Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 8, 2013
Wisdom 9:13-18; Psalm 90; Philemon 9-10, 12-17; Luke 14:25-33

Crowds followed Jesus to hear him teach about the kingdom of God. They must have been caught off guard when he told them, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” We do not have a choice in carrying the cross as a disciple; the cross is given to us whether we want it or not, but our relationship to the cross will determine how we deal with life’s sufferings.

We grew up with these hard sayings of Jesus and we have figured out how to soften them or put them into proper relevance, but the presence of the cross often catches us off-guard. None of us are going to hate our family members out of discipleship because, we reason, that would not be Christ-like. None of us are going to hate ourselves because many of us do not even love ourselves. These “Jesus statements” are posed to make us ask how much we believe the words of Jesus.

Jesus talks about preparing for discipleship just as a tower-builder draws up plans for the finished product or the king who decides to go into battle against an army twice his size. Planning, adjustment, and execution are needed to have enough resources to construct a tall building just as military strategies are needed to wage a successful campaign. He is saying that we have to develop our models and strategies of discipleship as meticulously as professionals engage in complex projects.

I would suspect that most of us have not put together a business plan for our discipleship. Of course, some of us have loose goals like, “I want to make a 30-day retreat within the next five years,” but beyond that, we are vague or we do not think we need plans at all. At the end of the Gospel passage, Jesus asks us to renounce all our possessions. Are we even moving to that in this contemporary society? It seems like he wants us to do more planning about the ways we will develop our relationship.

Most of us are probably puzzling over where to begin and what to include. Let’s start with those subjects we bring to the sacrament of reconciliation. If I am continually unkind and lacking gratitude to my spouse, friend, or community member, then I will set a plan to say one less unkind statement each day or week and maybe I turn it into a compliment or positive statement. Keep an account of those negative and positive things you say. Does it change after one month? Discover where you are after three or six months? You might discover that you have grown in virtue.

Many frequently confess not knowing what to do with the raging anger they feel toward another person. They declare that they cannot, will not talk to the person who angered them, but their behavior becomes even more toxic because instead of immediately and directly trying to express their anger, they repress it and their anger comes out sideways. We’ve all run into the angry person who is passive aggressive and will not talk with someone. We also all too frequently encounter the person who is sweetly kind to us to our faces, but the minute we turn away the gossip and backstabbing begins and it can be fierce. My heart goes out to those poor souls who trap themselves in their own hell and do everything in their power to keep themselves there. Above all, I pray that they come to know the mercy of God.

How does one develop a plan to get themselves out of their pit? Chart out your negative and positive responses as a start, but include on that list those times you decided to listen to others. Some are offering compassion, others suggestions, but what is being said beyond the words? Are you able to listen? How many people are you enrolling into your problem? Quantify your behavior because it might startle you to note how much precious time you are taking to perpetuate your negative actions. In one, three, or six months, you want to check if you have grown or regressed. You are not going to progress until you learn to listen and then take steps that are scary for you. Inevitably, you must listen to the person you declare to be your enemy. Accept their confronting words because it is for your own growth. While you move to the point where you can listen to (and not respond) to your adversary, make sure you listen to the words, sometimes very challenging words, of Jesus. In the end, I think you will find that more people than you think, even your adversary, wants the best for you.

“Who can know the Lord’s counsel or who can conceive what the Lord intends? For the deliberations of mortals are timid and unsure are our plans.” Come on. Get your act together. Put together your short- and long-term discipleship plans and offer them to the Lord for counsel and understanding. Be surprised by what the Lord says because he has a separate point of view from yours. Live in the mystery that only has possibilities that must be welcomed. Move away from a world of closure so your heart can be free as you learn to live with the cross of immense goodness, which is often difficult to pick up but easier to carry.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Colossians, Paul rejoices in his sufferings because it is able to complete the suffering Jesus endured for us. He teaches tirelessly in wisdom and by admonition so everyone will become perfect in Christ. As they receive Christ, they are to walk in him and imitate him and to make certain they do not fall into seduction by another philosophy. Christ’s presence within them will perfect all things and he will show that he is the head of every power and principality. Therefore, if you were raised with him in baptism, seek what is above for you have died and your life is hidden within him. You must act morally and righteously in order to honor Christ who is within you. Put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another. Above all, put on love, which is the bond of perfection. ~ Paul then writes to Timothy to profess his thanks to Christ for appointing him to the ministry and for making him trustworthy. ~ During the Triumph of the Cross, Moses orders the seraph to be lifted up so that all bitten Israelites can look upon the image of the snake and live.

Gospel: While teaching in the Synagogue, a man with a withered hand is brought to him on the Sabbath. The opponents of Jesus wait to see if he will blatantly transgress the law and Jesus makes sure he does the right thing: he heals the disabled man. Jesus goes up a mountain to pray and he names Twelve men who will represent the new Israel. When we returns to the plain, he begins to teach them, cast out demons, and heal the sick. In his teaching, he praises the lowly and condemns those who put obstacles in their path to righteousness. He continues teaching about blessing your enemies, being exceedingly generous to those in need, forgiving those who wronged you, and refraining from harsh judgments. He then asks how a brother can condemn another when the beam in his eye is much larger than the splinter in his brother’s. ~ At the Triumph of the Cross, Nicodemus is told that the Son of Man is to be lifted up because God gave the world his only Son so that all who believe in him will have eternal life.

Saints of the Week

September 8: The Birth of Mary was originally (like all good feasts) celebrated first in the Eastern Church. The Roman church began its devotion in the fifth century. Her birth celebrates her role as the mother of Jesus. Some traditions have her born in Nazareth while others say she hails from outside of Jerusalem.

September 9: Peter Claver, S.J. (1580-1654) became a Jesuit in 1600 and was sent to the mission in Cartegena, Colombia, a center of slave trade. For forty years, Claver ministered to the newly arrived Africans by giving them food, water, and medical care. Unfortunately, he died ostracized by his Jesuit community because he insisted on continuing the unpopular act of treating the slaves humanely.

September 10: Francis Garate, S.J. (1857-1929) was a Basque who entered the Jesuits and became a doorkeeper at the Univeristy of Deusto in Bilbao. He modeled his ministry after Alphonsus Rodriguez and became known for his innate goodness, humility, and prayerfulness.

September 12: The Name of Mary was given to the child in the octave that follow her birth on September 8th. Mary (Miriam) was a popular name for a girl because it means "beloved."

September 13: John Chrysostom, bishop and doctor (347-407) was a gifted homilist and was called "Golden Mouth" because his words inspired many. He was raised in Antioch and joined a community of austere hermits but the lifestyle damaged his health. He became the archbishop of Constantinople where he introduced many conservative and unpopular reforms. He fled to escape an uprising from the people and on the way to exile he died.

September 14: The Triumph of the Holy Cross remembers the finding of the true cross by the Emperor Constantine's mother, Helen in early 4th century. Two churches were dedicated in the name of the cross on this day in the 4th century. Therefore, the feast was applied to this day. In the 7th century, the feast was renamed, "The Triumph." The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in 335 was also dedicated on this day.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Sep 8, 1600. Fr. Matteo Ricci set out on his journey to Peking (Beijing). He experienced enormous difficulties in reaching the royal city, being stopped on his way by one of the powerful mandarins.
·      Sep 9, 1773. At Lisbon, Carvalho, acting in the king's name, ordered public prayers for the deliverance of the world from the "pestilence of Jesuitism."
·      Sep 10, 1622. The martyrdom at Nagaski, Japan, of Charles Spinola and his companions.
·      Sep 11, 1681. At Antwerp, the death of Fr. Geoffry Henschen (Henschenius). A man of extraordinary learning, he was Fr. Jan von Bolland's assistant in compiling the Acts of the Saints.
·      Sep 12, 1744. Benedict XIV's second Bull, Omnium Sollicitudinum, forbade the Chinese Rites. Persecution followed in China.
·      Sep 13, 1773. Frederick II of Prussia informed the pope that the Jesuits would not be suppressed in Prussia and invited Jesuits to come.
·      Sep 14, 1596. The death of Cardinal Francis Toledo, the first of the Society to be raised to the purple. He died at age 63, a cardinal for three years.