Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 21, 2012
Isaiah 53:10-11; Psalm 33; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45

            Liturgy starts off with chilling words from the prophet Isaiah, “The Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity.” What kind of Lord delights in the suffering of others? Isaiah is referring to the Suffering Servant whom God selects as the one who will take on the suffering of others so they may receive a greater good. However, it doesn’t answer the question because if God is all powerful and all good, how can God delight in the suffering of any person? The reading is more tolerable if it reads, “The Lord was saddened that his servant had to take on the burden of others,” or “the Lord felt compassion upon him” or “the Lord had any other feeling to express sorrow”, but that is not what it says. The reality of these words is difficult to comprehend.

            The reading from Hebrews gives a fuller description of Scripture. The author believes Jesus is Isaiah’s Suffering Servant. He is the great high priest who suffered to bring us closer to God. This Jesus becomes one hundred percent human for our sake. He comes to know our struggles and joys so he can adequately represent us as an advocate to the Father in heaven. He is aware of our weaknesses because he was weak just like us. He becomes one of us. The suffering he faced was not unlike ours, but because of his fidelity to God – by picking up his cross – he brought us redemption. He had free will as we do, but he chose fidelity as a way of remaining close to God in heaven.

            The brothers James and John approach Jesus with a preposterous statement, “We want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” It may be honest, and it is surely impetuous and bold in its self-concern. Jesus is magnanimous in his response, “What do you wish me to do for you?” Jesus sets up a contrast between two modes of action: the two disciples seek their honor and glory; Jesus seeks to meet the needs of others. When the discourse ends, Jesus launches into a lesson about the rightful use of real authority and power. 

            Jesus cautions his followers not to be like the Gentiles who lord it over others and make their authority felt. A person in authority has to be delicate with her actions and words. God does not use force or impose his will upon others. We are to recognize this so that we may imitate God and act likewise. However, many people in positions of power will try to forcibly influence others or set conditions to control and manipulate. Sometimes unhealthy co-dependencies and relationships are fostered. How many times does a person who has power over you threaten you in some way – either explicitly or in veiled terms? Or they deal with you in passive-aggressive terms? You don’t want to get this person mad at you because you experience the threat of loss. We instinctively know that someone with influence is acting wrongly. We just don’t know how to stop it.

            We need courage that allows us to correctly name their behaviors and ask them to stop it. This is a correct use of authority – your own God-given authority to know what is morally right and wrong. Once we identify the behavior and show it back to the person, sometimes they naturally recognize their incorrect, adverse actions. Instead of acting back in anger, we then let them know how we feel because of their actions. A sensitive person will feel remorse for causing you to feel that way.

We do two things that are helpful for him or her: (1.) we simply disapprove of their behavior, but we allow him or her to retain their dignity. We convey that our relationship with this person is secure. We intend to continue to love them and respect them. (2.) we give them an opportunity to learn how to express their anger more immediately. This is healthy. Anger is a positive emotion. It tells us that we must talk about how we are affected because something is out of balance that needs to be set right. We give another person the chance to help us get ourselves back in balance. We all win. So, even when we are in a position of powerlessness, we can elevate ourselves by correctly exercising the power within us. It becomes much easier with practice and we get to see potentially explosive relationships maintained and strengthened. We come to know that we are essentially brothers and sisters in the same family.

            Jesus wants us to expand our understanding of leadership so that it demands that we care for others. Servant leadership means that we are to become vulnerable for others and hold their suffering. Jesus demonstrated this by giving his life so the world may have greater life. To be his disciple means to imitate him. I still don’t think God will delight in our suffering, but he may delight in seeing the extraordinary ways we serve others. Leadership is serious business. The way we act or speak may mean life or death for another person.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Ephesians, Paul explains that everyone was once dead in their sins, but by the grace of God, Christ brought us back to life through his saving grace. This grace comes from God as a gift and is not from our works. Through Christ, those who were far off or alienated from the community of Israel, have become brought near. He made us one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity thus establishing peace. You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God. Paul explains that it was by grace that the Gospel of God was revealed to him. Paul tells his own story and claims that God gave him a mission to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ. Paul then prays for the community asking God to strengthen the people and give them knowledge to understand. He prays that, rooted and grounded in love, they may come to know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge. He asks them to live in a manner worthy of their call and that they be filled with humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another through love, and striving to preserve the unity in the spirit. He tells them that the Spirit graced them with gifts to use to build up the holy family. They are to strive for unity of faith and live the truth in love. We are always to grow in Christ in every way possible.

Gospel: Jesus tells someone in the crowd to back off when he is asked to get involved in a family dispute. He warns them about the effects of greed and tells the parable of the rich man with a bountiful harvest. He saved all his grain and safeguarded it. God, however, demanded his life be given up. All his conserving efforts proved futile. Jesus asks people to always be ready to account for their actions. They are to be like servants who stay up all night in vigil for their master’s return. Peter asks again about whether they will be saved. Jesus tells them they too must be ready for the master’s call at any moment. Their moral lives are to be admirable and they are to give as much as they can to building up the faith. To the one who has much, much will be expected. Jesus then tells them that he has come to set the world on fire. One’s passion from God will separate them from their spouses, family members, and loved ones. They are to rejoice that their names are inscribed in the book of heaven. A person has to be able to read the signs of the times and be able to conform their actions to that reality. He illustrates a person’s wise discernment in judging natural disasters, like the Galilean sacrifices of blood or the falling tower at Siloam. He also demonstrates a man’s prudence of waiting for the flowering on a seemingly barren fig tree.

Saints of the Week

October 23: John of Capistrano, priest, had a vision of Francis of Assisi when he was imprisoned during an Italian civil war at which time he was the governor of Perugia. He entered the Franciscan Friars Minor in 1415 after ending his marriage. He preached missions throughout Europe including a mission to Hungary to preach a crusade against the Turks. After the Christian victory at the Battle of Belgrade in 1456, John died.

October 24: Anthony Claret, bishop (1807-1870) adopted his father's weaving career as a young man, but continued to study Latin and printing. After entering seminary, he began preaching retreats and giving missions. He published and distributed religious literature and founded the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He was appointed archbishop of Cuba but was called back to Spain to be Queen Isabella II's confessor. He resumed publishing until the revolution of 1868 sent him into exile.

October 28: Simon and Jude, apostles (first century) were two of the Twelve Disciples called by Jesus, but little is known about them. We think they are Simon the Zealot and Judas, the son of James. Simon was most likely a Zealot sympathizer who would have desired revolution against Rome; Jude is also called Thaddeus, and is patron saint of hopeless causes. Both apostles suffered martyrdom.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      October 21, 1568: Fr. Robert Parsons was elected Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford. He resigned his Fellowship in 1574.
·      October 22, 1870: In France, Garibaldi and his men drove the Jesuits from the Colleges of Dole and Mont Roland.
·      October 23, 1767: The Jesuits who had been kept prisoners in their college in Santiago, Chile, for almost two months were led forth to exile. In all 360 Jesuits of the Chile Province were shipped to Europe as exiles.
·      October 24, 1759: 133 members of the Society, banished from Portugal and put ashore at Civita Vecchia, were most kindly received by Clement XIII and by the religious communities, especially the Dominicans.
·      Oct 25, 1567. St Stanislaus Kostka arrived in Rome and was admitted into the Society by St Francis Borgia.
·      Oct 26, 1546. The Province of Portugal was established as the first province in the Society, with Simao Rodriguez as its first provincial superior.
·      Oct 27, 1610. The initial entrance of the Jesuits into Canada. The mission had been recommended to the Society by Henry IV.