Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 16, 2011
Isaiah 45:1, 4-6; Psalm 96; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5; Matthew 22:15-21

          Jesus gives us a great example of refraining from getting dragged down into negative debates. By doing so, he shows us a way to remain faithful to the most important matters in life. We are in danger of getting tripped up by others when they act on their self-centered motives or when they entangle us to get their way. Jesus cleverly maneuvers through the discussion by respecting the questions of the Pharisees and by guiding them to a more healthy way of observing the world.
          In today's Gospel, Jesus is beset by tricks of the Pharisees who want to see if there are flaws in his arguments. They want to know if his logic has cogency and whether they should trust that it comes directly from God. With the Herodians, they ask his opinion on whether a Jewish religious man has an obligation to pay a census tax to the hated Caesar. Jesus is cautious of their impure motives. While they attempt compliment him and to build him up with false honor, his answer honorably respects their question and politely exposes their deceitful intent.  He retains their dignity and does not crush them. His classic statement, "Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God" further emphasizes that we are to balance our "both-and" status in the world with utmost care and respect. We can act in righteousness in this temporal world by attending to the way God wants us to act. We win when we uphold the dignity and honor of others.
          Jesus does not get pulled off course by his opponents. He keeps the conversation elevated by placing ordinary choices in the context of God's plan. The question becomes for him: Do I live for God or for human glory? He chooses God and shows the religious leaders that they can make choices with similar criteria. We can learn from that too.
          Many of us know narcissists who try to surreptitiously get their way no matter what. Their behaviors are subtle and all-too-familiar that we do not even recognize that we are getting pulled away from our intended direction. We get pulled away from our goals and into their world of control and manipulation because we want to be good and kind people. Sometimes we do not see the nearly-invisible ways we are seduced into their mode of thinking or we are duped to do things we do not want to do.
          Just this morning I received an email from someone who offered a different perspective to mine. She challenged me to adopt her worldview. Instead of answering her email challenge, I held back and said to myself, "Wait a minute! What do I want to accomplish here? How can I respond best?" I did not want to dismiss her or her thoughts. I did not want to bluntly combat her words with mine because my God does not act through force. I simply revealed my thoughts to her, paid respect to hers, and revealed my differing point-of-view. I was able to affirm her dignity, honor the content of her words, and let her know I choose a different path because I have a fundamentally different worldview. I accomplished what I set out to do and was able to show her care and compassion. It made me think that this is what Jesus did with the Pharisees in the census tax challenge.
          The methodology of Jesus is worth examining. It helps us keep our lives oriented to God's way of caring for us and others. If we want compassion and mercy from others, we will get it in return for showing it to those who challenge or control us. We are to act in freedom at all times, especially when friends and family pull us in other ways. Like Jesus, we can live for God and live in the world. It takes patience and skill, but we become wiser and kinder and more loving when we uphold one another's dignity and persevere in our efforts to live freely and happily in a manner God intends for us.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Paul tells us about Abraham's faith as he was convinced that what God had promised he was also able to do. Therefore, righteousness as credited to him, and by extension to us. Sin must not reign over our mortal bodies. We are to present ourselves to God was one raised from the dead to life. Sin is to have no power over you, since you are not under the law but under grace. Since you have been freed from sin to become slaves to God, the benefit you have leads to sanctification - eternal life is given to you as a gift. Both good and evil exist within us and we often do the evil we don't want to do. When I do good, evil is at hand. The concern of the flesh is hostility toward God and it does not submit to the law of God, but you are not in the flesh. You are in the Spirit of Christ who dwells within you. If Christ is in you, the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

Gospel: Pharisees plot ways that they can trip up Jesus in his speech. They question whether it is lawful for a religious person to pay the census tax to the hated Caesar and he replies, "repay Caesar what belongs to him; give to God what belongs to God." Someone in the crowd asks Jesus to settle a dispute between a man and his brother. Jesus refuses. He cautions them about the demands of greed. He tells a parable about a man who prudently stored everything in his barn for safekeeping, but his life was called home to God before he could enjoy the benefits of his hoarding. Jesus reminds people that time is fleeting and we can't predict future events with certainty. If it were so, a master would leave his house protected if he knew when a thief was planning to rob him. No one knows the time or the hour when our lives will end. Jesus tells his friends that he wishes the earth was already ablaze with the all-consuming love of God. Until then, people will have to choose whether they are with God or are for themselves. He instructs them to discerns the signs of the times and make the necessary adjustments. Everyone must repent or they will perish.

Saints of the Week

Monday: Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr (d. 107) was born around 33 A.D. and became a leading figure in the new church at Antioch. He served as bishop for 38 years before he was persecuted and killed under Emperor Trajan for being a Christian leader. He wrote seven letters about church life in the early second century and is the first-mentioned martyr of Roman heroes in the first Eucharistic Prayer.

Tuesday: Luke, evangelist (first century) was the author of his version of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. He is described as a doctor and a friend of Paul. He was a well-educated Gentile who was familiar with the Jewish scriptures and he wrote to other Gentiles who were coming into a faith.

Wednesday: North American Jesuit martyrs: Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf, priests, and companions (17th century) were killed between 1642 and 1649 in Canada and the United States. Though they knew of harsh conditions among the warring Huron and Mohawk tribes in the New World, these priests and laymen persisted in evangelizing until they were captured, brutally tortured, and barbarically killed.

Thursday: Paul of the Cross, priest (1694-1775), founded the Passionists in 1747. He had a boyhood call that propelled him into a life of austerity and prayer. After receiving several visions, he began to preach missions throughout Italy that mostly focused upon the Passion of the Lord. After his death, a congregation for nuns was begun.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         October 16, 1873: About two weeks after Victor Emmanuel's visit to Berlin, where he had long conferences with Bismark, rumors reached the Society in Rome that all of their houses in Rome were threatened.
·         October 17, 1578: St Robert Bellarmine entered the Jesuit novitiate of San Andrea in Rome at the age of 16.
·         October 18, 1553: A theological course was opened in our college in Lisbon; 400 students were at once enrolled.
·         October 19, 1588: At Munster, in Westphalia, the Society opens a college, in spite of an outcry raised locally by some of the Protestants.
·         October 20, 1763: In a pastoral letter read in all his churches, the Archbishop of Paris expressed his bitter regret at the suppression of the Society in France. He described it as a veritable calamity for his country.
·         October 21, 1568: Fr. Robert Parsons was elected Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford. He resigned his Fellowship in 1574.
·         October 22, 1870: In France, Garibaldi and his men drove the Jesuits from the Colleges of Dole and Mont Roland.