Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 2, 2011
Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80; Philippians 4:6-9; Matthew 21:33-43

The parables of Jesus keep getting stronger and more chilling. Today we hear about the landowner of a vineyard who leases his land out to tenants before he goes on a journey. When the harvest time comes near, he sends his servant to obtain his produce, but the angry tenants beat him. Others are sent and are beaten, killed or stoned. Finally, the owner sends his son because he reasons the tenants will respect his own flesh and blood. They do not. They kill him, which causes the owner to displace the tenants as custodians of his land and condemn them to a wretched death.
Of course, this is a pre-shadowing story of Jesus and the prophets. God, as owner of the land, puts the Israelites as stewards of his land and kingdom. When they listen to themselves and not to God, prophets are sent to correct the religious leaders and the people, but they do not heed the prophets' words. They kill and discredit many of them because their hearts are hardened. Finally, God's own Son is sent to them and once again, they cannot receive him for they are jealous and angry. Therefore, they kill him. God then takes away stewardship of the kingdom from them and gives it to a people who can care for it better.

Naturally, the elders and chief priests are terribly upset because Jesus offends them for equating them to obstinate stewards who fail to respect God and the prophets. It is the equivalent of telling cardinals and bishops today that they are not proper stewards of the church or of showing a pastor and his pastoral council that their parish is being given to more deserving caretakers. These words are difficult to hear by any religious authority and harsh consequences will, no doubt, be inflicted upon the messenger.
The parable's words are prophetic. God's kingdom expands to include the Gentiles while the leadership of the new way of Jesus is handed over to the Twelve Disciples. Stewardship is transferred from Jerusalem, especially after the fall of the Temple, to Rome. However, Christians are not to rest on their laurels. The same fate can happen to us if we do not respect the owner's servants and his prophets. Even today, we are to discern who is speaking for God and what is God's will.

Fortunately for us, the Spirit of Christ is present within the church to guide us along the way, but we must not harden our hearts to new ways or be presumptuous about our traditions. We are always to seek God's will in the present moment. We are also to listen to God's voice in the cacophony of messages. We are to challenge our paradigms and test out assumptions. Clinging to the past is often not the answer. Conserving what has been long-treasured may cut off the possibilities that God holds out to us. God is always new and fresh. We are to find effective ways today to respond to God's initiatives and invitations, even if it means that we let go of something that has served us well.
Paul nails it when he writes to his Philippian friends: "Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petitions, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you."
If we do these things well, we will know we are serving God as God desires.

Themes for this Week’s Masses
First Reading: Jonah was ready to flee from the Lord when he was asked to go to Ninevah to preach against it because of their sins. When great winds buffeted their ship, the men on board cast Jonah into the sea as an offering to the angry god. The winds quiet, but a large fish swallowed Jonah where he remained for three days. The Lord spoke to Jonah a second time and Jonah preached repentance to Ninevah. The people and the king heard Jonah's admonition and repented. The Lord changed his mind and Jonah became angry. Jonah did not understand the Lord's new found concern for Ninevah. ~ Malachi writes about those who respect and reverence the Lord and act accordingly in contrast to those who think they serve the Lord. ~ Joel summons the people to rejoice that their day of salvation is near. The day of the Lord is coming. Therefore some will be joyful; others will tremble with gloom. On that mighty day, Jerusalem, the holy mountain, will be exalted.

Gospel: Jesus raises the question, "to whom shall I be neighbor?" in the parable of the Good Samaritan. He then enters the village where Mary and Martha live. They have their spat about which way is the proper way to serve/be with Jesus. As Jesus finishes prayer, one disciples asks him to teach them to pray. He hands over to them the "Our Father." He tells to his disciples a story about a friend who persistently asks a neighboring friend for food for his unexpected guest. The neighbor relents. His point is God is generous to us; we are to persist in prayer and God will give us what we want and need. Jesus takes heat from the crowd who wonder about the source of his authority. They conclude that he must be one of Beelzebul's agents, but Jesus explains that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. Therefore, he is God's agent. A woman in the crowd cries out, "Blessed is your mother for carrying you in her womb," but he retorts, "Blessed is the one who hears the word of God and responds to it."
Saints of the Week

Monday: Francis Borgia, S.J. became a duke at age 33. When his wife died and his eight children were grown, he joined the Jesuits. His preaching brought many people to the church and when he served as Superior General, the Society increased dramatically in Spain and Portugal. He established many missions in the new territories.
Tuesday: Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) was from the wealthy Bernardone family who sold silk cloths. After serving as soldier as a prisoner of war, Francis chose to serve God and the poor. He felt called to repair God's house, which he thought was a church. His father was angry that he used family money so he disinherited him. He began to preach repentance and recruited others to his way of life. His order is known for poverty, simplicity, humble service, and delighting in creation.

Thursday: Bruno, priest (1030-1101), became a professor at Rheims and diocesan chancellor. He gave up his riches and began to live as a hermit with six other men. They had disdain for the rampant clerical corruption. The bishop of Grenoble have them land in the Chartreuse mountains and they began the first Carthusian monastery. After serving in Rome for a few years, Bruno was given permission to found a second monastery in Calabria.
Friday: Our Lady of the Rosary recalls the events in 1571 of the Christian naval victory over the Turks at Lepanto near Corinth. Victory was credited to Mary as confraternities prayed the rosary for her intercession.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Oct 2, 1964. Fr. General Janssens suffered a stroke and died three days later. During his generalate, the Society grew from 53 to 85 provinces, and from 28,839 to 35,968 members.
·         Oct 3, 1901. In France, religious persecution broke out afresh with the passing of Waldeck Rousseau's "Loi d'Association."
·         Oct 4, 1820. In Rome, great troubles arose before and during the Twentieth General Congregation, caused by Fr. Petrucci's intrigues. He sought to wreck the Society and was deposed from his office as Vicar General, though supported by Cardinal della Genga (afterwards Leo XII).
·         Oct 5, 1981. In a letter to Father General Arrupe, Pope John Paul II appointed Paolo Dezza as his personal delegate to govern the Society of Jesus, with Fr. Pittau as coadjutor.
·         Oct 6, 1773. In London, Dr James Talbot, the Vicar Apostolic, promulgated the Brief of Suppression and sent copies to Maryland and Pennsylvania.
·         Oct 7, 1819. The death of Charles Emmanuel IV. He had been King of Sardinia and Piedmont. He abdicated in 1802 and entered the Jesuits as a brother in 1815. He is buried in San Andrea Quirinale in Rome.
·         Oct 8, 1871. The Great Chicago Fire. Most of the city was destroyed, but it missed Holy Family, the Jesuit parish, as the fire turned north thanks to the prayers of Fr. Arnold Damen. The fire lasted three days; 250 were killed.