Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time


February 3, 2013
Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19; Psalm 71; 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13; Luke 4:21-30

Last Sunday’s Scripture depicts the wondrous beginnings of the ministry of Jesus when he opens the scroll of Isaiah and declares it fulfilled in their hearing. It is quite a scene filled with anticipation of the new age that Jesus brings. Some of the same Scripture is repeated today as all who listen to Jesus “spoke highly of him and were amazed at his gracious words.” Now we get the rest of the story because the scene turns ugly quickly.

What happened in those few moments in between admiration and hatred? The townspeople began to use human logic. They said, “Wait a minute. We know this man. Isn’t he the son of Joseph? He can’t possibly be infused with this power.” They wanted further proof, not of his wonder-working powers, but proof that he cannot be the one about whom people speak. They test him and demand that he heal and perform miracles right before their eyes so they can see for themselves. The problem is: they will not allow themselves to see the remarkable potential in one of their own. The other problem is: Jesus heals to show forth the power of God’s mercy. He does not do it for amusement and he is not a magician.

Jesus explains that Elijah’s miracle was to a widow outside of Israel. He also tells them Elisha did not cleanse the lepers of Israel, but only Naaman, the Syrian. God realizes what we do to one another and that native people will not accept the good works of a prophet. Visualize, if you will please, what happens next. The people are filled with fury. They rise up, drive Jesus out of town, and lead him to the top of a hill where they plan to kill him. You can believe that Jesus was grabbed, punched, manhandled and verbally assaulted and that he experienced great pain. This was physical. He must have been sore for days. Their faces scrunched up in disdain. These are the townspeople who know him. What happened?

Have you ever noticed that some people cannot celebrate one’s good fortune? We come across people in the same department, institution, or family who do not like others to do well. Some say, “Who does she think she is? Does she think she is better than us? We’ll show her and pull her down.” We talk behind her back. We look for any angle to tear the person apart. We are awful like that. Just awful. We think we can do a better job and we wonder why we were passed over. If we can’t have the honor, glory, or money of others, we do what we can to pull them down. What happens in a person’s heart that makes them turn quickly from praise to spite? We are no different from the townspeople of the village of Jesus.

I suggest that we act out of our unfulfilled needs. We can’t love one another until we know who we are – really, deeply know what motivates us and makes us tick. Knowing oneself and acknowledging our gifts and limitations is called ‘humility.’ Jeremiah, in the first reading, begins with the classic words of scripture that are echoed in Psalm 139, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you.” We have the cliché statement, “God knows us better than we do ourselves,” but we cannot stop there. We are to be more reflective about who we are and what we need so we can contribute joyfully and rightly to God’s kingdom.

One of the most important questions you can ask another person who is in pain, filled with hateful anger, or is in some trouble is: “What do you need?” It is no use trying to answer the question for them. Sometimes they need to stay with the question for a long time until they can vocalize what they need. Once they know what they need, they can seek it out and fill that gap in their lives. It brings peace and serenity and a big hole is closed inside them. We need to ask that questions to others because it is a question of love. This question respectfully gives space to the one in need. We can’t solve another’s problem, but we can give them the tools to be lifted out. It gives those who suffer and are distraught freedom to answer personally. Freedom is a gift we can give easily.

What did the townspeople of Jesus need? I cannot answer for them, but perhaps they needed to know that Jesus was not better than them and would not lord it over them. I fear they reacted rather than responded. We must learn to sit back and respond. It is healthier for us and for the person we might attack.

When our needs are filled, we can eagerly strive for the spiritual gifts about which Paul writes. It is for our well being that we know when are needs are unmet and unfulfilled. When we identify them, we can ask Jesus to fill those needs. He aches to do that for us. He craves that we turn to him and present our needs. He wants us to move from being a people who react to ones who respond. He wants us to move from being a person with patterns of unreconciled chasms (big gaping holes) in our heart to a person who seeks to understand and be enriched and be filled with wonder at another’s achievements. He wants us to seek the wonders of both the possible and impossible that can happen before our eyes.

He wants us to be the person Paul describes in 1st Corinthians – a person whose actions are moved by reverential, genuine care for others. If we find our actions are not creating a healthy love of others, we better pull back and examine our needs. We can wait for you to come along because love is patient and kind and it never fails. It rejoices in the truth, bears and believes all things, hopes and endures all things. If I do not act out of love, I am nothing. If I act out of love, I have all I need. I have God’s grace. I have everything.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Hebrews, great figures of old (Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David and Samuel, and the prophets) did mighty deeds through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised them. God had something better in store for us. Since so great a cloud of witnesses surrounds us, we can rid ourselves of every burden and sin in order to persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. In your struggles against sin, you have not reached the point of shedding blood. Endure your trials with discipline and strengthen your drooping will. Moses approached God with fear and trembling; you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, and all things that worship God. Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect hospitality. Be mindful of the concerns of others and let your life be free from love of money. Imitate the examples of the saints. Let us offer God a sacrifice of praise continually. Do what is good and share what you have. May the God of peace furnish you with all that is good, that you may continue to do his will.

Gospel: Jesus crosses the sea to the Gerasene territory where he meets a man in a cemetery plagued by demons. After exorcising the legion of demons, the man wants to follow Jesus. Jesus is run out of town for killing a swineherd. On the other side of the sea, Jairus, a synagogue official, petitions Jesus to save his ill-near-death daughter. A woman with a twelve-year history of hemorrhages approaches him and touches his cloak in the hope that she will be healed. The flow of blood dries up and Jairus’ daughter is cured of her illness. Jesus departs from there to his home. People expect great things from him and also disbelieves in his powers because he is merely a human. He is unable to perform major acts of wonder in their presence. Jesus calls the Twelve together and gives them power and instructions to heal the sick and to drive out demons. The Twelve are astounded with the cures wrought through the intercession of Jesus. King Herod hears about his fame and is curious about this wonder-working man. He wants to know the true identity of Jesus and the source of his power. The story of John the Baptist’s beheading is recounted because many believe that Jesus is John reincarnated. After their great work, Jesus invites the Apostles to come away with him to a quiet place. They leave many people behind, but the people still follow. Moved with pity, Jesus disembarks when he sees the vast crowd and he begins to teach them many things.

Saints of the Week

February 3: Angsar, bishop (815-865), became a monk to preach to pagans. He lived at the French Benedictine monastery of New Corbie and was sent to preach in Denmark and Sweden. He was made abbot and then became archbishop of Hamburg. He is known as the Apostle of the North because he restored Denmark to the faith and helped bolster the faith of other Scandinavians.

February 4: John de Brito, S.J., priest, religious, and martyr (1647-1693), was a Portuguese Jesuit missionary who served in India and was named “The Portuguese Francis Xavier” to the Indians. De Brito was martyred because he counseled a Maravan prince during his conversion to give up all but one of his wives. One of the wives was a niece to the neighboring king, who set up a round of persecutions against priests and catechists.

February 5: Agatha, martyr, (d. 251), died in Sicily during the Diocletian persecution after she refused to give up her faith when sent to a brothel for punishment. She was subsequently tortured. Sicilians believe her intercession stopped Mount Etna from erupting the year after her burial. She has been sought as a protector against fire and in mentioned in the First Eucharistic prayer.

February 6: Paul Miki and Companions, martyrs (d. 1597), were martyred in Nagasaki, Japan for being Christians. Miki was a Jesuit brother and a native Japanese who was killed alongside 25 clergy, religious, and laypeople. They were suspended on crosses and killed by spears thrust into their hearts. Remnants of the Christian community continued through baptism without any priestly leadership. It was discovered when Japan was reopened in 1865.

February 8: Jerome Emiliani (1481-1537), was a Venetian soldier who experienced a call to be a priest during this imprisonment as a captor. He devoted his work to the education of orphans, abandoned children, the poor and hungry. He founded an order to help in his work, but he died during a plague while caring for the sick.

February 8: Josephine Bakhita (1869-1947) was a Sudanese who was sold as a slave to the Italian Consul, who treated her with kindness. She was baptized in Italy and took the name Josephine. Bakhia means fortunate. She was granted freedom according to Italian law and joined the Canossian Daughters of Charity where she lived simply as a cook, seamstress, and doorkeeper. She was known for her gentleness and compassion.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Feb 3, 1571. In Florida, the martyrdom of Fr. Louis Quiros and two novices, shot with arrows by an apostate Indian.
·      Feb 4, 1617. An imperial edict banished all missionaries from China.
·      Feb 5, 1833. The first provincial of Maryland, Fr. William McSherry, was appointed.
·      Feb 6, 1612. The death of Christopher Clavius, one of the greatest mathematicians and scientists of the Society.
·      Feb 7, 1878. At Rome, Pius IX died. He was sincerely devoted to the Society; when one of the cardinals expressed surprise that he could be so attached to an order against which even high ecclesiastics brought serious charges, his reply was: "You have to be pope to know the worth of the Society."
·      Feb 8, 1885. In Chicago, Fr. Isidore Bourdreaux, master of novices at Florissant, Missouri, from 1857 to 1870, died. He was the first scholastic novice to enter the Society from any of the colleges in Missouri.
·      Feb 9, 1621. Cardinal Ludovisi was elected Pope Gregory XV. He was responsible for the canonization of St. Ignatius and St. Francis Xavier.