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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 7, 2012
Genesis 2:18-24; Psalm 128; Hebrews 2:9-11; Mark 10:2-16

            The Book of Genesis relates the second creation account when the Lord God tells the first man that a companion will be made for him. The story deals with the separation of genders that ancient philosophies tried to explain. Central to the story is the pursuit of intimacy and the wholeness of the person. In the 2nd Genesis account, God creates all sorts of wild animals, birds of the air, and fish of the sea. The first man is able to name each one and have dominion over them, but with the woman, God names her as a last act of God’s initial creation. Therefore, the man is not to have control over her, but is to seek companionship with her to mirror the intimacy they are to have with God.  

            The author of Hebrews writes about God’s desire for intimacy with us through Jesus. For while Jesus is in fact divine, he was sent to us in his incarnation to become like us in every aspect of life. His purpose was to reveal God’s sweeping care to us in his earthly life, but it is a life marked by great suffering and death. Ironically, suffering can lead to great intimacy because we become vulnerable when we let another person inside our most personal thoughts. Vulnerability is frightening. We sometimes close down just at the time we need to open up to let another person in. Great risk is involved to the self’s security. Jesus gave us a model to let ourselves be vulnerable before others.

            In Mark’s Gospel, the Pharisees set out to trick Jesus with a question about the sticky issue of divorce. As a starting point, Jesus has them return to the teachings of Moses who allows divorce whenever the husband chooses it is expedient to do so. He quickly tells them that Moses inserts this particular human law into the community because humans can quickly harden their hearts. We make laws to fit our human needs and desires. They are to reflect the moral code of the community and Jesus reminds them God is in the midst of the community too. God is central to every relationship. Jesus tells them that a more fundamental moral code exists from the beginning of time. The Law of Moses does not have the final say.

            Jesus explains that two people come together to be joined into one flesh and it is God who does the joining. God implants that desire within us to bring us together. God brings people together for a deep, meaningful relationship in which a share of intimacy is reached. We are meant to be companions for one another as an example of the type of intimacy God desires for and with us. In our youth, we celebrate our reach for it. We are surprised when we find that another person completes us. It excites us and gives our lives meaning. In our older years, we can tire of the constant work and resistances we face as we continue to move towards it. Each of us wants intimacy and often we do not know how to sustain it.

With a patient loving heart, we can have it – not just in romance – but in each significant relationship. God has joined us all together. Neither Jesus nor Moses wanted a woman to be cut off from society when a divorce occurred because it made her vulnerable. For the same reason, we have to be very careful when we cut off relationships. Sometimes, it is good and necessary to bring closure to a relationship, but how we do it is crucially important for the life of the other person. Knowing how to build up and keep a person healthy and vibrant when a relationship has to be altered is a remarkable skill to possess. 

            The two essential questions to ask in any relationship are: “What do I need?” and “What do I want?” We have to constantly communicate our needs to the other person so we can hear ourselves clarify our internal thoughts and promptings. We are to encourage the other person to do the same and if there is dissonance, together we figure out the mystery before us, not by controlling the process, but by allowing oneself to be enriched. Where enrichment lies, so does the mystery. Agreeing to be on the journey together is the best thing. It respects the other person, honors God’s role in the relationship, and stays open to unexpected graces that keep the bond strong. We can only do our part; God’s touch with transform the rest.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Galatians, Paul is amazed that the Christians are forsaking the Gospel so quickly in favor of another. He acknowledges the presence of Judaizers who are bullying the people and he assert that his Gospel is of divine origin. He explains his former way of life and the persecution he led. Since God has changed around his life inexplicably, the Gospel has to be true. He was set apart by God’s grace and then studied with the elders in Damascus. He also met the Apostles in Jerusalem and learned from them. Later, he met Barnabas and Titus. The Apostles gave Paul the mission to go to the Gentiles to proclaim the Gospel. He protested that the Gentiles are not to act like Jews, but are to worship in their own culture. Paul wants to know if they received the Spirit from their faith? If so, they are to act accordingly because a great gift was given to them. This faith puts everyone in line with Abraham, the father of faith. Righteousness comes from belief in the one who was curses to hang upon the tree. From Christ alone comes salvation. Those who believe are no longer under the law, though it is prudent to obey most civil customs. All who have been baptized are to put on Christ. If you belong to Christ, you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.

Gospel: Jesus is confronted by a legal scholar who asks about the conditions necessary to achieve eternal life. The man replies with the fulfillment of the Mosaic law about loving God firmly and loving your neighbor as yourself. Jesus is very pleased, but it raised the question, “who is neighbor?” He then tells the story of the Good Samaritan who showed mercy and did what was right in caring for a mugged victim. Our neighbor is anyone who needs mercy. Jesus entered a village where Mary and Martha lived. Martha was preoccupied with serving Jesus as a guest while Mary sat and listened to Jesus. When Jesus was praying in a certain place, his disciples came up to him and asked him to teach them how to pray. He gave them the words of the Lord’s prayer. Jesus tells another parable. This one is about a friend who begs for three loaves of bread for a friend who unexpectedly arrived as a guest. He had nothing to offer him. His persistence paid off when the neighbor finally broke down and gave him the bread. Jesus is tested by others who want to know the source of his power. Some suggest he gets it from Beelzebul. Jesus proves that his power is not from evil sources because a kingdom divided against itself cannot endure the heat of the battle. When Jesus is preaching, a woman yells out to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you,” to which he replies, “Blessed are those, rather, who hear the word of God and observe it.”

Saints of the Week

October 7: Our Lady of the Rosary recalls the events in 1571 of the Christian naval victory over the Turks at Lepanto near Corinth. Victory was credited to Mary as confraternities prayed the rosary for her intercession.

October 9: Denis, bishop and martyr, and companion martyrs (d. 258), was the first bishop of Paris. He died during the Decian persecutions by beheading at Montmarte, the highest hill in the city. Lore has it that he picked up his head after the beheading and walked six miles while giving a sermon. Denis was sent to Paris to bring Christianity and was thereby called, “The apostle to the Gauls.”

October 9: John Leonardi (1542-1609), was a pharmacist’s assistant before studying for the priesthood. He became interested in the reforms of the Council of Trent and gathered laymen around him to work in prisons and hospitals. He contracted the plague while ministering to those who were sick. He founded the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God to care for the sick.

October 12: John Beyzym, S.j., priest (1850-1912), was Ukranian-born, entered the Jesuits, and petitioned to work among the people of Madagascar who had Hansen’s disease (leprosy.) Since the lepers lived in remote shanty buildings with no windows or facilities, Beyzym worked hard to improve their living conditions, build a hospital, and a church. He died after contracting the disease.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Oct 7, 1819. The death of Charles Emmanuel IV. He had been King of Sardinia and Piedmont. He abdicated in 1802 and entered the Jesuits as a brother in 1815. He is buried in San Andrea Quirinale in Rome.
·      Oct 8, 1871. The Great Chicago Fire. Most of the city was destroyed, but it missed Holy Family, the Jesuit parish, as the fire turned north thanks to the prayers of Fr. Arnold Damen. The fire lasted three days; 250 were killed.
·      Oct 9, 1627. Jansenius left Louvain for Salamanca to foment antipathy against the Jesuits and thus prevent Philip IV from giving the Society a large college in Madrid. The theological faculty at Salamanca were hostile to the Society.
·      October 10, 1806: The first novitiate of the Maryland Mission opened as ten novices began their Long Retreat under the direction of Fr. Francis Neale (himself a novice who had entered the Jesuits that day.)
·      October 11, 1688: King Louis XIV forbade all correspondence and interchange between the French Jesuits and Fr. Thyrsus Gonzalez, the Spanish General Superior of the Society.
·      October 12, 1976: The murder in rural Brazil of Joao Bosco Burnier, SJ, who was shot and killed by soldiers for protesting the torture of two poor women.
·      October 13, 1537: At Venice the Papal Nuncio published his written verdict declaring that Ignatius Loyola was innocent of all charges which had been leveled against him by his detractors.


  1. Thank you for the gentle and innovative way in which you have explained the Gospel. With your permission I will borrow from you for our RCIA meeting next week. This is a difficult teaching because so many of us have been wounded by divorce.

    1. Thanks, Lynda. You may borrow these for the RCIA or any purpose. Yes, it is a difficult teaching. What do people need to hear about their divorces?

    2. Fr. John, people need to hear that the church will accept them even if they are divorced. There is a movement here in our Archdiocese to refuse baptism and confirmation to the divorced until they receive an annulment even if they have not remarried. This was not the case when I was received into full communion a few years ago although I have subsequently received an annulment. I do not know how I would have reacted in my fragile state if the church had closed the door at that point. I had a deep relationship with Jesus but knew that I was being called to the Roman Catholic expression of the Christian faith and would found another rejection extremely difficult. It is also interesting to me that it is I who was assigned at random to this reading. God bless.

    3. Thanks, Lynda. Good stuff here. Thank you. You are right to mention your fragile state. During a divorce, everyone is up-ended and has to get re-oriented. One hopes the church can provide that sanctuary in a storm of emotions. Keep close to Jesus. He always has good words of reassurance. I'm sure you will proclaim well on Sunday.