Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 29, 2013
Amos 6:1, 4-7; Psalm 146; 1 Timothy 6:11-16; Luke 16:19-31

Jesus is often rough on those who have money and influence saying that it will be difficult for them to reach the kingdom of heaven. Scripture supports this view, especially in Amos where the complacency of the rich and their lavish self-enjoyment are condemned. One can come away from these readings believing that Jesus views the mere accumulation of money as an evil. He is not saying that. We know many good wealthy people who have worked hard for their money and are great benefactors to the church and the poor. Jesus is always talking about the underlying attitude that we can develop, in whatever state of life we find ourselves, if we turn away from assisting the needy and no longer see them as people who matter. Attitude is everything.

In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, surprisingly we never learn the wealthy man’s name. Names tell us a lot about a person and if we do not know our neighbor’s name, we will not keep them in our consciousness. This may seem cold-hearted, but we alienate a person if we do not bother to learn his or her name. We may not answer our phone if we do not have caller-ID, and if we recognize who is calling, we are more apt to answer. We will not  go out of our way to greet our neighbor at Mass by name if we have never exchanged names earlier. Therefore, we keep them unknown and unfamiliar to ourselves. We do the same at home when we do not learn the janitor or the security guard’s name. Have we sat down with our domestic help and asked them to tell us about their joys or something about their families? Unfortunately, we keep far too many people who are near to us invisible. Jesus is telling us that he knows the plight of the invisible ones much better, and he calls them by name.

This passage always reminds me of Teresa, a middle aged African-American woman I met at a Washington, D.C. hospital when I was learning to be a chaplain. She was dying of AIDS before the life-saving medications were developed. Covered in hardened sores, her immanent death was certain. Doctors, nurses, friends, and family would not go near her because she had unsightly scabs all over her body. In my ignorance, I wanted to avoid contact as well. By chance, the reading for the day was this passage and as I read it, she screamed at the top of her lungs. Nurses and doctors ran to see what happened and when they opened the door, they found her with her arms thrown around me hanging onto me for dear life. She held me and wept. The Gospel message hit home when I read, “and only the dog licked her wounds.” This was all she had for a healing touch. Only her dog saw her as a cherished person and her pet would soothe her and comfort her because no human would go near to her. She was Lazarus – a person so invisible standing right before our eyes. It is easier for us to look away.

We want careful self-protection from socially transmitted illnesses. This is prudent and it makes sense especially at the change of seasons, but we do many things to keep people invisible and separated from us and this is the attitude Jesus is attacking. Listen. We do not change our attitudes over night. It happens when our heart is moved from our experiences. Let us try to discreetly get to know another person better by honoring their stories.

Experiment this week by focusing on the details of another person you casually meet. Look them in the eye and say, “Hello. I have a terrible memory. Can you tell me your name again?” Notice a woman friend’s earrings and let her know they match her ensemble well (if you think they do.) Comment on an acquaintance’s hairstyle if it is changed or if a man received a haircut, let him know you like his appearance. If someone speaks well at a meeting, provide positive feedback on what you liked about her mannerisms. It does not matter how they receive it and it does not even matter what you say. What is important is how you make that person feel from his or her encounter with you. You may not realize who you are for a person, but you might be the only visible source of their great hope exactly when they need it. Even on days when I feel tired and grumpy and want to be left alone, I realize a smile communicates something beyond what I can imagine. In order words, it is not all about me – or you. It is about letting another person know that God loves them through you or me.

After you acknowledge them, listen to the details of the way they respond. As Jesus tells us in the Gospel, we have more than enough resources in heaven and earth to come to know God’s will. We just have to listen. Abraham’s brothers had the law and the prophets. We have someone who is risen from the dead. Learn to listen in new ways to what a person is saying to you. Accept them and let them know you care for them, even if in a passing moment. Those people will no longer feel invisible and will feel that God has sent someone into their world to visit them. Look. Listen. Behold. Notice those important details. Honor. Savor. Appreciate. Give life to the invisible person who is searching for the face of God in human flesh. The life you save may be your own.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: The Lord tells the prophet Zechariah that he has great dreams for Jerusalem, which will once again be called the faithful city and the mountain of the Lord of hosts. The Lord also says that he wants many people to come to Jerusalem and seek his favor. All people are to be saved. God holds no people or nation back from his salvation. In Nehemiah, King Artaxerxes is haunted by his dream, which has him sent to his ancestor’s city of Judah to rebuild God’s house. The whole town gathered at the Temple as they called upon Ezra to bring forth the book of the Law of Moses. When we read it, the whole assembly shouted, “Amen. Amen.” The word of God was preached to them. During the Babylonian captivity, the exiles pray, “Justice is with our God.” They lament that they did not follow God’s commands and thereby suffered for their disobedience. The prophet Baruch tells the people that even though the Lord brought disaster upon them, God will bring them enduring joy.

Gospel: An argument arises among the disciples about which of them is he greatest, but Jesus rejects their view of greatness in favor of the most vulnerable ones in society – the little children. As Jesus is determined to go to Jerusalem, he sends disciples ahead of them into the Samaritan territory. They are rejected, and Jesus decides simply to move to another town. Someone can up to Jesus as he was traveling and said, “I will go wherever you go,” and Jesus retorted, “The Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Jesus then appoints seventy-two disciples and gives them authority to teach, heal, and exorcise demons. He gives them instructions for their conduct. Jesus then laments the cities where he worked so many miracles because their people failed to respond to his message of repentance. The seventy-two return full of joy and Jesus gives thanks to the Father for teaching them simple blessings.

Saints of the Week

September 29: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels are long a part of Christian and Jewish scripture. Michael is the angel who fights against evil as the head of all the angels; Gabriel announces the messiah's arrival and the births of Jesus and John the Baptist; and Raphael is a guardian angel who protects Tobias on his journey. Together, they are venerated to represent all the angels during a three-day period.

September 30: Jerome, priest and doctor (342-420), studied Greek and Latin as a young man after his baptism by Pope Liberius. He learned Hebrew when he became a monk and after ordination he studied scripture with Gregory Nazianzen in Constantinople. He became secretary to the Pope when he was asked to translate the Bible into Latin.

October 1: Teresa of Jesus, doctor (1515-1582), entered the Carmelites in Avila and became disenchanted with the laxity of the order. She progressed in prayer and had mystical visions. She introduced stricter reforms through her guidance of John of the Cross and Peter Alcantara. They founded the Discalced Carmelites for men and women.

October 2: The Guardian Angels are messengers and intermediaries between God and humans. They help us in our struggle against evil and they serve as guardians, the feast we celebrate today. Raphael is one of the guardians written about in the Book of Tobit. A memorial was added to the Roman calendar In 1670 in thanksgiving for their assistance.

October 3: Francis Borgia, S.J. became a duke at age 33. When his wife died and his eight children were grown, he joined the Jesuits. His preaching brought many people to the church and when he served as Superior General, the Society increased dramatically in Spain and Portugal. He established many missions in the new territories.

October 4: Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) was from the wealthy Bernardone family who sold silk cloths. After serving as soldier as a prisoner of war, Francis chose to serve God and the poor. He felt called to repair God's house, which he thought was a church. His father was angry that he used family money so he disinherited him. He began to preach repentance and recruited others to his way of life. His order is known for poverty, simplicity, humble service, and delighting in creation.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Sep 29, 1558. In the Gesu, Rome, and elsewhere, the Jesuits began to keep Choir, in obedience to an order from Paul IV. This practice lasted less than a year, until the pope's death in August, 1559.
·      Sep 30, 1911. President William Howard Taft visited Saint Louis University and declared the football season open.
·      Oct 1, 1546. Isabel Roser was released from her Jesuit vows by St Ignatius after eight months.
·      Oct 2, 1964. Fr. General Janssens suffered a stroke and died three days later. During his generalate, the Society grew from 53 to 85 provinces, and from 28,839 to 35,968 members.
·      Oct 3, 1901. In France, religious persecution broke out afresh with the passing of Waldeck Rousseau's "Loi d'Association."
·      Oct 4, 1820. In Rome, great troubles arose before and during the Twentieth General Congregation, caused by Fr. Petrucci's intrigues. He sought to wreck the Society and was deposed from his office as Vicar General, though supported by Cardinal della Genga (afterwards Leo XII).

·      Oct 5, 1981. In a letter to Father General Arrupe, Pope John Paul II appointed Paolo Dezza as his personal delegate to govern the Society of Jesus, with Fr. Pittau as coadjutor.