Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time


November 4, 2012
Deuteronomy 6:2-6; Psalm 18; Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 12:28-34

            Moses speaks the famous “Shema” to the people, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.” These are poetic words to hear and to recite and they contain a truth for which we strive. We know our lives are much better and lived more simply if we can just endorse them as Moses wants. The goal of Moses is that we live out of these words that are rooted and grounded in our hearts.

            Jesus believes these words and his life demonstrates his belief. When he is questioned by a scribe about the foundational commandment, he repeats the words of Moses, but he raises the standards much higher. The love of God has primacy of place in our life, but if we truly love God the way we profess we do, love of neighbor necessarily follows suit. We cannot say we love God if we hold onto disdain, fear, or suspicion of our neighbor, and we have to ask, “Who is our neighbor?”

Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, at the end of his Spiritual Exercises, talks about “loving the way God loves.” A person comes to see that God is always laboring on our behalf and gives us ourselves as a gift to others. God wants us to see the way God loves us and to be filled with admiration and gratitude. The unique way God is caring for us is the same way God is caring for the people who are on my right and left sides. God is caring for our adversaries and enemies in the same loving way God cares for me. When we see how bountiful God’s love is for everyone, we begin to love strangers and opponents they way we cherish our best friends, family, and loved ones. It makes all the difference in the world. It means that we can put aside our dividing lines from one another and strive for a greater goal. We become the one family Christ wants us to be – brothers and sisters in the Lord.

            The affection we see in the scribe’s encounter with Jesus is heartwarming. The scribe does not appear to be putting Jesus to the test, but merely questioning Jesus as a teacher. He is seeking greater understanding and he recognizes the teaching authority of Jesus, though he knows Jesus is not an official religious leader in the community’s eyes. When he demonstrates understanding of what God wants out of a person, the heart of Jesus warms to him and he affirms him. Most times in scripture we read of Jesus correcting and chastising his opponents, but in this instance, Jesus is delighted with the scribe who gets the message and the meaning. It is a mature pedagogical teaching model where obtaining wisdom is affirmed and celebrated. In this story, Jesus and the scribe walk away as winners. Each succeeds and both are encouraged. This is a good way of building up the kingdom.

            We have to help people along the way. If we hold close to rules and regulations too tightly, we make them our god. We always need a little wiggle room for freedom. Here is a quote from Richard McBrien that says it well: “If love is the soul of Christian existence, it must be at the heart of every other Christian virtue. Thus, for example, justice without love is legalism; faith without love is ideology; hope without love is self-centeredness; forgiveness without love is self-abasement; fortitude without love is recklessness; generosity without love is extravagance; care without love is mere duty; fidelity without love is servitude. Every virtue is an expression of love. No virtue is really a virtue unless it is permeated, or informed, by love.”

            Let us do our best to build up one another and affirm them – even if it means we bypass a chance to get an advantage over an adversary. We have the power to choose which type of world we want to create. Watch what happens. Only good-will reigns. The kingdom is advanced because of your tiny effort. Freedom and peace can escape from the boxes in which we hold them and a new age can dawn in our world. Swallow your pride and let God be active. We cannot make ourselves a demigod. We do not hold the power to judge and control and make all things conform to our will. If we truly live out of the “Shema,” we will acknowledge that God alone is Lord and that we have only one God. You will then learn to love others, even adversaries, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength – and Jesus Christ will once again affirm you like he did the scribe.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Paul writes in Ephesians that we are to be of the same mind as Christ by sharing in his solace in love with compassion and mercy. We are to do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory, but are to look upon each other as more important than ourselves. We know that Christ, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something at which to grasp, but he emptied himself of God and came in human likeness showing his great humility. He says to work out your salvation with fear and trembling for God works in you both to desire and work. If we are to boast, it is to be of the day of Christ – knowing that all power comes from Christ. Paul talks about the many advantages given him by knowing Christ, but whatever he gained he now considers a loss because of Christ. He considers everything a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Jesus his Lord. Paul is able to rejoice greatly in the Lord for the solitary kindness the Philippians shared with him. In all circumstances of life, Paul is able to find strength for everything he needs though Christ who empowers him.

Gospel: On a Sabbath Jesus dines with a leading Pharisee and instructs him to invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind rather than friends and relatives or wealthy neighbors. As a man at the table said, “Blessed is the one who will dine in the Kingdom of God,” Jesus replies by telling a parable of a man who invited many to dinner, but few came until the servants went out to the highways and byways to make people come in to fill the house. Great crowds were traveling with Jesus and he addressed them by saying, “anyone who comes without hating mother and father, brothers and sisters, and ones’ own life cannot be my disciple.” He tells them that one must be prepared by calculating what they need for salvation. As tax collectors and sinners were interested in the words of Jesus, the Pharisees and scribes complained that he was welcoming sinners and eating with them. Jesus tells them to rejoice because he has found the lost sheep, but they are stuck in their dismay. Jesus values the clever and world-wise person who figures out ways to deal with wealth. If you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with real wealth?

Saints of the Week

November 4: Charles Borromeo, bishop (1538-1584), was made Bishop of Milan at age 22. He was the nephew of Pope Pius IV. He was a leading Archbishop in the Catholic Reformation that followed the Council of Trent. During a plague epidemic, Borromeo visited the hardest hit areas so he could provide pastoral care to the sick.

November 5: All Saints and Blessed of the Society of Jesus are remembered by Jesuits on their particularized liturgical calendar. We remember not only the major saints on the calendar, but also those who are in the canonization process and hold the title of Blessed, like Peter Faber. We pray for all souls of deceased Jesuits in our province during the month by using our necrology (listing of the dead.)

November 9: The dedication of Rome's Lateran Basilica was done by Pope Sylvester I in 324 as the pope's local parish as the bishop of Rome. It was originally called the Most Holy Savior and was built on the property donated by the Laterani family. It is named John Lateran because the baptistry was named after St. John. Throughout the centuries, it was attacked by barbarians, suffered damage from earthquakes and fires, and provided residence for popes. In the 16th century, it went through Baroque renovations.

November 10: Leo the Great, pope and doctor (d. 461) tried to bring peace to warring Roman factions that were leaving Gaul vulnerable to barbarian invasions. As pope, he tried to keep peace again - in particular during his meeting with Attila the Hun, whom he persuaded not to plunder Rome. However, in Attila's next attack three years later, Rome was leveled. Some of Leo's writings on the incarnation were influential in formulating doctrine at the Council of Chalcedon.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Nov 4, 1768. On the feast of St Charles, patron of Charles III, King of Spain, the people of Madrid asked for the recall of the Jesuits who had been banished from Spain nineteen months earlier. Irritated by this demand, the king drove the Archbishop of Toledo and his Vicar General into exile as instigators of the movement.
·      Nov 5, 1660. The death of Alexandre de Rhodes, one of the most effective Jesuit missionaries of all time. A native of France, he arrived in what is now Vietnam in 1625.
·      Nov 6, 1789. Fr. John Carroll of Maryland was appointed to be the first Bishop of Baltimore.
·      Nov 7, 1717. The death of Antonio Baldinucci, an itinerant preacher to the inhabitants of the Italian countryside near Rome.
·      Nov 8, 1769. In Spain, Charles III ordered all of the Society's goods to be sold and sent a peremptory demand to the newly-elected Pope Clement XIV to have the Society suppressed.
·      Nov 9, 1646. In England, Fr. Edmund Neville died after nine months imprisonment and ill-treatment. An heir to large estates in Westmoreland, he was educated in the English College and spent forty years working in England.
·      Nov 10, 1549. At Rome, the death of Paul III, to whom the Society owes its first constitution as a religious order.