Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 5, 2012
Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15; Psalm 78; Ephesians 4:17-24; John 6:24-35

          In the Book of Exodus, the wandering Israelites complain about their living conditions. Life in Egypt, though oppressive, provided staples of food, shelter, and clothing. Though free, the community does not even know when or how their next meal can be prepared. Moses asks the Lord to provide for the grumbling people and he responds by providing quails at night for their fleshpots and manna each morning for bread. The Lord will provide daily sustenance when it is most needed.

          In John's Gospel, Jesus finishes distributing bread and fish to over 5,000 men and their families. Plenty of food is passed around in baskets. The crowd realizes that Jesus does something remarkable for them and they seek him out. They want more signs so they can believe that he really is the One promised to them by the prophets of old. They land in Capernaum where Jesus addresses their questions. He tells them they are not seeking more signs and short-term miracles because they really hunger for the food that gives them eternal life. He declares he is the Bread of Life; the food he gives will sustain those who believe in him.

          The Jesus portrayed in the Fourth Gospel emphasizes 'belief' as the condition for a discipleship to leads to eternal life. All one must do is to believe; one's actions follow as a result of his or her faith. The crowds asks Jesus, "What can we do to accomplish the works of God?" and he responds, "You are to believe in the one whom God has sent," He will then give you the eternal bread. Faith, according to Jesus, is simple, but the consequences of professing belief are challenging. Their ongoing faith will nourish and sustain them each day. Just as their ancestors were sustained by manna in the desert, they will be sustained by bread from heaven - as long as they realize Jesus provides this bread.
          The crowds seek out Jesus twice in this passage. The first seeking is more than curiosity, but the second seeking shows they want to believe in Jesus and his works. They realize he is someone extraordinary and they want to know something deeper about him. This replicates our pattern of developing friendship with the Lord. It is the same process we use when acquiring new friends. We are first intrigued so we seek out the person, we ask questions and come to know something about them, we admire and want to know something more, and then we reveal something about ourselves that we might not want the other person to know. The budding relationship becomes a friendship.

          Friendship is not always all-rosy. The Israelites are free to grumble and complain about their situation. We become friends when we share what we are really feeling with the other person. When we share our feelings, we reveal something more about who we truly are. We are best when we are honest about our feelings. Friendships can withstand ugly mood-swings; they seldom tolerate dishonesty. The more honest and transparent we can be with expressing our feelings, needs, and desires, the better we are as a true friend. We can hold our own feelings and those of others. A good friend will often place the real needs of others before his or her own.

          The most important thing we can do in prayer is to stay in the relationship. We also come to know that it is static. We change; our prayer styles can change. We seek out new ways for developing prayer and for adjusting ourselves in the friendship with Jesus. The way we pray in the morning may not be the same method we use at night. Just as we have times throughout the day when we are more productive; we might have better times that are conducive to prayer. We have rich prayer styles and methods to use. We have to see that we are on a journey of ascent. The best thing we can do is to hold our seeking and striving in front of us: Jesus will be there to nourish and sustain us. We simply need to relax and believe.
Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: The Transfiguration of Lord reveals how Daniel had a vision of the Son of Man being elevated from his humanity to a place of dominion over creation. ~ As the first reading tell Jeremiah's story, we hear him empathizing with the Lord because his wound is so great and no one is there to plead his cause, but the Lord says he will build us Zion once again. The Lord sings a song of victory for Zion for Israel will have her rest. All the tribes of Israel will come home. The Lord says he will not make the same type of covenant with Israel at the time of their deliverance from Egypt; they broke that one. The new one will be made by writing it upon their hearts. ~ In 2 Corinthians, Paul tells us that we are to be cheerful givers. God is able to make every grace abundant for you. ~ In Habakkuk, one wonders why the all-pure, all-powerful God looks down on the faithless in silence while the wicked seem to have their way in this world. The Lord declares: the just one, because of his faith, will live.

Gospel: Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up the mountainside to reveal his true identity as the Beloved One of the Father who ranks higher than the Prophets (Elijah) and the Law (Moses.) ~ As the Gospel returns to Matthew's account, Jesus and his disciples get into a boat to cross to the other side because of the crowds. Late at night, the ship is tossed around by the winds and the disciples see Jesus walking towards them on the sea. Jesus withdraws to Tyre and Sidon where he encounters a Canaanite woman who pleads for her daughter's demon to depart from her. Jesus reluctantly relents when he sees her great faith. At Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks "who do you say I am?" Peter replies, "The Messiah." Jesus begins to instruct them that he will be 'lifted up' once 'handed over' by his own people. He also lets them know that the price of discipleship is death with him so they can receive new life. Once Jesus finishes his instructions, he meets us with the other disciples who are dumbfounded because they cannot drive out a demon from a young boy.

Saints of the Week

August 5: Dedication of the Basilica of Mary Major in Rome is celebrated because it is the largest and oldest of the churches in honor of Mary. The veneration began in 435 when the church was repaired after the Council of Ephesus in 431 when Mary was proclaimed the Mother of God. This is the church where Ignatius of Loyola said his first Mass and where Francis of Assisi assembled the first crèche.

August 6: The Transfiguration of the Lord is an historical event captured by the Gospels when Jesus is singled out as God's Son - ranking higher than Moses or Elijah. In front of his disciples, Jesus becomes transfigured, thus revealing his true nature. Ironically, the anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb occurred at Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

August 7: Sixtus, II, pope and martyr with companions (d. 258), died during the Valerian persecutions in 258. They were killed in the catacombs where they celebrated Mass. Sixtus was beheaded while speaking in his presidential chair and six deacons were killed as well. Lawrence, the Deacon, is honored on August 10th. Sixtus is remembered during the 1st Eucharistic prayer at Mass.

August 7: Cajetan, priest (1480-1547), was a civil and canon lawyer who worked in the papal chancery. He later joined the Roman Order of Divine Love and was ordained a priest. He became aware that the church needed reform and he teamed up with the bishop of Theate (Gian Pietro Carafa) and formed a society of priests called the Theatines who lived in community and took monastic vows. They owned no property.

August 8: Dominic, priest (1170-1221), was a Spaniard who was sent to southern France to counter the heretical teachings of the Albigensians, who held that the material world was evil and only religious asceticism could combat those forces. Dominic begged and preached in an austere fashion and set the foundations for the new Order of Preachers for both men and women.

August 8: Mother Mary MacKillop, religious (1842-1909), who worked in Australia and New Zealand to assist the poor, needy, and immigrants to the country, was canonized on October 17th 2010. August 8th is chosen as the day in which she will be memorialized on the Roman calendar. I offer the following prayer:

Bountiful and loving God,
You have filled the heart of Mary MacKillop
with compassionate love for those
who are in need at the margins of our society.
Deepen that love within us
that we may embrace the mystery of the Cross
which leads us through death to life.
We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus
who having broken the bonds of death
leads us to everlasting life. Amen.

August 9: Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), martyr (1891-1942), became a Catholic convert from Judaism after reading the autobiography of Teresa of Avila. He earned a doctorate in philosophy, but was unemployable because she was a woman. She taught at a high school for eight years before entering the Carmelites in 1933 where she made final vows in 1938. She moved to Holland to escape persecution by the Nazis, but was arrested when the bishops spoke out against the persecution of the Jews.

August 10: Lawrence, deacon and martyr (d. 258) was martyred four days after Pope Sixtus II and six other deacons during the Valerian persecution. A beautiful story is told about Lawrence's words. When asked to surrender the church's treasure, Lawrence gathered the poor and presented them to the civil authorities. For this affront, he was martyred. He is the patron of Rome.

August 11: Clare, founder (1193-1253), was inspired by Francis of Assist so much that she fled her home for his community to receive the Franciscan habit on Passion Sunday 1212. She lived in a nearby Benedictine convent until she was made superior of a new community in San Damiano. She practiced radical poverty by wearing no shoes, sleeping on the ground, and giving up meat.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Aug 5, 1762. The Parliament at Paris condemned the Society's Institute as opposed to natural law. It confiscated all Jesuit property and forbade the Jesuit habit and community life.
·         Aug 6, 1552. The death of Claude Jay, a French priest who was one of Ignatius' original companions at the University of Paris.
·         Aug 7, 1814. The universal restoration of the Society of Jesus.
·         Aug 8, 1604. St Peter Claver takes his first vows at Tarracona.
·         Aug 9, 1762. The moving of the English College from St Omers to Liege.
·         Aug 10, 1622. Blessed Augustine Ota, a Japanese brother, was beheaded for the faith. He had been baptized by Blessed Camillus Costanzi on the eve of the latter's martyrdom.
·         Aug 11, 1846. The death of Benedict Joseph Fenwick. He was the second bishop of Boston, twice the president of Georgetown, and the founder of the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts. 

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