Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 9, 2011
Isaiah 25:6-10; Psalm 23; Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20; Matthew 22:1-14

          Some of my happiest moments of my life occurred when I accepted an intriguing invitation. I paid attention to the tone and quality of the invitation that both comforted me and created excitement. Each time I said 'yes,' doors and windows of opportunity opened for me in unexpected ways. I was delighted for the affirmation it brought me. I know that I must always give due consideration to the many invitations that come my way. I want to be open to life's moments for growth and happiness.
          Jesus gives us another challenging parable this week. This time it deals with accepting God's invitations. In this story, a king gave a wedding feast for his son, but the invited guests refused to come. A second time the king sent other servants to the invited to come and enjoy what the king is offering, but they refuse once more - some by indifference, others by their busyness, and still others seized the servants and killed them for upsetting them. The enraged king destroyed the murderers and their city and went out to call other replacements to the feast. Many guests finally came - the good and the bad - but one came to the banquet improperly attired and was cast into the darkness for his impertinence.

          Jesus meant to explain to the chief priests and elders that the Jews were the ones who did not accept God's invitations and that the kingdom will be handed over to those who are sinners or considered unclean and undeserving. The elders and the people turned their heads away from God's initiatives, and God will not be satisfied. The people even killed the prophets (the second group of servants.) Finally, those who were cast out of Jewish society were the ones who would finally be admitted, but they had to beware as well. They cannot take God's generosity for granted. They must prepare themselves appropriately for enjoyment of the kingdom. The one who doesn't recognize the beneficence he is receiving will be cast out once again - this time to a worse fate.
          We may judge this parable too easily because we can see that the invited guests did not know the significance of the banquet. We think that we would have been able to say 'yes' if we were there with them at that time, but the fact is that we do not accept most of the invitations that come our way. We don't get to see where those invitations will lead us - to new friendships or a romance, to a new career opportunity or a change in direction, or to a longed-for opportunity for freedom. For our own reasons, we are unwilling to commit to one more request. Our plates are full. We sometimes wonder if they are filled with the right things.

          In Isaiah, we see the fullness of a rich and plentiful meal; the psalmist opines of an overflowing cup; and Paul writes of a God who satisfies every need. The king in the parable wants to spread his generosity far and wide and is angry that no one will accept his bountiful goodness. Jesus tells us we cannot accept this satisfying richness if we are not properly prepared for it. We have to discern our invitations and ready our whole selves to accept what is offered.
          I invite you to take note of the many invitations that come your way this week. Note to yourselves the ones you accept; notice the various times you decline. Sometimes we even decline with nice words or with a promise that we will do something in the far-off future. It still is a declination. Take a risk. Say 'yes,' and see what may open up for you. I guarantee you that you will receive much more than you give up. If we learn how to accept the graciousness of others, like the psalmist, our cups will overflow with the abundance of good, satisfying things. I bet you will find mini-miracles in some of the invitations that come your way. Look for them. They are always offered to you.

Themes for this Week’s Masses
First Reading: In Romans, Paul declares that he has been set apart by God by grace to be an apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul is proud of the Gospel because God’s power has opened salvation for everyone – regardless of characteristics. God’s righteousness is passed on by faith to all who will receive it. It was God’s plan since the creation of the world. The judgment of God differs from human judgment. God will repay everyone according to his works and will give eternal life to those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through perseverance in good works. The righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law and the prophets. God finds no distinction because all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. We need only look to our history as Abraham was justified by faith, not by the works he did. Abraham believed, hoping against hope, that he would become the father of many nations.

Gospel: As people crowd around Jesus, he tells them that this generation ought not to be looking for a sign because none will be given to them. If their hearts and minds could realize what is going on around them, they would see that Jesus is greater than Jonah and Solomon. When Jesus finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dinner at his house. He was surprised that Jesus did not observe the ritual cleansing before eating. Jesus remarked that what comes from our inner lives is unclean; our attitudes and judgments come from within and need to be purified. Jesus retorted that the Pharisees have to be careful about what they preach because they don’t practice the rules they impose upon others. He urges them to be considerate of the demands they make upon the people who struggle to keep the laws. He further urges them to respect the prophets because they falsely build memorials to the ones their fathers killed. Jesus reminds people to take heed of his words and to hold them securely. What he has told them in secret will be made known in the daylight. Anyone who acknowledges Jesus in the daylight will be rewarded by God in heaven.
Saints of the Week

Friday: Callistus I, pope and martyr (d. 222) was a slave of a Christian who put him in charge of a bank that failed. He was jailed and upon his release became a deacon and counselor to Pope Zephyrinus. He became the first overseer of the official Christian cemetery that was eventually named after him. When he was elected Pope he introduced humanitarian reforms. He died during an uprising against Christians.  

Saturday: Teresa of Jesus, doctor (1515-1582), entered the Carmelites in Avila and became disenchanted with the laxity of the order. She progressed in prayer and had mystical visions. She introduced stricter reforms through her guidance of John of the Cross and Peter Alcantara. They founded the Discalced Carmelites for men and women.
This Week in Jesuit History

·         Oct 9, 1627. Jansenius left Louvain for Salamanca to foment antipathy against the Jesuits and thus prevent Philip IV from giving the Society a large college in Madrid. The theological faculty at Salamanca were hostile to the Society.
·         October 10, 1806: The first novitiate of the Maryland Mission opened as ten novices began their Long Retreat under the direction of Fr. Francis Neale (himself a novice who had entered the Jesuits that day.)
·         October 11, 1688: King Louis XIV forbade all correspondence and interchange between the French Jesuits and Fr. Thyrsus Gonzalez, the Spanish General Superior of the Society.
·         October 12, 1976: The murder in rural Brazil of Joao Bosco Burnier, SJ, who was shot and killed by soldiers for protesting the torture of two poor women.
·         October 13, 1537: At Venice the Papal Nuncio published his written verdict declaring that Ignatius Loyola was innocent of all charges which had been leveled against him by his detractors.
·         October 14, 1774: A French Jesuit in China wrote an epitaph to the Jesuit mission in China after the suppression of the Society. It concludes: "Go, traveler, continue on your way. Felicitate the dead; weep for the living; pray for all. Wonder, and be silent."
·         October 15, 1582: St Teresa of Avila died on this day -- the first day of the new Gregorian calendar. She always wished to have a Jesuit as a confessor.