Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time


October 23, 2011
Exodus 22:2-26; Psalm 18; 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Matthew 22:34-40

          It is too bad we do not get to know the Old Testament better. These are the Hebrew Scriptures Jesus enjoyed reading. The social justice efforts of the church rise right out of the first few books of the bible. In Exodus, we hear a strong command by God to respect the alien and to treat the widow and orphan judiciously. In economic matters, we are not to exact harsh judgments on those poorer than we are. We are to be considerate of others' boundaries just as we want them to honor ours.

          My best guess is that we think themes of the Old Testament as too remote for us and intended for a more primitive people. For instance, when we hear that God has preferential love for the poor, I suspect we believe this reality. Our hearts goes out to the poor as well. I wonder though if we have properly imagined who the poor are. In our intercessory prayers, we remember the starving, the homeless, those with addictions, and all those we consider at the bottom of society. We know we have a responsibility to look out for them.

          Do we have to re-imagine who God is talking about when we think of the poor? Perhaps our categories will expand to include your neighbor who is just hanging on paycheck to paycheck or the person who goes to McDonald's to get her favorite meal. Those in the middle too often become neglected or are made invisible. To us, poverty means destitute, homeless, moneyless, and without adequate clothing. While we think of only the poorest of the poor, God remembers the various layers of those in poverty.

          Our social systems today obscure the plight of widows and orphans. We hardly use those terms now. Perhaps in today's world, these are the single parents and their children whether through personal tragedy or divorce. Their livelihood may be at great peril as they have to depend upon the goodwill of their divorced bitter partner or the state's efficient and effective bureaucracy. These people are hurting and deserve to be 'seen' and 'heard' by their neighbors. Too often we assume that most people are like us.

          The author of Exodus tells us 'we shall not molest or oppress an alien' because we were once aliens and we know how it feels to be on the outside.' However, we use 'alien' to refer to a being from another planet. Once upon a time, a family bought a house and lived in it forever. Today, many people move from house to house, city to city, and country to country, and some have few problems adjusting. Too often we assume that most people are like us. We overlook the fact that many people live in fear, do not feel welcomed or valued, are not made to feel as if they fit in, or do not receive the subtle invitations that tell them they are included. A smile or gesture of kindness communicates far more than we imagine. It is right for us to see that most of us, including ourselves, are foreigners and are different in some qualitative capacity from others at most times in our day.

          Once again, we are to expand our imagination and worldview. Today's alien might be the illegal immigrant many in our nation hate, especially if skin color, language, or class doesn't match what we want as normative. She could be a person who holds a different position from a Roman Catholic church bishop. Muslims and Mormons are suspected as deviants because of our own lack of understanding. A schoolboy who is bullied because others suspect he is gay or because his parents are in a same-sex marriage has become an alien to many. ~ We have a responsibility to encounter the 'alien' and treat him or her with great nobility - because we know what it feels like to be different. We were once in their situation. Do not let yourselves become too remote from the world around you. Do not "alien-ate" yourself from them. God doesn't want that.

          With this in mind, we read the Gospel passage about the law's summation as a personal matter. If we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind, we turn to our neighbors and love them as we love ourselves. The foundational element is that God loves each of us first and we return our gratitude to God by caring for our neighbor - even those we do not want to consider our neighbor. Real love begets more genuine love. Far too many who are on the margins, far too many who are in the middle, hope and depend upon this love from us.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Paul continues in Romans to say if you live according to the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body and you will live. Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God and we can call out, "Abba, Father." The present sufferings are nothing compared with the glory that will be revealed to us for creation awaits with eager expectation the full revelation of God's children. The Spirit of God is groaning within us, and within all creation, for the redemption of our bodies. We hope for that which is not seen. The Spirit comes to our aid and intercedes in our prayers. We need to relax so we can know that all things work for good for those who love God. We can realize that God is on our side; therefore we have no enemies that can separate us from Christ's love. We are inextricably bound. God has not rejected his people; even the Gentiles are included in God's plan of salvation. God's mystery is always coming more completely into its fullness.

Gospel: Jesus encounters a cripple woman who suffered for eighteen years. He heals her immediately to glorify God, but the leader of the synagogue protests that he did it on the Sabbath. Jesus begins to talk about the kingdom of God. He compares it to a mustard seed that is tiny but blossoms into a large tree. He passes through towns while instructing the people. When asked about who will be saved he replies that the way is difficult. Intimately knowing God through Jesus will aid a person's path to salvation. Friendly Pharisees tell Jesus to flee because Herod wants to kill him. Jesus remains undeterred. He will do the will of the Father - against all odds. He then has dinner at a leading Pharisees' house and he insults the invited guests by revealing to them that they seek places of honor and human glory rather than the glory of God.

Saints of the Week

Monday: Anthony Claret, bishop (1807-1870) adopted his father's weaving career as a young man, but continued to study Latin and printing. After entering seminary, he began preaching retreats and giving missions. He published and distributed religious literature and founded the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He was appointed archbishop of Cuba but was called back to Spain to be Queen Isabella II's confessor. He resumed publishing until the revolution of 1868 sent him into exile.

Friday: Simon and Jude, apostles (first century) were two of the Twelve Disciples called by Jesus, but little is known about them. We think they are Simon the Zealot and Judas, the son of James. Simon was most likely a Zealot sympathizer who would have desired revolution against Rome; Jude is also called Thaddeus, and is patron saint of hopeless causes. Both apostles suffered martyrdom.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         October 23, 1767: The Jesuits who had been kept prisoners in their college in Santiago, Chile, for almost two months were led forth to exile. In all 360 Jesuits of the Chile Province were shipped to Europe as exiles.
·         October 24, 1759: 133 members of the Society, banished from Portugal and put ashore at Civita Vecchia, were most kindly received by Clement XIII and by the religious communities, especially the Dominicans.
·         Oct 25, 1567. St Stanislaus Kostka arrived in Rome and was admitted into the Society by St Francis Borgia.
·         Oct 26, 1546. The Province of Portugal was established as the first province in the Society, with Simao Rodriguez as its first provincial superior.
·         Oct 27, 1610. The initial entrance of the Jesuits into Canada. The mission had been recommended to the Society by Henry IV.
·         Oct 28, 1958. The death of Wilfrid Parsons, founder of Thought magazine and editor of America from 1925 to 1936.
·         Oct 29, 1645. In the General Chapter of the Benedictines in Portugal, a statement published by one of their order, that said St Ignatius had borrowed the matter in his Spiritual Exercises from a Benedictine author, was indignantly repudiated.