Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time


October 30, 2011
Malachi 1:14-2:2, 8-10; Psalm 13; 1 Thessalonians 2:7-9, 13; Matthew 23:1-12

          Paul's warm letter to the Thessalonians is nestled softly between two harsh critiques of the day's religious authorities. While drawn to Paul's letter, its message becomes all the more inviting when I feel the veracity of the other two. In Malachi, the Lord of hosts is chastising his priests because they no longer keep his ways and they show partiality in their decisions. They use a human system of judgment that causes many to falter because of their instruction. The Lord finds these priests contemptible because they show disdain for the covenant and they break faith with one another. The Lord reminds them that we have one father and because of the covenant, we are all his children.

          In Matthew, Jesus tells his friends that the scribes and Pharisees have the legitimate authority because they occupy the chair of Moses and has gone through the prescribed education, therefore their words are to be respected because they come from Scripture. Their example does not match what they teach and they lay onerous burdens upon people of goodwill who are sincerely striving to fulfill the law's expectations. The religious authorities are concerned with human honor and glory and moved away from an intimate relationship with the Lord. They like to be called "Rabbi" and "Master" and to receive job perks, but no one is to be called "Father" because in God's Kingdom, God is the sole Father who provides for his family's children.

          In contrast, Paul, as a leading church figure, talks about the gentle ways the people and church leadership care for one another. They do it with genuine affection, with a desire to share the Gospel and their very own selves as well because the people of God had become so dearly beloved to them. The people experience firsthand the exhausting demands church leadership places upon themselves so no burden is placed on any brother or sister. They work hard to serve one another with great charity and they give thanks because their friends are now able to hear the word of God.

          It is good for us to examine this contrast in style. It is good for us to ascertain the style of church leadership today. What do you notice? To which type of community are you drawn? I know the type of community I want to help create.

          The question becomes, "how do I create the community I want to live in?," even when external forces challenge or damage the community's well-being. To quote George-Louis Leclerc de Buffon, "The style is the man himself." We live as if Christ's resurrection happened and means something - because it did and does. We live in joy that is free from the grasp of sin and death. God changed the world for us; we respond by showing our gratitude and care for each other.

          Hospitality, affection, overflowing charity are important characteristics of 'who we are' as a people. Let's make sure it marks us and defines us. Let's be remembered this way. Let us show the world that we love and honor God's covenantal relationship with us and that we have no real cares because God is looking out for our well-being. We can live this more boldly that we presently do. Let's try to love one another more fully. That means we have to start liking one another. Let us build a community of faith where we listen more adeptly, see one another and know that we are also seen by others, that we feel what someone else feels with our senses, and we respond with care and compassion as we learn what one needs.

          Forces beyond our control can be formidable. We do not have to give them power over our attitudes. Let no one erode your joy. God's judgment first and foremost matters and we garner our strength for the many ways God continues to labor for us. Let us celebrate and praise God who is doing wonderful things for us; let us praise alongside each other with great acts of kindness and caring.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Paul continues in Romans to say the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. God delivers all to disobedience that he might have mercy upon all. None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself, but while we live, we live for the Lord. We are the Lord's - no matter what. This is why Christ died and was raised, that he might be Lord of both the living and the dead. You are full of goodness, filled with knowledge, and are able to admonish one another. Paul speaks humbly about completing his work of bringing the Gentiles to obedience by words and deed through the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God. Therefore, he proclaims the Gospel in new areas, to a new people who have not heard the word of God. Paul then greets his many friends in Rome and asks the people to receive him so he can raise funds to go to Iberia (Spain) to continue to preach.

Gospel: At a leading Pharisees' house, Jesus insults the host again by telling his guests their relationships are based on who will repay you even greater for what you have given them. Their motives are selfish. The Pharisees then complain that he is eating with tax collectors and known sinners. Jesus teaches them that he is working to bring them back to God through repentance just as a shepherd searches for the lost sheep and brings him back into the fold. God rejoices when a sinner repents. He then praises an unworthy steward who defrauds his master but does whatever is possible to wiggle his way out of major debt. Jesus says we are to be as crafty in our ways to reform our lives. He urges them to make friends with dishonest wealth for the one who is trustworthy in small matters is trustworthy of greater ones. He knows the hearts of the Pharisees who love money and he tells them their motives are despicable.

Saints of the Week

Monday: All Hallows Even (evening) owes its origins to a Celtic festival that marked summer's end. The term was first used in 16th century Scotland. Trick or treating resembles the late medieval practice of souling when poor people would go door to door on Hallomas (November 1) receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2.)

Tuesday: All Saints Day honors the countless faithful believers - living and dead - who have helped us along in our faith. Our liturgical calendar is filled with canonized saints, but we have many blesseds and minor saints who no longer appear on it. We have local saints across the world. We have many people who live Gospel values who we appreciate and imitate. We remember all of these people on this day.

Wednesday: All Souls Day is the commemoration of the faithful departed. November is known as All Souls Month. We remember those who died as we hasten towards the end of the liturgical year and the great feast of Christ the King. As a tradition, we have always remembered our dead as a way of keeping them alive to us and giving thanks to God for their lives.

Wednesday: Rupert Mayer, S.J., priest (1876-1945), resisted the Nazi government and died while saying Mass of a stroke. In 1937, he was placed in protective custody and was eventually released when he agreed that he would no longer preach.

Thursday: Martin de Porres, religious (1579-1639) was a Peruvian born of a Spanish knight and a Panamanian Indian woman. Because he was not pure blood, he lost many privileges in the ruling classes. He became a Dominican and served the community in many menial jobs. He was known for tending to the sick and poor and for maintaining a rigorous prayer life.

Friday: Charles Borromeo, bishop (1538-1584), was made Bishop of Milan at age 22. He was the nephew of Pope Pius IV. He was a leading Archbishop in the Catholic Reformation that followed the Council of Trent. During a plague epidemic, Borromeo visited the hardest hit areas so he could provide pastoral care to the sick.

Saturday: All Saints and Blessed of the Society of Jesus are remembered by Jesuits on their particularized liturgical calendar. We remember not only the major saints on the calendar, but also those who are in the canonization process and hold the title of Blessed, like Peter Faber. We pray for all souls of deceased Jesuits in our province during the month by using our necrology (listing of the dead.)

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Oct 30, 1638. On this day, John Milton, the great English poet, dined with the Fathers and students of the English College in Rome.
·         Oct 31, 1602. At Cork, the martyrdom of Dominic Collins, an Irish brother, who was hanged, drawn, and quartered for his adherence to the faith.
·         Nov 1, 1956. The Society of Jesus was allowed in Norway.
·         Nov 2, 1661. The death of Daniel Seghers, a famous painter of insects and flowers.
·         Nov 3, 1614. Dutch pirates failed to capture the vessel in which the right arm of Francis Xavier was being brought to Rome.
·         Nov 4, 1768. On the feast of St Charles, patron of Charles III, King of Spain, the people of Madrid asked for the recall of the Jesuits who had been banished from Spain nineteen months earlier. Irritated by this demand, the king drove the Archbishop of Toledo and his Vicar General into exile as instigators of the movement.
·         Nov 5, 1660. The death of Alexandre de Rhodes, one of the most effective Jesuit missionaries of all time. A native of France, he arrived in what is now Vietnam in 1625.