Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 14, 2012
Wisdom 7:7-11; Psalm 90; Hebrews 4:12-13; Mark 10:17-30

            The author of the Book of Wisdom gets the moral life right. He understands the necessity of right living when he asks for prudence and receives it. He values the presence of the spirit of wisdom who is far superior in value to any earthly treasure. He realizes that she richly blesses him and she rewards his fidelity with her goodness. She is always creating good things for those who rely upon her counsel. She is the one who is to be sought above all things because she will bring her beloved one to the very heart of God.

                  The author of Hebrews states, “the word of God is living and effective” and permeates all things. It is able to move between impenetrable things, even the soul and the spirit, because it comes to bring life wherever it goes. It discerns intellectual reflections and the thoughts and reasons of the heart. No one, nothing, is remote from the word’s penetrating possibilities. All living things are known to God, who holds creation lovingly in his gaze. God’s wisdom and word act together to move us ever closer to a loving God whose care for us is beyond measure.

                  A responsible moral life is the main theme of the Gospel. A man approaches Jesus with a sincere question about how one can achieve eternal life through morally good actions. Notice that Jesus acts as both the wisdom of God and the word of God. This man knows the commandments and has dedicated his life to doing good works. He has been a dutiful, righteous man in the eyes of society’s laws. Much of his effort has been on what he has done instead of being concerned about others. Because of his personal achievements, he wants his just reward by human standards. Jesus does for him what he cannot adequately do for others. He gazes upon this man in love. 

Jesus cherishes the good efforts of this man and yet he knows that this man’s actions were self-serving. He gives him a chance to expand his universe by paying attention to the needs of those who struggle, but the man is unable to let his heart be opened in way that will open himself up to possibilities. For the man, salvation rests upon his efforts; for Jesus, salvation comes from love alone – love that spontaneously seeks to serve others. The man then does something horrific: he walks out on the relationship with Jesus. It is over. He does not even give it a chance. His possessions own him so much that it precludes him from loving authentically. We have to realize it is good for us to stay in relationship with Jesus, even in those dark times, because his love offers us unexpected opportunities. 

The disciples become concerned. They realize that the teaching of Jesus about wealth seems unfair and is difficult to carry out. The standards seem too high and the punishment too harsh. Many people with wealth and resources are helpful to society because they share their wealth generously and freely. Poverty and neediness has always been a societal problem and no system of government has adequately addressed ways to eradicate or lessen it. Since this sentence seems too tight, they wonder about their possibility of being saved for they have left everything to follow him. The question remains: what must I do to inherit eternal life? Because we are Christians we take the promise of eternal life for granted and we commit the sin of presumption.

We have to take a cue from the actions of Jesus (that is, the wisdom of God) and much as we pay attention to his teachings (as the word of God.) When he looked upon the rich man who walked away from him, he gazed upon him in love. His heart was moved by his good and noble intentions. He held out the best for this man and asked him to be with him in his ministry. Likewise, we have to look upon one another with love. We have to see each other as people who are trying their best and are filled with great feelings and rich insights. We gaze upon each other with positive regard. Only when we do that will we be able to serve others’ needs because our hearts are moved to see that good that is inherent in each and every person. Then, we will not only know the commandments intellectually, we will incorporate them into our loving, outwardly-expressed heart. The word of God that we hear spoken will become the wisdom that orients all our actions because it is guided by a heart that warmly cares for others.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Galatians, Paul writes about Abraham’s two sons –one by a slave woman born naturally, the other by a freeborn woman born of a promise. Each son represented two covenants – slavery and freedom – and we descendants are born for freedom. Christ sets us free. Do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. Only faith working through love will keep you free through the guidance of the Spirit. You will not be subject to the law or of the flesh. The fruits of the Spirit are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. No law can touch these. ~ In Ephesians, Paul outlines God’s masterful plan of salvation that promises the world great grace. Paul hears of the faith of the Ephesians and is moved to greater prayer by their faith. Christ has been bestowed as the sovereign king of all creation, therefore, it is fitting that we praise and reverence him in all things.

Gospel: Jesus is annoyed by his fickle generation because they seek a sign. They fail to understand that something greater than Solomon is in their midst. When Jesus attended a leading Pharisees’ dinner party, he did not wash his hands as prescribed in the law. He retorts that they are filled with hypocritical actions by making visible external actions that appear laudable, while their insides are motivated by plunder and evil. He rails against them because they have token tithing and small offerings to show their love of God, but they impose heavy burdens upon people that are difficult to carry out. He turns to the crowd and tells them to beware of the hypocrisy of the religious authorities. Nothing that is hidden will be concealed any longer. The light reveals dark actions, but it also reveals God’s care for every single person of little consequence in the world. He tells them that everyone who acknowledges him in public will be remembered by God in heaven, but no one is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit as it is an unforgivable sin.

Saints of the Week

October 14: Callistus I, pope and martyr (d. 222) was a slave of a Christian who put him in charge of a bank that failed. He was jailed and upon his release became a deacon and counselor to Pope Zephyrinus. He became the first overseer of the official Christian cemetery that was eventually named after him. When he was elected Pope he introduced humanitarian reforms. He died during an uprising against Christians. 

October 15: Teresa of Jesus, doctor (1515-1582), entered the Carmelites in Avila and became disenchanted with the laxity of the order. She progressed in prayer and had mystical visions. She introduced stricter reforms through her guidance of John of the Cross and Peter Alcantara. They founded the Discalced Carmelites for men and women.

October 16: Hedwig, religious, at age 12 married Henry, a prince who would become king of Silesia. As a monarch, they built a Cistercian monastery for women. They soon built many other religious houses and hospitals. She chose to live in austere poverty to be in solidarity with the poor.

October 16: Margaret Mary Alocoque entered the Visitation Order at Paray-le-Monial in 1671. She received visions of Christ's love and told her Jesuit spiritual director, Claude la Colombiere, who asked her to write about her experiences. They developed the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Her community resisted her promotion of the devotion at first, but later came to see the power of the prayers.

October 17: Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr (d. 107) was born around 33 A.D. and became a leading figure in the new church at Antioch. He served as bishop for 38 years before he was persecuted and killed under Emperor Trajan for being a Christian leader. He wrote seven letters about church life in the early second century and is the first-mentioned martyr of Roman heroes in the first Eucharistic Prayer.

October 18: Luke, evangelist (first century) was the author of his version of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. He is described as a doctor and a friend of Paul. He was a well-educated Gentile who was familiar with the Jewish scriptures and he wrote to other Gentiles who were coming into a faith.

October 19: North American Jesuit martyrs: Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf, priests, and companions (17th century) were killed between 1642 and 1649 in Canada and the United States. Though they knew of harsh conditions among the warring Huron and Mohawk tribes in the New World, these priests and laymen persisted in evangelizing until they were captured, brutally tortured, and barbarically killed.

October 20: Paul of the Cross, priest (1694-1775), founded the Passionists in 1747. He had a boyhood call that propelled him into a life of austerity and prayer. After receiving several visions, he began to preach missions throughout Italy that mostly focused upon the Passion of the Lord. After his death, a congregation for nuns was begun.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      October 14, 1774: A French Jesuit in China wrote an epitaph to the Jesuit mission in China after the suppression of the Society. It concludes: "Go, traveler, continue on your way. Felicitate the dead; weep for the living; pray for all. Wonder, and be silent."
·      October 15, 1582: St Teresa of Avila died on this day -- the first day of the new Gregorian calendar. She always wished to have a Jesuit as a confessor.
·      October 16, 1873: About two weeks after Victor Emmanuel's visit to Berlin, where he had long conferences with Bismark, rumors reached the Society in Rome that all of their houses in Rome were threatened.
·      October 17, 1578: St Robert Bellarmine entered the Jesuit novitiate of San Andrea in Rome at the age of 16.
·      October 18, 1553: A theological course was opened in our college in Lisbon; 400 students were at once enrolled.
·      October 19, 1588: At Munster, in Westphalia, the Society opens a college, in spite of an outcry raised locally by some of the Protestants.
·      October 20, 1763: In a pastoral letter read in all his churches, the Archbishop of Paris expressed his bitter regret at the suppression of the Society in France. He described it as a veritable calamity for his country.