Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 12, 2012
1 Kings 19:4-8; Psalm 34; Ephesians 4:30-5:2; John 6:41-51

          Elijah is a leading prophetic figure for the early Israelite community. This is no surprise because he is able to perform some extraordinary actions in ordinary life. Some events in the life of Jesus hearken back to the prophetic actions of Elijah and Elisha. For all he is able to do, Elijah gets worn down in his attempts to restore the people to their covenantal commitment. With his weariness and the threats to his safety, he flees to the wilderness's sanctuary and away from the people who disappoint him. After one day's journey to the desert, he prays that his life be taken from him as he lay down to sleep. He awakens to find a hearth cake and a jug of water that replenishes him, but he lay back down to sleep. When he rises the next day, he is strengthened by more food and drink and he is instructed to journey forty days and nights to the mountain of Mount Horeb.
          The Gospel selection is the third of four passages we read in consecutive weeks of John 6 - The Bread of Life Discourse. Next week's Gospel shows a major fracture that leads to a split within the Jewish community. After declaring he is the Bread of Life, the Jews begin to murmur about his origins. "The Jews" are those members of Judaism that are beginning to trend toward the modern-day rabbinic strain, while John's community is becoming the Catholic Christian community. This is the beginning of the fissure of the faiths in the Greek world. "The Jews" stand in opposition to this community during every major feast that is celebrated 'in' and 'through' the person of Jesus. They are primary antagonists of the fledgling Christian community.

          Jesus draws everything to himself. He makes one of his "I am" statements that eventually reveal the he and the Father are one and the same. He foreshadows the institution of the Eucharist when his nourishment is made available to all who call upon him. He is the one who will provide for everlasting food. All who eat of his body and drink his blood will live forever. This food that is available from his own flesh is much different from the nourishment God provided the exiled community through perishable manna. The one who attaches himself or herself to Jesus will share in eternal life.

          Notice how human nature discounts mystery. The Jews who have just witnessed an incredible event begin the discount Jesus who was the origin and initiator of the miraculous deed. Often when we look at the humanity of Jesus, we see his divinity. The Jews, however, contemplate the divinity of Jesus and can only see his humanity. They acknowledge that they know his earthly origins as he was born of Joseph and Mary. (These words are in the present tense and they may convey that both Joseph and Mary are alive at the time of this event.) Stubborn hearts will refuse to look at the possibility that something greater may be at work here.

          It is written in the prophets: They shall all be taught by God. Jesus certainly makes the claim he is God and that he is the one who intercedes for us to the Father. At the same time, we have the capacity to learn from God in daily life. God who is always close to us instructs us through our conscience. We can never betray it. It resides deep within us and teaches us right from wrong. It is primary in our moral development. It is the part of us that keeps us open to receive God's many graces. We are to remain open to these possibilities that seem too mysterious and inexplicable for us. Our conscience allows us to see divinity shine forth from humanity and behold the mysteries from God. It transforms our vision and dreams and brings us to a deeper, enriched faith through Christ. All is possible when we keep our minds, imaginings, and daydreaming alive and open. Dream aloud this week and marvel at the ways your week unfolds.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Ezekiel has a vision of four living creatures whose forms are human and their animal wings create a loud buzz. This vision is the likeness of the glory of the Lord and is like the Son of Man. The Lord asks Ezekiel to obey him by eating the unrolled written scroll that is marked by lamentations, wailing, and woe. After he eats it, he is to go to the house of Israel to speak the word of the Lord to them. Ezekiel is told to observe his people to see the ways they became a rebellious group; he himself has become a sign for the house of Israel shouldering their burdens, setting out in darkness, going through a hold dug into a wall, and covering his face so no one sees him. Ezekiel insults Jerusalem for their abominations. The Lord remembers how Israel grew into a beautiful woman who was captivated by her own beauty. She turns from the Lord, but the Lord continues to love her and keep the covenant. The Lord no longer makes wholesale condemnations; instead he judges individually. The one who keeps his commandments will surely live; the unjust one will taste death. The Lord meters out judgment. Return to the Lord and live!

Gospel: Jesus tells his friends that he will undergo his Passion and they are overwhelmed with grief. Temple tax collectors tease Jesus with the question about whether he is to receive a religious exemption. He answers by saying that the faithful ones are treated like foreigners, but he asks his disciples to give no offense to the authorities. His disciples question him about who is the greatest in heaven. Surprisingly, he calls children to himself and lets them know that the young and vulnerable are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus then gives a parable to illustrate the necessity for reconciliation and forgiveness. He tells of a man who was forgiven a large debt by the master, but would not forgive a man who owed him a small amount. The wicked man is condemned to harsh judgment for his closed, cold heart. Jesus then addresses the human mocking treatment of divorce. He takes a hard line on the attitudes that lead toward divorce citing the God brought the two people together to work out their lives together. Children are then brought to Jesus. When the disciples try to stop their advance, Jesus permits them to come to him.

Saints of the Week

August 12: Jane Frances de Chantal, religious (1572-1641), founded the Congregation of the Visitation with her spiritual advisor, Francis de Sales. This congregation was for women who wanted to live in religious life, but without the austerity of the other orders. Jane was married to a Baron with whom she had six children and she sought religious answers to her suffering. Her order established eighty-five convents dedicated to serving the poor before she died.

August 13: Pontian, pope and martyr and Hippolytus, priest and martyr (d.236). Pontian's papacy was interrupted by a persecution when the Roman Emperor Maximinus arrested him and his rival, Hippolytus, and banished them to Sardinia. Pontian resigned so another pope could succeed him. Hippolytus, who formed a schismatic group and claimed to be the real pope, reconciled with the church before he and Pontian were martyred.

August 14: Maximilian Kolbe, priest and martyr (1894-1941), was born in Russian-occupied Poland. He entered the Franciscans in 1910 and preached the gospel with his devotion to Mary in Poland and Japan. When the Nazis conquered Poland in 1939, he ministered to thousands of refugees. He was arrested, sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. When a prisoner escaped and retaliation was sought, Kolbe offered himself to replace one of the ten randomly chosen men to be executed.

August 15: The Assumption of Mary is the principal feast of Mary with her Queenship celebrated at the end of the octave. This feast celebrates that she was taken up to heaven, body and soul, at the end of her earthly life. The Council of Ephesus in 431 proclaimed her Mother of God and devotion of her dormition followed afterwards.

August 16: Stephen of Hungary (975-1038) tried to unite the Magyar families and was able to establish the church in Hungary through Pope Sylvester II's support. Rome crowed Stephen as the first king in 1001 and he instituted many reforms in religious and civil practices. He built churches and trained local clergy.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Aug 12, 1877. The death of Fr. Maurice Gailland. He was an expert in languages and spent many years at St Mary's Mission in Kansas. He wrote a 450 page dictionary and grammar of the Potawatomi language.
·         Aug 13, 1621. The death in Rome of St John Berchmans. He died while still in studies, preparing for a public disputation.
·         Aug 14, 1812. Napoleon I and his army arrived at Polosk, in White Russia. They plunder the property of the Society and violate the tombs of the Generals.
·         Aug 15, 1821. Fr. Peter DeSmet sailed from Amsterdam to America. He hoped to work among the Native Americans. He became the best known missionary of the northwest portion of the United States.
·         Aug. 15, 1955: The Wisconsin Province was formed from the Missouri Province and the Detroit Province was formed from the Chicago province.
·         Aug. 16, 1649: At Drogheda, Fr. John Bath and his brother, a secular priest, were shot in the marketplace by Cromwell's soldiers.
·         Aug. 17, 1823: Fr. Van Quickenborne and a small band of missionaries descended the Missouri River to evangelize the Indians at the request of the bishop of St. Louis. On this date in 1829, the College of St. Louis opened.
·         Aug. 18, 1952: The death of Alberto Hurtado, writer, retreat director, trade unionist and founder of "El Hogar de Christo," a movement to help the homeless in Chile.
·         Aug. 19, 1846: At Melgar, near Burgos, the birth of Fr. Luis Martin, 24th General of the Society. 


  1. Thanks for these reflections especially for Sunday. I'm trying to stay with the last paragraph !!
    "All is possible when we keep our minds, imaginings, and daydreaming alive and open. Dream aloud this week and marvel at the ways your week unfolds."

    1. Oh, Good, Phil. I think it is the way we have to do things in our current situation. It brings us through many trials more easily.

  2. We may not understand the mysteries of God but it is wonderful when we are open and able "to see divinity shine forth from humanity and behold the mysteries from God". God is so generous. Thank you for this reminder.