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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 25, 2013
Isaiah 66:18-21; Psalm 117; Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13; Luke 13:22-30

Jesus calls people to greater integrity as he passes through towns and villages by giving sermons on his circuitous way to Jerusalem. He calls them to a higher standard so their words stand for something. The people in the Gospel arrive late after the door has been closed for the night and when they bang on the door for entrance, Jesus the Master, says, “I do not know where you are from.” Go away. Our actions, even our tiniest ones, define our character.

In the Middle East people use the expression “Insha’Allah” at the end of a sentence like, “I’ll see you Tuesday at 5:00 p.m.” The phrase originally meant, “Unless any unforeseen God-given circumstances arrive, I’ll be there on Tuesday at 5:00, but today it is used to indicate, “I may decide to come unless a more exciting invitation arrives or I’ve lost interest in honoring my commitment to you.” Sadly, people allow for this sort of excuse all the time, but these are the types of people Jesus the Master will say he does not know when they are banging at his door because they chose to pursue another course. A healthy person will say, “this is of my own doing and I’ve been foolish,” while a less than healthy person will blame Jesus for their exclusion. To be blunt, in some of our adult relationships, we have to “grow up.”

In the Letter to the Hebrews, the author writes, “my child, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines.” Often in our prayer to the Lord, we are kind, meek, and respectful and we won’t go too far in saying what is on our minds. We keep our prayer tame and safe because we are the party with little power. We will only express kind grateful thoughts and seldom, if ever, let God know we are angry with him.

God wants you to act like an adult. God can coddle, coax, and give you invitations as often as possible, but God wants you to enter this relationship as maturely as possible. Some of us see God as a stern, uncaring, harshly judging being who is remote from us while others will only develop a childlike image of an always sweet, always accepting, always permissive being who lets me selfishly do whatever I want because I’ve declared that I am essentially a good person. Both images are fantastic illusions and we have to come to get to know the real God. God is not an extension of myself, but a completely separate ‘Other.’ It could be that God is waiting for us to listen to him and converse with him like healthy adults do. In the long run, it is unsafe for us to hold an image of God that allows us to use our strong will to remain unchanged.

We cannot grow until we fail. In high school, it was good for us to receive fair and honest grades because it told us in black and white print where our efforts and capabilities stood. If we didn’t study for an exam, we scored poorly. Hopefully, the low mark conveyed that we had to give greater effort on the next exam. He always had a chance to redeem our grades.

God does the same with us. God prunes, signals disapproval, and disciplines those he loves just as a parent teaches his or her child to develop and cope with challenging circumstances. Thank goodness for our teachers. Where would we be without them? My fifth grade teacher saved my life and I had others who intervened to make sure I stayed on a path that leads towards new possibilities. Education is life long and we need other types of teachers along the way. If our friends and loved ones don’t challenge our questionable assumptions or bad behavior at time, we are not going to progress along the path of life. We have to move pass what we feel is criticism and see the loving motivation that is contained in the gently intrusive correction. It may smart for a while, but grow up, get over it, and know that someone loves you enough to offer you a way to get back on track.

Fundamentally, God desires our best, but as we go on our own way in life, we sometimes shut out the valuable, caring voices of others, however, God’s voice endures and we sometimes realize that, as much as we want to, we cannot silence God’s call for us to become more righteous and forgiving. God wants to take, as the first reading declares, the faithful remnants from all the far-off locations and bring them to the Holy City where he will cleanse them and make them a beacon for others who want to come to know a merciful God. God will do all that is in his power to make us all that he called us to be. Our lives will radiate forth God’s power just as it did for Mary in her Magnificat.

Figure out this week how you can have a real adult conversation with God. If you have unsatisfying conversations with other adults in daily life, you will probably have an unsatisfying conversation with God because they way we talk to others is the same way we talk with God. If this is the case, seek constructive feedback from close friends so that your talk with God can begin to mature. We are given this incredibly rich time to come to know God as Christ our Master where we can speak and live with integrity and act in growing confidence. We know the consequences of not really knowing Christ and no one wants to be cast off by him. In the process, don’t cast off those who are trying to help you and do realize that people are here to teach you and encourage you. Realize their underlying goodness and concern for you and receive with an open will the love that will save your life. Christ calls you to greater integrity, and with a heart and mind open to him, he will exalt you and embrace you as a long-cherished, battle-tested, highly esteemed friend. No Insha’Allah about it.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Paul in First Thessalonians greets the people and praises them for their unceasing calling to mind their work of faith and labor of love and endurance in Jesus Christ. He tells them that the Church was insolently treated in Philippi, but through their trials, they were judged worthy by God. Rather than eloquent preaching, Paul preached gentleness and showed affection for his people in the pursuit of passing on the pure Gospel of God. Paul asks them to recall his toil and drudgery, working without end so as not to burden them. They are witnesses at the selfless ways Paul worked for their benefit. He reminds them he spent his time exhorting and encouraging them so they can walk in manner worthy of God. Therefore, they give thanks day and night for their reception of the Gospel and to strengthen their hearts to be blameless in holiness. Paul then lays out a moral plan for the community: to refrain from immorality, to acquire a spouse in holiness, or to not take advantage of a brother or sister. God called us to holiness. You have been taught by God how to love one another, but Paul urges them to progress even more and to aspire to live a tranquil life, to mind you’re your own affairs, and to work with your own hands.

Gospel: Jesus criticizes the Pharisees because they lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. He chastises them for their hypocrisy as they try to place demands upon others and promote their own righteousness while condemning others. He tells them that their cup is dirty on the inside and yet they are judging the outwards signs of others. He tells them to clean up their act because their house is not in order, and he tells them to stop killing the prophets while adorning the memorials of the righteous. ~ On the memorial of John the Baptist, the Evangelist Mark retells the unfortunate story of the events that led up to his beheading.  ~ Jesus then begins to tell parables about the kingdom of heaven. He claims it is like the ten virgins who went out to meet the bridegrooms. Of the ten, five were foolish and five were wise. The wise ones were prepared when the groom returned, but the foolish ones squandered all their oil on their own pursuits of pleasure. He then told them a parable of a man who went on a journey and entrusted his possessions to his servants. He gave five to one, two to another, and to the third he gave one talent. The first two invested the talents, while the third buried the talent into the ground and kept it hid for safekeeping. When the master returned, the praised the first two and chastised the third for improperly caring for his goods. More will be given to those who use the talents well; to the one who cannot be responsible, everything will be taken away.

Saints of the Week

August 25: Joseph Calasanz, priest (1556-1648), was a Spaniard who studied canon law and theology. He resigned his post as diocesan vicar-general to go to Rome to live as a pilgrim and serve the sick and the dying. He used his inheritance to set up free schools for poor families with children. He founded an order to administer the schools, but dissension and power struggles led to its dissolution.

August 27: Monica (332-387) was born a Christian in North Africa and was married to a non-Christian, Patricius, with whom she had three children, the most famous being Augustine. Her husband became a Christian at her urging and she prayed for Augustine's conversion as well from his newly adopted Manichaeism. Monica met Augustine in Milan where he was baptized by Bishop Ambrose. She died on the return trip as her work was complete.

August 28: Augustine, bishop and doctor (354-430),  was the author of his Confessions, his spiritual autobiography, and The City of God, which described the life of faith in relation to the life of the temporal world. Many other writings, sermons, and treatises earned him the title Doctor of the church. In his formative years, he followed Mani, a Persian prophet who tried to explain the problem of evil in the world. His mother’s prayers and Ambrose’s preaching helped him convert to Christianity. Baptized in 387, Monica died a year later. He was ordained and five years later named bishop of Hippo and defended the church against three major heresies: Manichaeism, Donatism, and Pelagianism.

August 29: The Martyrdom of John the Baptist recalls the sad events of John's beheading by Herod the tetrarch when John called him out for his incestuous and adulterous marriage to Herodias, who was his niece and brother's wife. At a birthday party, Herodias' daughter Salome danced well earning the favor of Herod who told her he would give her almost anything she wanted.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Aug. 25, 1666: At Beijing, the death of Fr. John Adam Schall. By his profound knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, he attained such fame that the Emperor entrusted to him the reform of the Chinese calendar.
·      Aug. 26, 1562: The return of Fr. Diego Laynez from France to Trent, the Fathers of the Council desiring to hear him speak on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
·      Aug. 27, 1679: The martyrdom at Usk, England, of St. David Lewis, apostle to the poor in his native Wales for three decades before he was caught and hanged.
·      Aug. 28, 1628: The martyrdom in Lancashire, England, of St. Edmund Arrowsmith.
·      Aug. 29, 1541: At Rome the death of Fr. John Codure, a Savoyard, one of the first 10 companions of St. Ignatius.
·      Aug. 30, 1556: On the banks of the St. Lawrence River, Fr. Leonard Garreau, a young missionary, was mortally wounded by the Iroquois.
·      Aug. 31, 1581: In St. John's Chapel within the Tower of London, a religious discussion took place between St. Edmund Campion, suffering from recent torture, and some Protestant ministers.

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