: Gregory the Great (540-604) was the chief magistrate in Rome and resigned to become a monk. He was the papal ambassador to Constantinople, abbot, and pope. His charity and fair justice won the hearts of many. He protected Jews and synthesized Christian wisdom. He described the duties of bishops and promoted beautiful liturgies that often incorporated chants the bear his name.

This Week in Jesuit History

· Aug. 28, 1628: The martyrdom in Lancashire, England, of St. Edmund Arrowsmith.
· Aug. 29, 1541: At Rome the death of Fr. John Codure, a Savoyard, one of the first 10 companions of St. Ignatius.
· Aug. 30, 1556: On the banks of the St. Lawrence River, Fr. Leonard Garreau, a young missionary, was mortally wounded by the Iroquois.
· Aug. 31, 1581: In St. John's Chapel within the Tower of London, a religious discussion took place between St. Edmund Campion, suffering from recent torture, and some Protestant ministers.
· Sep 1, 1907. The Buffalo Mission was dissolved and its members were sent to the New York and Missouri Provinces and the California Mission.
· Sep 2, 1792. In Paris, ten ex-Jesuits were massacred for refusing to take the Constitutional oath. Also in Paris seven other fathers were put to death by the Republicans, among them Frs. Peter and Robert Guerin du Rocher.
· Sep 3, 1566. Queen Elizabeth visited Oxford and heard the 26-year-old Edmund Campion speak. He was to meet her again as a prisoner, brought to hear her offer of honors or death.