Daily Email

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Seventh Sunday (Ascension) in Easter

Seventh Sunday in Easter
May 12, 2013
Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 97; Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20; John 17:20-26

When I give people guided meditations, I invite them to being polite and courteous to the Lord when beginning and ending prayer sessions. Rather than to start talking to Jesus in mid-stream of thought, I ask them to say hello and engage in small talk before diving in to profound conversation. At the end of prayer, I ask the person to say goodbye in a way that is comfortable to them – often having Jesus walk away to carry on his mission to other people in need. A curious thing develops: the person feels sad that this special time with Jesus has come to an end and the person feels lonely. They want Jesus to stay close to them all the time and enjoy these meaningful conversations.

It strikes me that the feelings of these guided meditators are just like the original disciples. They were enjoying the presence of the risen Lord when he told them he had to depart – a second time. Grief and loss set in again. Why does Jesus have to leave them on their own again? He explains it by saying that the fullness of God’s promise will come to them in Spirit to assure them that God is always near to them. Jesus, who knows what we are like and how we feel, will be representing us to God in heaven and will be judging human hearts on the extent of their love. His role will be as intercessor while the Spirit will come to guide and instruct us in the way of this divine love.

The Spirit will show and hide the consoling presence of Jesus and will help us realize that God is with us, and while we must think of the things that are above, we are to look at what is surrounding us as proof of God’s abiding care. Jesus sent us to witness to him in lands beyond Israel; when we find others doing that, we know God is working through them in ways we might not understand. When we are clear in the particular mission entrusted to us, we can hold firmly onto it with conviction and we become less concerned about other events that can pull us away from our intended direction.

Looking up in the sky is beautiful, but the mission is entrusted to us in this world – a world that God has redeemed. If God has redeemed the world’s cultures, we ought to befriend it and find God in all things. Culture does not automatically lead us away from God, but it can be the vehicle that leads us to God – so it is best that we not discount it or treat it in opposition to religious beliefs. We have to wrestle with political dilemmas and find the speck of God imbedded within our challenges. We cannot give up because our searching will help us discover and uncover the tiniest details that point to the divine mystery.

Many of us want to be told what is right and wrong, and at the same time, many of us resent others telling us what is morally acceptable. We need to see that stress is good because when we hold those tensions together, we will ultimately be led to a solution that makes sense to us – even if we cannot explain it to others. We feel it in our gut, but it is good for us to expand our vocabulary in order to articulate it for others who are likewise struggling. The struggle is good and healthy; the stress will make us do our work – even if it causes us distress at times. We will mature in our faith when we appropriate the peculiar aspects of our problems in a ways that satisfies our curiosity.

The Gospel reading for the Seventh Sunday in Easter is a perfect complement for Ascension Sunday. In his Last Supper Discourse in John, his last act before he goes to his Passion is to pray for the well being of his disciples. He pours out his heart for the safety and prospering of the community he is leaving. Jesus calls for unity – not that everyone thinks the same way, but that they care for one another and make their best moral choices through the commandments that respect and honor God and one’s brother and sister. Jesus sees each disciple as a gift to each other and he will miss them all, but he entrusts everyone to the same community that will act in compassion and mercy, just as the Father commands. As Jesus ascends to heaven, we are sure that his heartfelt plea for the community’s safety continues. We, therefore, don’t have to worry about anything because we have each other and Jesus is watching over us.

In a violent, fractured world, what will it take for us to reach out to our brothers and sisters to settle minor disputes and increase our love for one another? How can we be respectfully, but gently invasive into our neighbors’ life, so that we can increase our care for them? Mercy can be that virtue that saves the soul of one who is troubled. We know Jesus wants everyone to be healthy, happy, and respectful of others. We know we have great prayerful protection from above. We need courage to offer to intervene into our neighbor’s world so they know we can for them. Easing their loneliness can save their soul. Jesus, though he departed from our visible world, has entered our invisible one so he can remain close to all of us to let us know he prays that we all be one in loving unity.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Paul goes to Ephesus to introduce believers to the Holy Spirit. Paul recounts the ways he served the Lord with humility, tears and trials, but he returns to an uncertain fate in Jerusalem. As Paul says goodbye, he urges them to keep watch over each other and to be vigilant about those who pervert the truth of the Gospel. Paul is brought to trial. The Pharisees and Sadducees are sharply divided; armed forces are sent to rescue Paul from their midst. The Lord tells Paul he must go to Rome and be faithful there just as he was faithful in Jerusalem. King Agrippa hears Paul's case and determines Paul is to be tried in Jerusalem, but Paul, as a Roman citizen, appeals for the Emperor's decision.

Gospel: The disciples realize Jesus is returning to the Father and that he is strengthening them for the time he is away. Jesus prays for the safety of those given to him by God. He wants them to be safe as they testify to God's steadfastness in a harsh world. He prays for unity, "so that they may be one just as we are one." He consecrates them to the truth and wards off the Evil One. He also prays for those given to him through the testimony of others. The love Jesus and the Father share is available to future disciples. ~ After the Farewell Discourse ends, Jesus appears at the seashore with Simon Peter who professes his three-fold love of Jesus. Jesus forgives him and asks him to take care of his people even though the authorities of this world will eventually have their day with him.

Saints of the Week

May 12: Nereus and Achilleus, martyrs (early second century), were Roman Imperial soldiers who converted to Christianity. They left the army and were martyred when they refused to sacrifice to idols during Emperor Trajan's reign.

May 12: Pancras, martyr, (d. 304)was a Syrian orphan who was brought to Rome by his uncle. Both soon after converted to Christianity. Pancras was beheaded at age 14 during the Diocletian persecution and buried on the Via Aurelia. A cemetery was named after him, but his remains were sent to Northumbria in England where six churches are dedicated to him.

May 13: Our Lady of Fatima is a name given to Mary after she appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal between May 13 and October 13, 1917. During her appearances, Mary stressed the importance of repentance, ongoing conversion, and dedicated to the heart of Mary through praying the Rosary.

May 14: Matthias, Apostle (first century) was chosen after the resurrection to replace Judas who committed suicide. In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter, quoting a psalm, told 120 people who gathered that they were to choose a new apostle - someone who had been with them from the baptism of Jesus until the resurrection. Two names were put forward and the assembly cast lots. Matthias was chosen.

May 15: Isidore (1070-1130), was born in Madrid to a family of farm laborers. With his wife, he worked on an estate and became known for his piety and generosity. His remains are the cause of several miracles most notably the cure of King Philip III who became his sponsor for canonization.

May 16: Andrew Bobola, S.J., priest martyr (1591-1657), is called the Martyr of Poland because of his excruciatingly painful death. He worked during a plague to care for the sick, but he became "wanted" by the Cossacks during a time when anti-Catholic and anti-Jesuit sentiment was high. His preaching converted whole villages back to Catholicism and he was hunted down because he was termed a "soul-hunter."

***Please note that the Ascension is celebrated in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Newark, Hartford, and Omaha on Thursday. Most of the world celebrates the feast on  Sunday.

May 16: Ascension Thursday is a holy day of obligation. It marks the event in the life of the Resurrected Christ who departed from this temporal earth to return to God. It celebrates Jesus’ visible absence while recognizing his invisible presence to the world. It is the event in the life of Christ when his physical appearances came to an end so he could resume his place at the right hand of the Father in heaven. St. Ignatius was so desirous of learning about the historical Jesus that he traveled to the places in the Holy Lands where Jesus walked and lived. As he was getting kicked out of the Holy Lands, he desired to return to the place of the Ascension to see the direction of Jesus’ feet as he ascended to God. A novena is prayed beginning on this day as we await the arrival of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

May 18: John I, pope and martyr (d. 526), was a Tuscan who became pope under the rule of Theodoric the Goth, an Arian. Theodoric opposed Emperor Justin I in Constantinople who persecuted Arians. John was sent to Justin to end the persecutions. He returned to great glory, but Theodoric was not satisfied, though Justin met all his demands. John was imprisoned and soon died because of ill treatment.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      May 12,1981. A letter of this date, from Secretary of State, Cardinal Casaroli, speaks positively of Teilhard de Chardin in celebration of the centenary of his birth (May 1,1881).
·      May 13, 1572. Election of Gregory XIII to succeed St Pius V. To him the Society owes the foundation of the Roman and German Colleges.
·      May 14, 1978. Letter of Pedro Arrupe to the whole Society on Inculturation.
·      May 15, 1815. Readmission of the Society into Spain by Ferdinand VII. The members of the Society were again exiled on July 31, 1820.
·      May 16, 1988. In Paraguay, Pope John Paul II canonizes Roque Gonzalez, Alfonso Rodriguez, and Juan del Castillo.
·      May 17, 1572. Pope Gregory XIII exempted the Society from choir and approved simple vows after two years of novitiate and ordination before solemn profession. In these matters he reversed a decree of St Pius V.
May 18, 1769. The election of Cardinal Lorenzo Ganganelli as Pope Clement XIV. He was the pope who suppressed the Society.