Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 22, 2013
Amos 8:4-7; Psalm 113; 1 Timothy 2:1-8; Luke 16:1-13

“The children of the world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” Many times we are passive in our faith so that we keep the peace and avoid conflict at all costs and this is antithetical to our faith. Amos tells us that the Lord swore by the pride of Jacob that he will never forget the actions of those who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land. Those who defraud and swindle will have a hard time convincing God that they ought to be given eternal life. God has always told us of his preferential love for the poor and vulnerable, and our faith demands that we protect them and lift them up in charity.

Paul urges us to pray and give thanks for our leaders and to those in authority so that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. Christians have to get along well with governing authorities in order that the community can grow and thrive and remain free from unwarranted persecution. Our actions ought to reveal the mercy of God especially in our dealings with each other. We do not need to bring unnecessary harm to our community or jeopardize the common good.

Jesus tells a story of the dishonest steward, who when caught off guard, is able to navigate his way cleverly through troubled waters. Jesus upholds his ingenuous behavior as one from which his disciples can learn in order to apply it to their faith life. We cannot be active and mature in business transactions and then passive and docile in our faith life. Jesus is telling us that we have to integrate our sophisticated behavior into our whole way of being.

Christians have long extolled the virtues of separation of church and state and we have confidently surmised that we are wise if will remain out of politics. How did this distorted view arise? Let me give you a very recent quote from Pope Francis on the reason Catholics should be involved in politics.

None of us can say, ‘I have nothing to do with this. They are the ones who govern. . . .’ No, no, I am responsible for their governance, and I have to do the best so that they govern well, and I have to do my best by participating in politics according to my ability. Politics, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good. I cannot wash my hands, eh? We all have to give something! [...] A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of him or herself, so that those who govern can govern. But what is the best that we can offer to those who govern? Prayer! That’s what Paul says: “Pray for all people, and for the king and for all in authority.”

In all spheres of life, we must participate in order for these events to be meaningful. We get enhanced understanding of processes and relationships when we insert ourselves into the rhythm of rites and events. For instance, if I go to Mass week after week and sit in the back of the church, Mass might be an event that happened with or without me. I may walk away knowing I did my duty, but if I decide to become a lector, my preparation for reading will enhance my understanding of scripture and its important meaning to me. If I greet people as they enter the church, I begin to form enriching relationships. If I become a server or Eucharistic minister, I can see the communion that God is initiating among us and I see the faces that contain so many stories of hope, love, and suffering. Mass becomes real and concrete. The Mass comes alive for us when we bring all that we have to it and we are swirled up in a great mystery.

We need to insert ourselves into all spheres of life and, surprisingly, it does not take too much energy from us, but it gives us back more than we give. When we are active in our faith, we contribute to the common good. Our guiding principles of social doctrine will make us stand up for those who are being hurt – even if (and especially if) we are in the minority. We learn to use our voice in ways that demands our respect and concern for the lesser fortunate than us. Within each of us, we have dignity that we have to make others respect because, if we give them space, they will walk all over us. We assert ourselves when we participate and our voices are needed all the time. Pray for your courage that you can assert your voice – for yourself – and out of concern for your more vulnerable neighbor. The rule to follow is: to insert and assert yourself.

We become engaged in life and we find it exciting and packed with many possibilities for joy and meaningfulness. We must choose to get out of our comfortable chairs, go outside, and engage the world. We learn to live as the poet Mary Oliver says:

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life 
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Cyrus, the king of Persia, declares that the Lord, the God of heavens, has charged him to build a house in Jerusalem of Judah. Everyone who is able is expected to build the Temple with his or her offerings. King Darius gave tax relief to the administration of the Jews West-of-Euphrates; their repayment can go toward the building of the Temple. All the returned exiles celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy and they kept the Passover rituals. Ezra kneels in prayer to God and blesses the kings of Persia for their goodwill to the Jews. The people experience great mercy and they realize their good fortune that was brought about by the Lord. In the Book of Haggai, the prophet recalls that fortuitous day when King Darius allowed the Jews to rebuild their house of God. Few of the people in Darius’ kingdom remembered the former glory of the house, but the Lord will direct their ways to show them the greater future glory in which peace will reign. In Zechariah, the prophet heads to Jerusalem to measure its breadth and width and an angel interrupts him to say that Jerusalem will be an open country and the angel will be around her in an encircling wall of fire. The glory of the Lord will be in her midst.

Gospel: Jesus tells the crowds that a lamp must be placed on a lamppost to give light to others rather than be concealed under a bed. Nothing that is hidden will remain invisible. The mother and brothers of Jesus came forward when he was preaching and they were embarrassed and wanted him to stop. The people tell him that they are here, but he declares that his mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it. Jesus summons the Twelve to give them missionary and preaching instructions on their behavior as they proclaim the immanence of the kingdom of God. Herod the tetrarch hears about what is happening and he wonders if Jesus is John raised from the dead. He kept trying to see him. Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, he asked them who the crowds say he is. Peter replies “The Christ” and Jesus then tells them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly, be killed, and on the third day be raised. He reinforced his words saying that the Son of Man is to be handed over to men and that the religious elders would reject him,

Saints of the Week

September 22: Tomas Sitjar, S.J. and the martyrs of Valencia (1866-1936), were killed in the Spanish Civil War just a week after the war broke out. Sitjar was the Rector of Gandia and was formerly the novice director and metaphysics professor. The Jesuit Order was suppressed at the beginning of the war, which sent the men to disperse into apartments, but since they were known to the community, they were sought out, imprisoned, and later executed because of their belief in God.

September 23: Pio of Pietrelcina, priest (1887-1968) was affectionately named Padre Pio and was a Capuchin priest who received the stigmata (wounds of Christ) just as Francis of Assisi did. He founded a hospital and became the spiritual advisor to many at a monastery at San Giovanni Rotondo.

September 26: Cosmas and Damian, martyrs (d. 287), were twins who became doctors. They were noted because they never charged anyone a medical fee. They died in the Diocletian persecution. Great miracles have been attributed to them and the Emperor Justinian is claimed to be healed through their intercession.

September 27: Vincent de Paul, priest (1581-1660), was a French peasant who selected to be chaplain at the Queen's household after his ordination. He provided food and clothing to the poor, including prostitutes, the sick, disabled, and homeless. He founded the Congregation of Missions (Vincentians) to preach and train clergy and he co-founded the Daughters of Charity with Louise de Marillac.

September 28: Wenceslaus, martyr (907-929), was raised a Christian by his grandmother while his mother and brother were opposed to Christianity. His brother opposed him when he became ruler of Bohemia in 922. He introduced strict reforms that caused great dissatisfaction among nobles and political adversaries. His brother invited him to a religious ceremony where he was killed in a surprise attack.

September 28: Lawrence Ruiz and 15 companion martyrs (seventeenth century), were killed in Nagasaki, Japan during 1633 and 1637. Most of these Christians were friends of the Dominicans. Lawrence, a Filipino, was a husband and father. He and these other missionaries served the Philippines, Formosa, and Japan.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Sep 22, 1774. The death of Pope Clement XIV, worn out with suffering and grief because of the suppression of the Society. False stories had been circulated that he was poisoned by the Jesuits.
·      Sep 23, 1869. Woodstock College of the Sacred Heart opened. With 17 priests, 44 scholastics, and 16 brothers it was the largest Jesuit community in the United States at the time.
·      Sep 24, 1566. The first Jesuits entered the continental United States at Florida. Pedro Martinez and others, while attempting to land, were driven back by the natives, and forced to make for the island of Tatacuran. He was killed there three weeks later.
·      Sep 25, 1617. The death of Francisco Suarez. He wrote 24 volumes on philosophy and theology. As a novice he was found to be very dull, but one of his directors suggested that he ask our Lady's help. He subsequently became a person of prodigious talent.
·      Sep 26, 1605. At Rome, Pope Paul V orally declared St Aloysius to be one of the "Blessed." The official brief appeared on October 19.
·      Sep 27, 1540. Pope Paul III signed the Bull, Regimini Militantis Ecclesiae, which established the Society of Jesus.
·      Sep 28, 1572. Fifteen Jesuits arrived in Mexico to establish the Mexican Province. They soon opened a college.