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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Homily for Feast of the First Roman Martyrs

            Since we began using the new translation in November, I have been anticipating hearing this Gospel passage as it connects with the phrase we say at communion. We know they wanted an exact strict translation that was faithful to original sources. It is disappointing to know that the translation committee did not get it right. We say "only say the word and my soul shall be healed" while scripture reads "only say the word and my servant shall be healed." Go figure.

            We see two important aspects of the centurion: Commendably, he is a man deeply concerned for the welfare of his servant and he is a great example of a type of faith we are to profess in Jesus. He recognizes the power of the word of Jesus, yet most of us do not have this level of trust in Jesus. While he is an excellent model for some, other models exist. Perhaps wrongly, but he reminds me of the antiquated, "pray, pay, and obey" model of discipleship. I am uneasy that the Centurion holds Jesus at bay. He keeps him apart from his life. He asks him not to come into his house because he acknowledges that his word alone is powerful enough to even raise the dead to life. He knows that the will of Jesus is stronger than his own desires and that what he wants is less important. I want more than that.

            What we want is very important to Jesus because he is trying to get ever closer to us. Yes, it is true that we are unworthy to have him enter our world, but this is the reason he comes into our lives - to come to know our messy, unmanageable, chaotic, secret-filled, train-wrecked lives. Many times I hear a person say at the beginning of retreat, "I just want to know and to do God's will. God's will be done, not mine." It is a laudable aspiration, but we can't sit there passively and wait for God to willy-nilly decide to come down from his heavenly throne and meagerly grant our selfish unimportant requests. This is not the God Jesus reveals to us. Jesus wants us to tell him what we need and want. The Centurion does this. Peter does it for his mother-in-law. The crowds do it so they can be healed. Jesus wants what the Centurion wants. He wants the Centurion's servant to live - just as he wants us to live.

            I liken the way we approach God to the way I once requested things of my mother. When I was thirteen, I would ask my mother the same question during the summer, "Mom, can I go to the beach?" "No," she replied. I went off and stewed. The next day, the same question and answer, and more stewing. The following day, the same routine. Frustrated, we were both unhappy with each other. Finally, my mother said, "Jack, if you keep asking me, I'll keep saying 'no,' but if you tell me where you are going, who will be with you, when you are returning, and that you have time to do your chores, we'll be able to give each other what we need." I tried it the next day with astonishing results. I was so happy and because I had given my word, I kept my end of the bargain. My needs and my mother's were amazingly respected. The conversations were maturing and mutual. We communicated effectively.

            The way we talk with others is the way we talk with God, and we need to always improve the many ways we communicate to be more effective. We are to do the same with God. If we sit and wait for the remote, transcendent, ethereal will of God to mysteriously descend from heaven, we will sit and wait a long time. If we ask God open-ended questions that no human could ever answer, we ought not expect God to answer them. We get somewhere if we say to God something like this, "Here is what I'm thinking. This is what I choose and intend to do. I think it is a pretty good plan because it respects others and addresses my desires. If you are not O.K. with it, I'm sure you will let me know. I know, O God, that you can speak up for yourself." We respect each others' mutuality.      
            Ignatius tells us God gives us our desires and we are to act upon them if they are for God's greater glory. We, who are on retreat, are by nature caring and helpful people. By asking for what we need will bring us into greater balance because we are more inclined to give to others. In other words, it is not selfish to ask for what we need and want. In fact, it is healthy. Would Jesus have healed the Centurion's slave if he wasn't made away of the servant's condition? Ask for what you want in prayer and at the close also ask, "Did you give me what I asked for?" God is very generous and Jesus promises that if we ask God for anything in his name, God will listen to us and grant our desires.

            On this feast of martyrs, we cannot help but look at the grave suffering many people experienced. The centurion suffered for his ill servant, Peter was moved with concern for his mother-in-law; crowds of sick people and those possessed by demons sought out the healing word of Jesus. The author of Lamentations implores the suffering people of Zion to cry out to the Lord. Moan, and let your tears flow like a torrent day and night. Let your petitions be known to the Lord, who alone can fulfill the words of the prophet Isaiah: "He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases."

            Tell your story to Jesus. Invite him into it. Tell him again so you know you are seen and heard and known by him. We know that he wants to enter our messy lives because his heart is always moved by our stories. How can it not be? He will stand in compassionate solidarity with you and will grace you with his healing words of an intimate love. "Lord, it is true. I am not worthy, but please do. Enter. My house is messy, but come under my roof and spend time with me. I need you. I want you. I trust that you will give me what I want and need. Thank you."

Prayer: Clement of Alexandria

Martyrdom means bearing witness to God. Every soul that seeks in pureness of heart to know God and obeys the commandments is a martyr, bearing witness by life or by words.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Spirituality: Ten Ways to Love

1. Listen without interrupting. (Proverbs 18:13)
2. Speak without accusing. (James 1:1(0
3. Give without sparing. (Proverbs 21:26)
4. Pray without ceasing. (Colossians 1:9)
5. Answer without arguing. (Proverbs 17:1)
6. Share without pretending. (Ephesians 4:15)
7. Enjoy without complaint. (Philippians 2:14)
8. Trust without wavering. (1 Corinthians 13:7)
9. Forgive without punishing. (Colossians 3:13)
10. Promise without forgetting. (Proverbs 13:12)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Poem: A Ritual to Read to Each Other

If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider--
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give--yes or no, or maybe--
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep. 

William Stafford

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 1, 2012
Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24; Psalm 30; 2 Corinthians 8:7,9,13-15; Mark 5:21-43

                God did not create death. The author of the Book of Wisdom and the Psalmist convey God’s attitude about death and suffering. God does not like it and does not want us to experience it. However, we do. Wisdom’s author tells us suffering and death come from the Evil One; therefore, we are not to choose a life that leads to suffering (though we will never escape it). The Psalmist tells us God’s anger lasts a moment, but his kindness a lifetime. We realize that though we cannot escape suffering, our lives can be marked by choices that focus upon happier meaningful moments rather than letting suffering oppress our consciousnesses.

          The Gospel passage includes the response of Jesus to suffering. First he is met by a crowd of people who want relief from their maladies and then he heals a hemorrhaging woman and resuscitates of a pre-teen girl, the daughter of Jairus, a synagogue official. Each of the females afflicted are not named, but it is clear that suffering affects everyone. Of course, the poor suffer, but even Jairus, in his important position within the synagogue, is not spared from it. Possessing wealth, power, and prestige does not protect oneself from the tragedy of suffering.

          The Evangelist Mark writes to a Jewish audience and portrays Jesus as having enormous powers over natural and supernatural forces. An ordinary Jew is able to see the significance in the authority of Jesus as one who is doing the work of God. A Jew would note that the daughter of Jairus is twelve years old, the number twelve holding special significance to the people. The Twelve Tribes of Israel and the reconstituted Twelve Disciples of Jesus speak of completion of God's plan. Then, the story of Jairus is interrupted in order for us to hear the plight of the older woman with long-standing suffering from twelve years of bleeding. Mark wants the reader to know that something greater is happening before them.

          The compassion called forth from Jesus is remarkable. In a world of customs that seek to include or exclude a person, his compassion makes him vulnerable. Though he did not initiate the touch of the hemorrhaging woman, contact with her makes Jesus ritually unclean to participate in communal worship activities. This woman, who reaches out to him in desperation, makes him ritually impure. He frantically seeks her out, not to scold her, but so that his heart is warmed with affection for her - because she can now be readmitted into her community of faith. He wants to truly acknowledge the identity of this unnamed woman because her knows her faith initiated a powerful healing. Jesus, like his Father, does not want any person to endure an isolating suffering.

          This is not the end of the story. To touch a dead person means that you have become impure. Jesus, the one who is powerful in deed and in word, is to submit himself to the priest to be incorporated back into society. He is already marginalized because he healed a contagious leprous man earlier in the Gospel. Jesus touches the dead daughter of Jairus. Everyone knows she is dead, but he brings her back to life through his powerful prayer. He knows word of this will spread quickly. To him, it does not matter because the girl is restored to her full being.

          Jesus is bringing about a new reality in God's kingdom. They not only see the great miracles he performs; they see that he is willing to extend any frontiers of human-made boundaries because of his compassionate care for others. As the number twelve emphasizes the fullness and completion of the Israelite community, at a personal level it signifies the fullness of life he wants for the hemorrhaging woman and the 12-year old girl. To bring it out farther, Jesus wants fullness of life in this world and the next. This is a world that is not governed by suffering, but is one ruled by compassion, which is the key to a full, meaningful life. Jesus reveals God's compassion to us. He does not like it. He does not want us to experience it. He desires that we delight in the fullness of life he offers us.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: The Lord tells the prophet Amos that he will not stand by passively while his people commit grave injustices against those who are weak and poor. He reminds Amos of his action in the past to correct the mistakes of those who flaunt their disobedience to his word. Rather, seek the good and avoid evil. Turn from harmful ways that lead to perdition. The Lord does not care for feasts and sacrifices, but wants his people to practice mercy to one another. The priest of Bethel sent word to the king of Israel that Amos is prophesying against him, to which Amos replies that he is offering the voice of the Lord to the people so they may avoid destruction, turn from their harlotry, and live. Amos tells those who trample on the needy and the poor that the Lord will send destruction upon you soon as payment for your immorality. From that fallen hut of David, the Lord will raise up a people who live correctly in reverence of the Lord and out of compassion for one another. Those who are raised have the protection of the Lord.

Gospel: When Jesus sees a crowd gathering around him, he crosses to the other side. A scribe says that he will follow him everywhere and Jesus replies that he has no place to rest until his mission is complete. In Gedara, Jesus encounters two strong demoniacs coming from the tombs. They tell Jesus to go away because their spirits know who he is. Jesus casts outs the demons from them and drives them into the swine; the townspeople plead with Jesus to leave the village and go elsewhere. Jesus then returns to his own town where people brought a paralytic lying on a stretcher. He forgives his sins, which raises opposition with the scribes who bring forth the charge of blaspheming. He then tells the paralytic to rise, to take up his mat, and walk. As Jesus was walking, he came across Matthew, a tax collector, at his post. Jesus tells him to come be his disciple. The Pharisees mock him for eating with tax collectors, sinners, and prostitutes. The disciples of Jesus ask him why they do not fast like John’s disciples. He responds that the time will come for them to do that, but they do not have to as long as the bridegroom is with them.

Saints of the Week

July 1: Junipero Serra, priest, was a Franciscan missionary who founded missions in Baja and traveled north to California starting in 1768. The Franciscans established the missions during the suppression of the Jesuits. San Diego, San Francisco, and Santa Clara are among the most famous. Serra’s statue is in the U.S. Capitol to represent California.

July 3: Thomas, apostle, is thought to have been an apostle to India and Pakistan and he is best remembered as the one who “doubted” the resurrection of Jesus. The Gospels, however, testify to his faithfulness to Jesus during his ministry. The name, Thomas, stands for “twin,” but no mention is made of his twin’s identity.

July 5: Elizabeth of Portugal (1271-1336), was from the kingdom of Aragon begore she married Denis, king of Portugal, at age 12. Her son twice rebelled against the king and Elizabeth helped them reconcile. After he husband's death, she gave up her rank and joined the Poor Clares for a life of simplicity.

July 5: Anthony Mary Zaccaria, priest (1502-1539) was a medical doctor who founded the Barnabites because of his devotion to Paul and Barnabas and the Angelics of St. Paul, a woman's cloistered order. He encouraged the laity to work alongside the clergy to care for the poor.

July 6: Maria Goretti, martyr (1890-1902) was a poor farm worker who was threatened by Alessandro, a 20-year old neighbor. When she rebuffed his further advances, he killed her, but on her deathbed, she forgave him. He later testified on her behalf during her beatification process, which occurred in 1950.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Jul 1, 1556. The beginning of St Ignatius's last illness. He saw his three great desires fulfilled: confirmation of the Institute, papal approval of the Spiritual Exercises, and acceptance of the Constitutions by the whole Society.
·         Jul 2, 1928. The Missouri Province was divided into the Missouri Province and the Chicago Province. In 1955 there would be a further subdivision: Missouri divided into Missouri and Wisconsin; Chicago divided into Chicago and Detroit.
·         Jul 3, 1580. Queen Elizabeth I issued a statute forbidding all Jesuits to enter England.
·         Jul 4, 1648. The martyrdom in Canada of Anthony Daniel who was shot with arrows and thrown into flames by the Iroquois.
·         Jul 5, 1592. The arrest of Fr. Robert Southwell at Uxenden Manor, the house of Mr Bellamy. Tortured and then transferred to the Tower, he remained there for two and a half years.
·         Jul 6, 1758. The election to the papacy of Clement XIII who would defend the Society against the Jansenists and the Bourbon Courts of Europe.
·         Jul 7, 1867. The beatification of the 205 Japanese Martyrs, 33 of them members of the Society of Jesus.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Spirituality: Metaphor - Lukoff and Turner

Metaphor is a tool so ordinary that we use it unconsciously and automatically, with so little effort that we hardly notice it. It is omnipresent: metaphor suffuses our thoughts, no matter what we are thinking about. It is accessible to everyone: as children, we automatically, as a matter of course, acquire a mastery of everyday metaphor. It is conventional: metaphor is an integral part of our ordinary everyday thought and language. And it is irreplaceable: metaphor allows us to understand our selves and our world in ways that no other modes of thought can.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Poem: Because I could not stop for Death

Because I could not stop for Death-- 
He kindly stopped for me-- 
The Carriage held but just Ourselves-- 
And Immortality.

We slowly drove--He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For his Civility--

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess--in the Ring--
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain--
We passed the Setting Sun--

Or rather--He passed Us--
The Dews drew quivering and chill--
For only Gossamer, my Gown--
My Tippet--only Tulle--

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground--
The Roof was scarcely visible--
The Cornice--in the Ground--

Since then--'tis Centuries--and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses' Heads
Were toward Eternity.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Prayer: Catharine of Genoa

O love, your bonds are so sweet and so strong... so firm and so close that they are never broken. Those who are bound by this chain are so united that they have but one will and one aim... In this union there is no difference between rich and poor, between nation and nation. All contradiction is excluded, for by this love crooked things are made straight and difficulties reconciled.

Poem: D.H. Lawrence

Thought, I love thought.
But not the jiggling and twisting of already existent ideas
I despise that self-important game.
Thought is the welling up of unknown life into consciousness,
Thought is the testing of statements on the touchstone of the conscience,
Thought is gazing on to the face of life, and reading what can be read,
Thought is pondering over experience, and coming to a conclusion.
Thought is not a trick, or an exercise, or a set of dodges,
Thought is a man in his wholeness wholly attending.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Prayer: John Bosco

The fulfillment of every law, the totality of Christian virtue, according to St. Paul consists in charity. You raise yourself toward God in proportion as you perfect yourself in this heavenly virtue.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Prayer: Pay Attention

It doesn't have to be the blue iris.
It can be a weed, in a vacant lot
or a few small stones:
just pay attention

Mary Oliver

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Prayer: John Cassian

Hope is sure of pardon and is without fear of being punished. Hope knows of the good works done. Hope is able to be on the lookout for the promised reward.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 24, 2012
Isaiah 49:1-6; Psalm 139; Acts 13:22-26; Luke 1:57-66, 80

                The birth of John the Baptist is commemorated on June 24th, which is around the midway point to Christmas, the birth of the Lord. An alternate Gospel reading to todays depicts John, at the height of his ministry, recognizing that he must decrease so that Jesus of Nazareth can increase. As Christ is the light of the world and Christmas is the victory of light over darkness, the sunlight is at its strongest peak at the northern hemisphere’s summer solstice and will begin to decrease until Christmas Day.

          This alternate reading means a great deal to me as it is the anniversary of the day I sold my condo to enter the Jesuits signifying the ways I am to decrease so Christ can increase in my life. I find myself at a similar spot as I am writing this from Jordan, the place of my new ministry as a missionary. As I detach from collected worldly possessions once again, I am reminded of the ways I have to let Christ’s work be magnified through me. Preparing for a ministry like this is painful because it is almost like preparing for one’s demise because we have to make choices about what to give away while retaining the minimal basics. It means storing and detaching from gifts for which many memories are associated. These memories give life meaning and identity.

          I am told that in the first half of life, one does what one can to claim his or her own identity. The choices we make are about gathering meaningful people, places, and events to ourselves. The second half of life is about detaching from those same things in freedom. Ironically, the gathering of the first half and the dispersal during the second half of life define who we are. Today’s readings are all about our identity and plan with God.

          Isaiah’s passage reveals that each of us has an intimate relationship with God, who calls us from birth and while in our mother’s womb gives us a name. He says that we are not called only to be servants of God, but we are called to become a light to the nations so that the story of salvation can be seen through us to the ends of the earth.

          Luke’s tale of the infancy narrative of Jesus also tells us about John’s origins. As he was born to the elder Elizabeth, it was expected that the boy would receive his father’s name, Zechariah, who is struck dumb because he doubts the Lord when he learns his wife will become pregnant. During the term of her pregnancy and even after John’s birth, Zechariah cannot speak at all. At the ritual circumcision and naming, Elizabeth surprises everyone by announcing that her son is to be called John. As they are confused, they appeal to Zechariah who writes on a tablet, “His name is John.” To everyone’s utter amazement, Zechariah’s tongue is freed and he can speak once again. The name John means “the grace of God.”

          It shows us that the power to appropriately name someone or something is liberating. Isaiah tells us that God gives us a name in our mother’s womb and oftentimes we do not carry that name throughout life. Sometimes we are not fond of the name given to us at birth. It doesn’t feel right throughout life and we yearn for a different name. A nickname or a title is a better description of who we are. Often in retreat work, excercitants will announce that an alter person of themselves relates to God in a certain way and has an identity and relationship distinct to God. Owning a name that is spot on helps the person to grow as God intends. Something within us is freed when we claim who we are; our tongues are freed.

          Does your name fit you? What does it say about you and your particular set of relationships? If not, what would call yourself, or better yet, what does God call you? We do have to be known by a name that fits us in order for us to grow in God’s grace. After we have established this crucial identity, we can let Christ’s light grow in us and through us as his work of salvation is done through our good works.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: The king of Assyria attacks the kingdoms of Israel and Judah and conquers most of the land. Though every prophet and seer warned the children of Israel, they people choose a path in defiance of the covenant. Only Judah survives the attacks. The Assyrian king sends a letter mocking the God of Israel and Hezekiah petitions God to listen to the cries of the people and to understand what is happening to them. God replies that he will save the city of David and will slaughter 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. Hilkiah discovers the book of the law in the temple and with a scribe presents it to the king who orders it read aloud. The king assembles all the inhabitants of Jerusalem and reads the book to the before committing themselves to the covenant. ~ Jehoiachin comes to the throne at age 18 and commits evil in the sight of the Lord. The Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar attacks Jerusalem and vanquishes their forces. All able-bodied men and women are brought captive to Babylon while the king appoints his uncle as king over Israel and changes his name to Zedekiah. ~ On Friday and Saturday, the church honors the work of Peter, Paul, and the first martyrs of Rome.

Gospel: As the Beatitudes’ Sermon continues, Jesus instructs the people not to judge others because we will live and die by the way we judge others. God’s judgment alone is the one that matters. For that matter, keep holy those possessions that you cherish, treat others as you would have them treat you, and choose the road that leads to salvation even though it is a narrow one. Learn to trust the voice of the true prophet so you are not duped by false ones. The way we do this is to look at the fruits produced by the tree. Keeping the Lord’s commandments is proof of discipleship because many will come at the Day of Judgment to call upon the Lord and he will not recognize them. Following his commands means that one has even resources to battle the harshest storms.

Saints of the Week

June 24: Nativity of John the Baptist (first century) was celebrated on June 24th to remind us that he was six months older than Jesus, according to Luke. This day also serves to remind us that, as Christ is the light of the world, John must decrease just as the daylight diminishes. John’s birth is told by Luke. He was the son of the mature Elizabeth and the dumbstruck Zechariah. When John was named, Zechariah’s tongue was loosened and he sang the great Benedictus.

June 27: Cyril of Alexandria, bishop and doctor (376-444), presided over the Council of Ephesus that fought Nestorian the heresy. Cyril claimed, contrary to Nestorius, that since the divine and human in Jesus were so closely united that it was appropriate to refer to Mary was the mother of God. Because he condemned Nestorius, the church went through a schism that lasted until Cyril's death. Cyril's power, wealth, and theological expertise influenced many as he defended the church against opposing philosophies.

June 28: Irenaeus, bishop and martyr (130-200) was sent to Lyons as a missionary to combat the persecution the church faced in Lyons. He was born in Asia Minor and became a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of the Apostle John. Irenaeus asserted that the creation was not sinful by nature but merely distorted by sin. As God created us, God redeemed us. Therefore, our fallen nature can only be saved by Christ who took on our form in the Incarnation. Irenaeus refutation of heresies laid the foundations of Christian theology.

June 29: Peter and Paul, apostles (first century) are lumped together for a feast day because of their extreme importance to the early and contemporary church. Upon Peter's faith was the church built; Paul's efforts to bring Gentiles into the faith and to lay out a moral code was important for successive generations. It is right that they are joined together as their work is one, but with two prongs. For Jesuits, this is a day that Ignatius began to recover from his illness after the wounds he sustained at Pamplona. It marked a turning point in his recovery.

June 30: The First Holy Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (c. 64) were martyrs under Nero's persecution in 64. Nero reacted to the great fire in Rome by falsely accusing Christians of setting it. While no one believed Nero's assertions, Christians were humiliated and condemned to death in horrible ways. This day always follows the feast of the martyrs, Sts. Peter and Paul.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Jun 24, 1537. Ignatius, Francis Xavier, and five of the companions were ordained priests in Venice, Italy.
·         Jun 25, 1782. The Jesuits in White Russia were permitted by the Empress Catherine to elect a General. They chose Fr. Czerniewicz. He took the title of Vicar General, with the powers of the General.
·         Jun 26, 1614. By a ruse of the Calvinists, the book, "Defensio Fidei" by Francis Suarez was condemned by the French Parliament. In addition, in England James I ordered the book to be publicly burned.
·         Jun 27, 1978. Bernard Lisson, a mechanic, and Gregor Richert, a parish priest, were shot to death at St Rupert's Mission, Sinoia, Zimbabwe.
·         Jun 28, 1591. Fr. Leonard Lessius's teaching on grace and predestination caused a great deal of excitement and agitation against the Society in Louvain and Douai. The Papal Nuncio and Pope Gregory XIV both declared that his teaching was perfectly orthodox.
·         Jun 29, 1880. In France the law of spoliation, which was passed at the end of March, came into effect and all the Jesuit Houses and Colleges were suppressed.
·         Jun 30, 1829. The opening of the Twenty-first General Congregation of the order, which elected Fr. John Roothan as General.

Prayer: Making Space for God

knocks at my door
seeking a home for his son.
Rent is cheap, I say.
I don't want to rent. I want to buy, says God.
I'm not so sure I want to sell,
but you might come in to look around.
I think I will, says God.
I might let you have a room or two.
I like it, says God. I'll take the two.
You might decide to give me more some day.
I can wait, says God.
I'd like to give you more,
but it's a bit difficult. I need some space for me.
I know, says God, but I'll wait. I like what I see.
Hm, maybe I can let you have another room.
I really don't need that much.
Thanks, says God. I'll take it. I like what I see.
I'd like to give you the whole house
but I'm not sure...
Think on it says God. I wouldn't put you out.
Your house would be mine and my son would live in it.
You'd have more space than you'd ever had before.
I don't understand at all.
I know, says God, but I can't tell you about that.
You'll have to discover it for yourself.
That can only happen if you let me have the whole house.
A bit risky, I say.
Yes, says God. But try me.
I'm not sure --
I'll let you know.

I can wait, says God. I like what I see.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Prayer: Teresa of Calcutta

When we handle the sick and the needy, we touch the suffering body of Christ. We need the eyes of deep faith to see Christ in the broken body and dirty clothes under which the most beautiful one among us hides.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Prayer: Prayer for Expressing Gratitude

Gracious God, in the busy-ness of my day, I sometimes forget to stop to thank You for all that is good in my life.

My blessings are many and my heart is filled with gratefulness for the gift of living, for the ability to love and be loved, for the opportunity to see the everyday wonders of creation, for sleep and water, for a mind that thinks and a body that feels.

I thank you, too, for those things in my life that are less than I would hope them to be. Things that seem challenging, unfair, or difficult. When my heart feels stretched and empty and pools of tears form in my weary eyes, still I rejoice that you are as near to me as my next breath and that in the midst of turbulence, I am growing and learning.

In the silence of my soul, I thank you most of all for your unconditional and eternal love. Amen.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Song: The Verdi Requiem: Libera me

Deliver me, O Lord, from eternal death on that awful day,
when the heavens and the earth shall be moved:
when you will come to judge the world by fire.

I tremble, and I fear the judgment and the wrath to come, when the heavens and the earth shall be moved.

The day of wrath, that day of calamity and misery; a great and bitter day, indeed.

Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them.

Deliver me, Lord, from eternal death on that awful day.

Deliver me, O Lord, when the heavens and the earth shall be moved;
when you will come to judge the world by fire.

Deliver me, Lord, from eternal death on that awful day.
Deliver me.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Poem: I hear Spring Breathing

I hear Spring breathing softly,
her quiet respiration
rising and falling
through the heavy snowbanks
as they gurgle in the sunshine.

I hear the slow, steady intake
of mid-February air
stirring the awakening crocuses.

I hear the sigh
of the oak tree’s terminal buds,
warm wind stretching them out
beneath the turquoise sky.

I hear my own lungs
inhaling and exhaling
with renewed hope,
ready for the coming
of green and the shedding
of all that is grayed
with winter's feigned death.

Joyce Rupp

Friday, June 15, 2012

Prayer: It would be easier to pray

O Eternal One,
It would be easier for me to pray
        if I were clear
                and of a single mind and a pure heart;
        if I could be done hiding from myself
     and from you, even in my prayers.
But, I am who I am,
        mixture of motives and excuses,
                blur of memories,
   quiver of hopes,
                knot of fear,
            tangle of confusion,
        and restless with love,
     for love.
I wander somewhere between
        gratitude and grievance,
                wonder and routine,
                       high resolve and undone dreams,
                               generous impulses and unpaid bills.
Come, find me, Lord.
Be with me exactly as I am.
Help me find me, Lord.
        Help me accept what I am,
                so I can begin to be yours.
Make of me something small enough to snuggle,
        young enough to question,
               simple enough to giggle,
                      old enough to forget,
                             foolish enough to act for peace;
         skeptical enough to doubt
                the sufficiency of anything but you,
         and attentive enough to listen
                as you call me out of the tomb of my timidity
                       into the chancy glory of my possibilities
                              and the power of your presence.

Ted Loder, Guerrillas of Grace, LuraMedia, 1984

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Song: Verdi Requiem: Tenor's Aria

I groan as a guilty one,
and my face blushes with guilt;
spare the supplicant, O God.

You, who absolved Mary Magdalen,
and heard the prayer of the thief,
have given me hope, as well.

My prayers are not worthy,
but show mercy, O benevolent one,
lest I burn forever in fire.

Give me a place among the sheep,
and separate me from the goats,
placing me on your right hand.

Bass and Chorus:
When the damned are silenced,
and given to the fierce flames,
call me with the blessed ones.

I pray, suppliant and kneeling,
with a heart contrite as ashes:
take my ending into your care.

The day of wrath, that day will
dissolve the world in ashes,
as David and the Sibyl prophesied.

Solo Quartet and Chorus:
That day is one of weeping,
on which shall rise from the ashes
the guilty man, to be judged.
Therefore, spare this one, O God.

Merciful Lord Jesus:
grant them peace.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 17, 2012
Ezekiel 17:22-24; Psalm 92; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10; Mark 14:26-34

                Our minds are built to solve problems and find meaning to life's mysteries. We want clear answers to questions and become frustrated when answers seem elusive. Scientists probe, lawyer rephrase, doctor's rule out, journalists deepen, and politicians maneuver around the data to construct a position favorable to themselves. Jesus introduces paradoxes and ambiguities in his preaching in his use or parables. Our minds do not know quite what to do with mysteries because we instinctively move past holding the unknown so we can figure out the meaning of what just happened. Ezekiel's passage and Mark's Gospel underscore that we live in the midst of mysteries.

          Ezekiel notes that God intends to encourage the fledgling Israelite community to be faithful to the Lord God who promises to raise up the lowly and bring down the mighty. The prophet likens Israel to a shoot from the branch of a tall cedar tree that is planted high atop a mountain (Jerusalem) for all to see and to find protection. The smallest of nations will become raised to a powerful one through God's providence. Israel will find her rightful place in the community of nations and she will experience internal and external safety. However, the contradictions remain. If Israel begins a tall and might nation, will God once again strike down the powerful and build up the lowly. She must become certain that her actions represent God's judgments.

          In Mark, Jesus speaks in parables to highlight the mysteries surrounding us. Though we may obtain knowledge of the farming or any processes in nature, we will not understand why some seeds germinate and others do not. We hope for good fortune that plantings take root, grow, and come to full harvest, but we realize we have little control over the outcomes. We can create conditions for more enhanced growth and protection from harsh elements and predators, but we cannot gain control over the mysteries of nature. We simply resign ourselves to do what is best not to thwart these natural processes.

          How well do we appreciate the mysteries surrounding us? For many who ponder them, they point to the reality that God is always laboring for us. We realize our dependence upon God for we can never master life or death. We come to understand what Ignatius tells us at the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises - that humans were created to love, serve, and know God and that all things of the earth are given to us as neutral gifts. We are to use these gifts insofar as they help us to better our relationship with God. When we marvel at the freedom that holding the mystery affords us, we let go of our need to control the world around us. It reminds me of the Augustine saying: "Pray as though everything depends upon God; work as though everything depends on you." It even makes sense if we turn the phrase: "Pray as though everything depends upon you; work as though everything depends upon God."

          We would do well to hold mystery more easily in our lives today. We are a "both-and" people because our faith allows for different perspectives and understandings. We are a "now-and-not-yet" people because we live in this world today and for a future, better reality. We can more easily hold the tensions and competing theologies in the church (even though the animus is hard to understand) because we ultimately realize the existence and the shaping of the church is not up to us. The kingdom is larger than the church. Let's simply respond to the mysteries and say "yes" when the opportunity arises for us to accept God's plan to build up the kingdom.  It is best to be like the farmer in Mark's Gospel who wakes up each day to witness and give thanks the mysteries of the growth of his crops. May we also arise each day to reverently behold and give thanks for the work God does in our lives.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Ahab seeks to buy Naboth the Jesreelite's field, but he will not give it up because it is his ancestral heritage. Defeated, he returns home to his wife Jezebel who devises a plan to obtain the land by having two scoundrels accuse Naboth of insulting God. The upset crowd takes Naboth out of the city to stone him to death - allowing Ahab to take possession of his land. Elijah the Tishbite prophet meets Ahab in Samaria and finds Ahab guilty of the cruel plot. Since Ahab humbles himself and comes clean, the Lord tells Elijah that no evil will fall upon his house. ~ As Elijah is about to be taken up to heaven in a chariot, Elisha asks that he receive double the spirit of Elijah who will grant it if Elisha sees Elijah crossing over to heaven. A song to Elijah's fiery words is sung in memorial. ~ Athaliah sees that her son is dead and exacts retribution on the royal family. After her plotting increases, Jehoiada decides to deal with her directly. She was arrested and killed alongside the many disciples of Baal. After Jehoiada dies, the spirit possesses Zechariah who is killed by the king's men because he tells they have abadonded the Lord. Aramean forces plunder Judah and Jerusalem sending many spoils to the king of Damascus - for the Lord abandons the wayward Israelites.

Gospel: The sayings after the Beatitudes continue as Jesus exhorts his disciples to offer no resistance to one who is evil and to go the extra distance to do good for others. This leads to love of neighbor and enemy alike. While it sounds nice, it is difficult to put into practice, but when they try to do it, it changes around relationships into peaceful ones. Jesus tells them their outward conduct must match their interior disposition. They are to follow the words of the Pharisees and scribes while making sure not to imitate their hypocritical behavior. Praying, fasting, and almsgiving is done for God's greater glory, not for human glory. Jesus them gives them a prayer that sets their dispositions and attitudes aright when talking to God. Treasures are not to be stored up on earth where decay and thievery happens. Treasures are to reflect the memories of one's heart where such precious gifts are stored away in heaven. They are to choose either God or mammon. They have role models in this world: the lilies do not toil, the birds received God's providence. We are not to worry about tomorrow for today's concerns are enough for us.

Saints of the Week

June 19: Romuald, abbot (950-1027), was born into a family of dukes from Ravenna and became known for founding the Camaldolese Benedictine order that combined the solitary life of hermits into a monastic community life. He founded other hermitages and monasteries throughout Italy.

June 21: Aloysius Gonzaga, S.J., priest (1568-1591), gave up a great inheritance to join the Jesuits in 1585 in his dreams of going to the missions. However, when a plague hit Rome, Gonzaga served the sick and dying in hospitals where he contracted the plague and died within three months. He is a patron saint of youth.

June 22: Paulinus of Nola, bishop (353-431) was a prominent lawyer who married a Spaniard and was baptized. Their infant son died while in Spain. He became a priest and was sent to Nola, near Naples, where he lived a semi-monastic life and helped the poor and pilgrims.

June 22: John Fisher, bishop and martyr (1469-1535) taught theology at Cambridge University and became the University Chancellor and bishop of Rochester. Fisher defended the queen against Henry VIII who wanted the marriage annulled. Fisher refused to sign the Act of Succession. When the Pope made Fisher a cardinal, the angry king beheaded him.

June 22: Thomas More, martyr (1478-1535) was a gifted lawyer, member of Parliament, scholar, and public official. He was reluctant to serve Cardinal Woolsey at court and he resigned after he opposed the king’s Act of Succession, which would allow him to divorce his wife. He was imprisoned and eventually beheaded.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Jun 17, 1900. The martyrdom at Wuyi, China, of Blesseds Modeste Andlauer and Remy Asore, slain during the Boxer Rebellion.
·         Jun 18, 1804. Fr. John Roothan, a future general of the Society, left his native Holland at the age of seventeen to join the Society in White Russia.
·         Jun 19, 1558. The opening of the First General Congregation, nearly two years after the death of Ignatius. It was summoned by Fr. Lainez, the Vicar General. Some trouble arose from the fact that Fr. Bobadilla thought himself entitled to some share in the governance. Pope Paul IV ordered that the Institute of the Society should be strictly adhered to.
·         Jun 20, 1626. The martyrdom in Nagasaki, Japan, of Blesseds Francis Pacheco, John Baptist Zola, Vincent Caun, Balthasar De Torres, Michael Tozo, Gaspar Sadamatzu, John Kinsaco, Paul Xinsuki, and Peter Rinscei.
·         Jun 21, 1591. The death of St Aloysius Gonzaga, who died from the plague, which he caught while attending the sick.
·         Jun 22, 1611. The first arrival of the Jesuit fathers in Canada, sent there at the request of Henry IV of France.
·         Jun 23, 1967. Saint Louis University's Board of Trustees gathered at Fordyce House for the first meeting of the expanded Board of Trustees. SLU was the first Catholic university to establish a Board of Trustees with a majority of lay members.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Prayer: God of my Life

Only in love can I find you, my God.
In love the gates of the soul spring open,
allowing me to breathe a new air of freedom
and forget my own petty self.

In love my whole being streams forth
out of the rigid confines of narrowness and anxious self-assertion,
which makes me a prisoner of my own poverty and emptiness.

In love all the powers of my soul flow out toward you,
wanting never more to return,
but to lose themselves completely in you,
since by your love you are the inmost center of my heart,
closer to me than I am to myself.

But when I love you,
when I manage to break out of the narrow circle of self
and leave behind the restless agony of unanswered questions,
when my blinded eyes no longer look merely from afar
and from the outside upon your unapproachable brightness,
and much more when you yourself, O Incomprehensible One,
have become through love the inmost center of my life,
then I can bury myself entirely in you, O mysterious God,
and with myself all my questions.

-Karl Rahner SJ

Monday, June 11, 2012

Prayer: Catherine of Siena

When then, eternal Father, did you create this creature of yours? ... You show me that you made us for one reason only: in your light you saw yourself compelled by the fire of your love to give us being in spite of the evil we would commit against you. It was fire, then, that compelled you. Oh, unutterable love, even though you saw all the evils your creatures would commit against your infinite goodness, you acted as if you did not see and set your eye only on the beauty of your creature, with whom you had fallen in love like one drunk and crazy with love.... You are the fire, nothing but a fire of love, crazy over what you have made.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Prayer: Minucius Felix

To ourselves, we seem many, but to God we are very few. We distinguish peoples and nations; to God, this whole world is one family.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Prayer: Aelred of Rievaulx

In friendship are joined honor and charm, truth and joy, sweetness and good-will, affection and action. And all these take their beginning from Christ, advance through Christ, and are perfected in Christ.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Song: Verdi Requiem: Dies Irae

The day of wrath, that day will
dissolve the world in ashes,
as David and the Sibyl prophesied.

How great will be the terror,
when the Judge comes
who will smash everything completely!

The trumpet, scattering a marvelous sound
through the tombs of every land,
will gather all before the throne.

Death and Nature shall stand amazed,
when all Creation rises again
to answer to the Judge.

Mezzo-soprano and Chorus:
A written book will be brought forth,
which contains everything
for which the world will be judged.

Therefore when the Judge takes His seat,
whatever is hidden will be revealed:
nothing shall remain unavenged.

The day of wrath, that day will
dissolve the world in ashes,
as David and the Sibyl prophesied.

Soprano, Mezzo-soprano and Tenor:
What can a wretch like me say?
Whom shall I ask to intercede for me,
when even the just ones are unsafe?

Solo Quartet and Chorus:
King of dreadful majesty.
who freely saves the redeemed ones,
save me, O font of pity.

Soprano and Mezzo-soprano:
Recall, merciful Jesus,
that I was the reason for your journey:
do not destroy me on that day.

In seeking me, you sat down wearily;
enduring the Cross, you redeemed me:
do not let these pains to have been in vain.

Just Judge of punishment:
give me the gift of redemption
before the day of reckoning.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Prayer: Francis of Assisi

Consider, O human being, in what great excellence the Lord God has placed you, for God created and formed you to the image of the beloved Son according to the body and to his likeness according to his Spirit.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Body and Blood of Christ Sunday

June 10, 2012
Exodus 24:3-8; Psalm 116; Hebrews 9:11-15; Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

                The covenant takes central focus during this year's feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. In Exodus, in preparation for a holocaust, Moses reads the words and ordinances of the Lord aloud while the people assent to follow everything they hear. The next day, Moses builds an altar and sets a pillar for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Moses ritually commits the people through the sacrifice of young bulls as peace offerings and submission to God. After copiously splashing the altar with blood, he reads the words from the Book of the Covenant and seals human will to the divine will.

          The Letter to the Hebrews explains that Jesus became the most perfect sacrifice in covenantal fidelity because he shed his own blood for others. It shows how he, though not of a priestly class, functions as the high priest. In ancient Israelite custom, the blood of goats and bulls mingled with the burnt heifer's ashes are to sanctify those who have sinned. The blood and body of Jesus, as the one free who is from mortal sin, purifies those who have been defiled by sin and makes his offering to God on behalf of the people perfect. He dies to deliver them from sins under the first covenant, which sets them up for a life of eternal promise in the new covenant.

          The Last Supper depicted by Mark describes the events of the self-offering of Jesus. He distinctly ties what he is doing to the covenant as he prepares himself for his cruel death where his blood will be spilt and his body broken. He also links his actions with the Passover - the main salvific event in Jewish history. The theme of deliverance ties itself to sacrifice. Deliverance is no longer only from human oppression and enslavement, but also from the great abstract but personified tyrants of sin and death. No other self-offering produces a more wondrous result.

          What I most like about these passages is the amount of preparation that goes into getting ready for the meal. Moses and his crew takes a while to set up the altar, erect the twelve poles, and prepare the Book of the Covenant. Jesus sends disciples into city where they will find a man carrying a water jar who will meet them. The host thoughtfully furnishes and prepares the upper room for the banquet. In each reading for today, the preparation rituals almost have the same significance as the actual event. Most of the attentive planning and proper touches are done before the sacrifices/meals take place. The same is true for a special dinner like a Thanksgiving meal. It takes days of remote planning and hours of proximate preparation to make the meal successful and then it takes less than an hour to eat it.

          Think about the amount of time a parish puts into its weekly worship services. From the liturgy committee's seasonal planning, the music director's selection of hymns and choir preparation, to the assigning of lectors and servers, many people are involved in making the one-hour Sunday service go well. It is always better to be involved to get a glimpse of the extraordinary care people give to their ministries. The priest also spends a minimum of three hours praying over and composing his homily. One's active participation in the events makes them more meaningful.

          Let's do all things well. We don't want to be scrupulous, but tasteful. Whether we are dressing for the day, writing an email, driving a car, or preparing supper, find enjoyment in what you are doing and add that little flourish that provides your own signature to it. When I was in the corporate world, a colleague always found a new way to accessorize her professional attire each day. We bring something special to our preparations when we take just enough time to show others we care for ourselves and that we are proud of the quality of our work. It means being happily attentive to the task in which we are engaged. The preparation is the key. When we get to the main event, we can sit back and enjoy because we know we have offered ourselves to it - just as Jesus fully offered himself to the work God expected of him.
Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: The story of Barnabas is told on his feast day on Monday. It describes how he became linked with Paul. He cares for Paul as a new convert and teaches him the faith. In Antioch that year, when a large number of people are brought together, the group is called Christians for the first time. In 1 Kings, the prophet Elijah spares a starving widow and her son in a drought by providing daily flour and oil until the rains water the ground once again. Elijah prepares his case against the god Baal. His sacrificial offering is more pleasing to God than the 450 prophets of Baal. The God of Israel consumes the sacrifice of bull, wheat, water and stones while nothing happens with the sacrifices of Baal. Elijah tells the young Ahab to go up the mountain because the sound of heavy rain is coming. Ahab makesway to Jezreel by chariot, and Elijah runs ahead of him. ~ On Friday's Sacred Heart feast, we hear from the prophet Hosea about God's special love for his child, Israel. On Saturday, Elijah meets Elisha as he plows the fields and allows him to become his attendant.

Gospel: We turn to Matthew's Gospel because Mark's Gospel is the shortest one and has run its course in the cycle. We begin with Jesus noticing the crowds, walking up the mountain, and addressing his disciples with the consoling words of the Beatitudes. He encourages them to be like salt that provides taste while also preserving food and to be like a lamp that shines for all to see. He then indicates that he did not come to be a revolutionary who throws out the law, but as one who will fulfill every aspect of God's law. Central to his message is a radical view of reconciliation and love for one's neighbor. Reconciliation is that which transforms anger and evil into good. ~ Friday's feast of the Sacred Heart depicts the scene in John shortly after the death of Jesus when the soldiers learn they do not need to break his legs because he is already dead. Saturday's reading focus on the suffering of Mary as she learns early in life that Jesus is obedient primarily to his heavenly Father.

Saints of the Week

June 11: Barnabas, apostle (d. 61), was a Jew from Cyprus who joined the early Christians in Jerusalem to build up the church. His name means "son of encouragement." He accepted Paul into his community and worked alongside him for many years to convert the Gentiles. He was stoned to death in his native Cyprus. He was a towering  authority to the early church.

June 13: Anthony of Padua, priest and doctor (1195-1231), became a biblical scholar who eventually joined the Franciscans. Francis sent him to preach in northern Italy, first in Bologna and then Padua. He very especially beloved because of his pastoral care, but he died at age 36.

Friday: The Sacred Heart of Jesus is set on the Friday following Corpus Christi. The heart of Jesus is adored as a symbol of divine, spiritual, and human love. Its devotion grew during the Middle Ages and was transformed in the 17th century when Mary Margaret Alocoque and her Jesuit spiritual director, Claude La Colombiere, reinvigorated the devotion.

Saturday: The Immaculate Heart of Mary began as a devotion in the 17th century. In 1944, the feast was extended to the Western Church. Her heart signifies her sanctity and love as the Mother of God.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Jun 10, 1537. Ignatius and his companions were given minor orders at the house of Bishop Vincenzo Negusanti in Venice, Italy.
·         Jun 11, 1742. The Chinese and Malabar Rites were forbidden by Pope Benedict XIV; persecution broke out at once in China.
·         Jun 12, 1928. Fr. General Ledochowski responded negatively to the idea of intercollegiate sports at Jesuit colleges because he feared the loss of study time and the amount of travel involved.
·         Jun 13, 1557. The death of King John III of Portugal, at whose request Francis Xavier and others were sent to India.
·         Jun 14, 1596. By his brief Romanus Pontifex, Pope Clement VIII forbade to members of the Society of Jesus the use or privilege of the Bulla Cruciata as to the choice of confessors and the obtaining of absolution from reserved cases.
·         Jun 15, 1871. P W Couzins, a female law student, graduated from Saint Louis University Law School, the first law school in the country to admit women.
·         Jun 16, 1675. St Margaret Mary Alacoque received her great revelation about devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.