Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time


August 19, 2012
Proverbs 9:1-6; Psalm 34; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58

          The Jesus portrayed in the Fourth Gospel has often drawn parallels to Lady Wisdom, the feminine side of God, in the Book of Proverbs and Wisdom literature. The early Christians had a solidified understanding of her role in creation and in helping a righteous person stay on the path to eternal life. In Proverbs 9, Lady Wisdom built her house and prepared a feast for those who accept her invitation. In the previous chapters, she stood on the busy street corner near the markets summoning the simple ones to come to her. She promised to give them God's wisdom and understanding and to provide for those under her care.

          As she spread her table with dressed meat and flowing wine she calls those who have ears to come and eat of her food - for her food leads to life. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians echoes the benefits of eating together as a community in the kingdom. Paul calls others to the path of righteousness and to avoid those behaviors that lead to perdition and foolishness. He tells them that a person must observe his or her own behavior and to try to understand the will of the Lord. Refraining from improper drinking of wine that leads to debauchery will help the person. If the person is to get drunk, get drunk on the Spirit of the Lord by singing spiritual songs, playing instruments to the Lord with your hearts, and giving thanks in all things. The two ways of Lady Wisdom are still to be followed.

          The banquet of Jesus is similar to Lady Wisdom's, but it is much greater. The food of Lady Wisdom will sustain a person on the path to righteousness; the nourishment of Jesus is the food of eternal life. "The Jews" (who are forming the rabbinic strain of Judaism) are beginning to understand more what Jesus means. He is self-sacrificing his own body for his believers. For a Jew, anyone who participates in human sacrifice makes himself unclean and is cut off from the community. They fail to understand how this act of Jesus will lead to greater communion. They do not comprehend that he means to feed his people with his real flesh and drink.

          This food is "crunch and munch" flesh and bones. For some, this cannibalistic tendency is gross and they will turn away out of disgust. For the followers of Jesus, it is the greatest, warmest caring act imaginable. Jesus will go to great lengths to make sure his followers are nourished and connected to others through himself. It is the ultimate act of self-sacrifice when others are allowed to feed off of him. When we eat of his meal today, it is the same flesh and bones that he is giving us through faith. We become what we eat. We become like the one we adore and admire. As we incorporate his body into our own, we become increasingly more like him.

          It is important for us to stay close to the Eucharist today. Jesus will keep us close to his heart, especially in these confused times in the church. Just as in the days of old, we have the two paths to follow. In days past, it was the road to righteousness or folly. Today, though we are supposedly on the same team, the bishops and hierarchy seem to be on a different road than much of the church that is epitomized by their conflict with women religious. While some may not know which path to choose, the answer lies in remaining close to Christ who continues to call us to himself and feed us. His Spirit has given us the Second Vatican Council as our modern-day constitution, which is the highest teaching authority in the church. We are to remain close to Christ who will let us know which is the path to salvation. It is often marked by a self-sacrificial love that cares radically for the other - not for one's own interests. We will know deep in our hearts which path to choose  because Christ cannot betray himself. Stay close to him. Go to the Eucharist and eat his body and drink his blood. Don't just sip. Drink. Don't nibble. Eat. He desperately wants us to partake of him. He leads us to real life.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Ezekiel is told by the Lord that he is taking away all the delights of his world and he is not to groan or make his troubles known. He and his family shall rot in silence because of their sins. The prince of Tyre the Lord will bring down because he is making himself to be like God. He is exalting his attitude and stature at the expense of the Lord and he fails to see that he is a mere mortal. The Lord addresses the false shepherds of Israel. Because they have exposed the sheep to danger and have caused them to go astray because of hunger and want, they shall be cut off from the Lord. In fact, the Lord is coming after them to strike them down. After the Lord has taken care of the false leaders, he will reach out to the sheep and will bring them back to the fold. He will replace their stony hearts with ones made of flesh. The Lord will prove his holiness and they will be his people and he will be their God. The angel then leads Ezekiel to the east gate where he sees a vision of the Lord much like the one that foretold destruction. However this vision leads to the glory of the Lord filling the Temple once again. The Lord is restoring his people and their worship to magnificent dignity.

Gospel:  A young man approaches Jesus wondering what he must do to enter eternal life. He has been a righteous, law-abiding man all his life and he realizes there is more to salvation than just keeping the commandments. Jesus tells him to follow him after he has given away all his possessions. Jesus then tells his friends that entrance into the Kingdom is very difficult because a person has to give up everything for the sake of the Kingdom with the Son of Man as its judge. Jesus then describes what the kingdom is like. He says God is like the landowner of a vineyard who hires workers at different hours of the day and grants the same pay to each laborer. While it is unfair by human fairness standards, God is delighted that more people are coming to the vineyards. The kingdom is also like a wedding banquet where guests are invited. Some don't come; others are improperly dressed. God wants everyone to respect the honor he gives to his Son. Jesus also instructs his followers to pay attention to the studied word of the scribes and Pharisees. They possess schoolbook knowledge, but they are lured away by riches, honors, and power.

Saints of the Week

August 19: John Eudes, priest (1601-1680) preached missions, heard confessions, and assisted the sick and dying. He founded a new religious order for women, which includes Our Lady of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters. He eventually left the Oratorians to found the Congregation of Jesus and Mary. 

August 20: Bernard, Abbot and Doctor (1090-1153) became a Benedictine abbey in Citeaux because of its strict observance. He was sent to set up a new monastery in Clairvaux with 12 other monks. He wrote theological treatises, sermons, letters, and commentaries that dominated the thought of Europe. His writings had a tremendous influence of Catholic spirituality.

August 21: Pius X, pope (1835-1914), was an Italian parish priest for 17 years before he became bishop of Mantua, the cardinal patriarch of Venice, and eventually pope. He urged frequent communion for adults, sacramental catechesis for children, and continued education for everyone. He is known for rigid political policies that put him at odds with a dynamically changing world that led to World War I.

August 22: The Queenship of Mary concludes the octave of the principal feast of Mary as she celebrates her installation as queen and mother of all creation. This feast was placed on our calendar in 1954 following the dogmatic proclamation of the Assumption.

August 23: Rose of Lima (1586-1617) was the first canonized saint of the New World. She had Spanish immigrant parents in Lima. Rose joined the Dominicans and lived in her parents' garden to support them while she took care of the sick and the poor. As a girl, she had many mystical experiences as she practiced an austere life. She also had many periods of darkness and desolation.

August 24: Bartholomew (First Century), according to the Acts of the Apostles, is listed as one of the Twelve Disciples though no one for sure knows who he is. Some associate him with Philip, though other Gospel accounts contradict this point. John's Gospel refers to him as Nathaniel - a Israelite without guile.

August 25: Louis of France (1214-1270) became king at age 12, but did not take over leadership until ten years later. He had eleven children with his wife, Marguerite, and his kingship reigned for 44 years. His rule ushered in a longstanding peace and prosperity for the nation.  He is held up as a paragon of medieval Christian kings.

August 25: Joseph Calasanz, priest (1556-1648), was a Spaniard who studied canon law and theology. He resigned his post as diocesan vicar-general to go to Rome to live as a pilgrim and serve the sick and the dying. He used his inheritance to set up free schools for poor families with children. He founded an order to administer the schools, but dissension and power struggles led to its dissolution.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Aug. 19, 1846: At Melgar, near Burgos, the birth of Fr. Luis Martin, 24th General of the Society.
·         Aug. 20, 1891: At Santiago, Chile, the government of Balmaceda ordered the Jesuit College to be closed.
·         Aug. 21, 1616: At Pont a Mousson in Lorraine died Fr. William Murdoch, a Scotchman, who when only 10 years of age was imprisoned seven months for the faith and cruelly beaten by the order of a Protestant bishop. St. Ignatius is said to have appeared to him and encouraged him to bear the cross bravely.
·         Aug. 22, 1872: Jesuits were expelled from Germany during the Bismarckian Kulturkampf.
·         Aug. 23, 1558: In the First General Congregation, the question was discussed about the General's office being triennial, and the introduction of Choir, as proposed by Pope Paul IV, and it was decreed that the Constitutions ought to remain unaltered.
·         Aug. 24, 1544: Peter Faber arrived in Lisbon.
·         Aug. 25, 1666: At Beijing, the death of Fr. John Adam Schall. By his profound knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, he attained such fame that the Emperor entrusted to him the reform of the Chinese calendar.