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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Spirituality: A Community of Discernment

The Jesuit community is a community of discernment. The missions on which Jesuits are sent, whether corporately or individually, do not exempt us from the need of discerning together in what manner and by what means such missions are to be accomplished. That is why we open our minds and hearts to our superiors and our superiors, in turn, take part in the discernment of our communities, always on the shared understanding that final decisions belong to those who have the burden of authority.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 3, 2013
Wisdom 11:22-12:2; Psalm 144; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2; Luke 19:1-10

A favorite tourist site for many Christians is to visit the sycamore fig tree in Jericho that Zacchaeus climbed. It has a thick base and sturdy limbs and it is easy to imagine the short tax collector sitting on a branch waiting for the arrival of Jesus. If there were not a fence around it, many pilgrims would be tempted like me to climb the tree and get Zacchaeus’ perspective. As you know, Zacchaeus was a chief-tax gatherer who was corrupt and was hated by many Jews because he was considered a traitor for working for the Roman Empire. Because the lucrative production and export of balsam centered in Jericho, his position carried both importance and wealth.

We know Zacchaeus by the name Jesus gives him, which means pure and righteous one. We know enough about his past to forget it and let it go because what really matters is how he is changed by his experience of Jesus, who calls the very best out of him. We are told the crowd was shocked that Jesus, a Jew, would invite himself to be a guest of a traitorous tax collector and that he offers him salvation today. That is pretty much the end of the story because Zacchaeus is remade into a new man who publicly repents of his acts of corruption and pro-actively makes restitution for them. Zacchaeus lives up to his name of being pure and righteous.

Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians touches my heart. His prayer is “That our God may make you worthy of his calling and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith, that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him.” My prayer as a priest is that each of you is able to stretch beyond your comfortable boundaries and access the grace Jesus has for you. I want you to have confidence in your abilities and talents because I know Jesus wants you to use them for surprising joy. I see far too many times that believers hold themselves back. I would rather see them break free from the invisible shackles so they can live as happily as the Lord intends.

For the past year, I have watched Arab and European women come out of their shells and act with greater self-confidence. In a society that has not reached its potential in treating women with respect and dignity, these women are learning new ways to trust in their bountiful gifts. They get angry with me for making them work beyond their experience level, but when they present their material, they find that they are quite good at their craft and as they look back with pride at their efforts, they realize they had fun. They are developing a quiet confidence. I believe in them and they are starting to believe in themselves.

In this Church where Jesus is Lord, traditional roles are shattered when you walk through those doors. You are no longer defined by the culture outside these walls. Here, an Indian nurse can be a catechist, a Filipino domestic worker can teach others recreational crafts, a Korean can be a reader even if he is unsure of his accent, an Arab can be a poet and artist, and so on. Be as free as you can in this space because this is a place where your true self needs to be liberated and to flourish. In this church, everyone has the same value to me as you do to Jesus Christ. All are welcome and together we are brother and sister. Even I as priest am just a man who is one among you – and that makes me happy.

We can learn from Zacchaeus who took off the societal constraints that could have shackled him. He did not let his life be defined as one who was once a chief tax collector. He is known as one who is free and pure. There is nothing in your life that you ever did that can separate you from the present calling of Jesus Christ to be forgiven and fulfilled. The outside pressures that we face cannot be a reason or excuse to stop us from developing who we are truly meant to be. This is the eternal place of hopes and dreams and visions.

During baptisms and confirmations, the church asks, “What name do you give this child?” We have our given Christian names and we are encouraged by a quality within a saint or a loved one whom we adore. We aspire and admire certain characteristics that we try to emulate. However, I will leave a question for you to ponder. Someone else often gives us our names and sometimes people change their names or use a nickname because the name they received does not hit the mark. What name represents your true self?

Even more importantly: What name does Jesus Christ, Lord of the Universe, give to you? What does he call you? This new name can change your life around. We know Simon became Peter; we do not know the former name of Zacchaeus because the past does not matter. All that matters is how you conform your life to the name Jesus gives you. Spend some time this week pondering this question and ask him what this means to the way you now live your new life. I pray that you accept his naming of you very boldly because salvation has come to your house today. Welcome him in and live the dream he has for you. O, pure and righteous ones, run, do not walk, to those infinite possibilities.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Romans, Paul tells the gathered faithful ones that every one has sinned through disobedience and therefore can enjoy the mercy of God. We, though many, are one Body in Christ and individually parts of one another and since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given, we have to use them well. Love has to be sincere and have the same regard for one another. Paul wants people to live without commitments to one another except for a loving commitment. You shall love your neighbor as yourself for love does no evil to the neighbor. None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. Paul says that he has become a minster of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles in performing the priestly service so that the offering up of the Gentiles may be acceptable and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. After introducing himself to the people of Rome, Paul exhorts Christians to greet one another with a holy kiss.

Gospel: Jesus dines with a leading Pharisee and tells him that he ought to invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind instead of the wealthy or those who can repay him with an extravagant meal. Jesus told a story of a man who gave a great dinner to which he invited many, but not enough came. He said, “Go quickly into the highway and hedgerows and make people come in that my home may be filled.” All are welcome at the banquet hall of God. Jesus addressed the crowd saying, “If anyone comes to me without hating his mother and father, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” for everyone who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be his disciple. Tax collectors and sinners were drawing near to listen to Jesus. He tells them there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. A dishonest steward was reported to his boss for squandering his property. When he was called to account for his behavior, he cleverly devised a way to repay much of his boss’s account. Jesus upholds the man as more prudent than others. His disciples are to deal with their spiritual matters in the same way. If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?

Saints of the Week

November 3: Rupert Mayer, S.J., priest (1876-1945), resisted the Nazi government and died while saying Mass of a stroke. In 1937, he was placed in protective custody and was eventually released when he agreed that he would no longer preach.

November 3: Martin de Porres, religious (1579-1639) was a Peruvian born of a Spanish knight and a Panamanian Indian woman. Because he was not pure blood, he lost many privileges in the ruling classes. He became a Dominican and served the community in many menial jobs. He was known for tending to the sick and poor and for maintaining a rigorous prayer life.

November 4: Charles Borromeo, bishop (1538-1584), was made Bishop of Milan at age 22. He was the nephew of Pope Pius IV. He was a leading Archbishop in the Catholic Reformation that followed the Council of Trent. During a plague epidemic, Borromeo visited the hardest hit areas so he could provide pastoral care to the sick.

November 5: All Saints and Blessed of the Society of Jesus are remembered by Jesuits on their particularized liturgical calendar. We remember not only the major saints on the calendar, but also those who are in the canonization process and hold the title of Blessed, like Peter Faber. We pray for all souls of deceased Jesuits in our province during the month by using our necrology (listing of the dead.)

November 9: The dedication of Rome's Lateran Basilica was done by Pope Sylvester I in 324 as the pope's local parish as the bishop of Rome. It was originally called the Most Holy Savior and was built on the property donated by the Laterani family. It is named John Lateran because the baptistery was named after St. John. Throughout the centuries, it was attacked by barbarians, suffered damage from earthquakes and fires, and provided residence for popes. In the 16th century, it went through Baroque renovations.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Nov 3, 1614. Dutch pirates failed to capture the vessel in which the right arm of Francis Xavier was being brought to Rome.
·      Nov 4, 1768. On the feast of St Charles, patron of Charles III, King of Spain, the people of Madrid asked for the recall of the Jesuits who had been banished from Spain nineteen months earlier. Irritated by this demand, the king drove the Archbishop of Toledo and his Vicar General into exile as instigators of the movement.
·      Nov 5, 1660. The death of Alexander de Rhodes, one of the most effective Jesuit missionaries of all time. A native of France, he arrived in what is now Vietnam in 1625.
·      Nov 6, 1789. Fr. John Carroll of Maryland was appointed to be the first Bishop of Baltimore.
·      Nov 7, 1717. The death of Antonio Baldinucci, an itinerant preacher to the inhabitants of the Italian countryside near Rome.
·      Nov 8, 1769. In Spain, Charles III ordered all of the Society's goods to be sold and sent a peremptory demand to the newly elected Pope Clement XIV to have the Society suppressed.
·      Nov 9, 1646. In England, Fr. Edmund Neville died after nine months imprisonment and ill treatment. An heir to large estates in Westmoreland, he was educated in the English College and spent forty years working in England.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Prayer: Augustine of Hippo

Imagine the vanity of thinking that your enemy can do you more damage than your enmity.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Spirituality: Charity

Nothing that charity can do to help the neighbor is excluded from our Institute, provided that all our service is seen to be spiritual, and that we are quite clear on the point that the service proper to us is the more perfect one, namely the purely spiritual ministries. We should not take up others that are in themselves lower except through necessity, after having given much thought to the question, with much hope and great fruit, and with the permission of the Superiors; and finally, when service in the purely spiritual field is not feasible.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Spirituality: Annie Dillard

We live in all we seek. The hidden shows up in too-plain sight. It lives captive on the face of the obvious - the people, events, and things of the day - to which we as sophisticated children have long since become oblivious. What a hideout: Holiness lies spread and borne over the surface of time and stuff like color.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Prayer: The Venerable Bede

Let us speak the truth in our hearts and not practice treachery with our tongues, so that by pouring forth charity more and more in our hearts, the Spirit of truth may teach us recognition of all truth.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Prayer: Augustine of Hippo

There are many kinds of alms, the giving of which helps us to obtain pardon for our sins; but none is greater than that by which we forgive from our heart a sin that someone has committed against us.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Prayer: Ignatius - On Penance

The safest and most suitable form of penance seems to be that which causes pain in the flesh but does not penetrate to the bones, that is, which causes suffering but not sickness.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 27, 2013
Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18; Psalm 34; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14

Today, we again hear the comforting words, “The Lord hears the cry of the poor,” which includes the economically poor, the just, the ones who serve God, the lowly, and most importantly, us sinners. It behooves us to consider ourselves sinners because our prayers are then able to pierce the clouds to reach the sympathetic ears of God. The Psalmist tells us of the many ways God listens to us. God hears the brokenhearted those crushed in spirit and in response, God wants us to listen to his tender words of caress.

            The Gospel illustrates a mainstream way of judging someone else’s sin or condition in life. We thank God for many blessings, which include not being made like others whom we despise or pity. Neither Jesus nor we see that as an acceptable way of praising God and Jesus tries to get us to be more like the simple man of prayer who acknowledges that he can do nothing without God, whom he radically depends upon for his life. The point of caution is that we can become righteous in our humility, which is arrogance. Our greater concern ought to be placed on becoming aware of our own sinfulness, which only Jesus can reveal to us.

            In his month-long prayer program called The Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius of Loyola devotes the entire first movement for a consideration of our sinfulness. He begins with an exploration of the very first sin, which of course you know to be the angel Lucifer’s prideful choice to make himself like God. Of course, we look down upon Lucifer for making such a life-damning choice, but Ignatius calls our attention back to the many times we put ourselves in the place of God, just like Lucifer. For his one sin, Lucifer was eternally condemned, but for the innumerable times we have committed the same type of sin as Lucifer, God holds out his hands of merciful forgiveness to us. The point is God’s mercy is infinite.  

            With God and Ignatius, we look at the history of sin continuing with Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah’s flood, Babel’s tower, and the hardened hearts of many people. Sin and death escalated throughout the world and the deconstruction it brought was wide-sweeping as we fell further away from God’s grace in the Edenic garden.  We consider the actions of individuals and groups and we realize that sin is imbedded into families and tribes, governments and religions, institutions and organizations and it is too pervasive that we can do nothing about it. We think about what life would be like without Jesus as our sin causes us to push him away, and then we are reminded of the famous conversation between Nathan and King David when the prophet says to him, “You are the man.”

            In other words, we cannot look at sin without realizing that we are actively contribute to continuing the build-up of a sinful world because of our choices and decisions. Yes, ‘You are the one.’ You are at fault. I am to blame. The finger points to me. It no longer makes sense to deny it and to think we are better than others. We create and perpetuate sinful structures – and we realize that sin is too far beyond us that only a savior can take away our shame. We need a redeemer and God has sent one.

            In a prayer-dream the other day, I kept seeing two baskets placed on top of a fireplace mantle. In the first basket was a large pile of folded pieces of paper that contained an account of a person’s sin and it was overflowing and the other basket was filled with feathers and it was a much smaller pile. These feathers represented the number of times a person forgave the sins of another person or had received forgiveness. It made one aware of the number of times he or she committed a sin without realizing one was doing so. It also helped to reinforce that we have been given the gift of forgiveness and it needs to be used more frequently. These baskets were there to remind a person of God’s mercy – that it is always there upon request, but we must know first that we need it. At the end of the prayer-dream, a gust of wind from an opened window blew those feathers about causing them to circulate throughout the room and settle softly upon the floor. When the floor was covered thickly by multiplying feathers, the basket containing sins was empty.  

            Jesus wants us to be aware of our sins, not so that we are weighed down by them, but because they are there to remind us of God’s ongoing forgiving actions. Ignatius wants us to consider our sinful state, not so that we are filled with toxic shame and guilt, but so that we see that we are not condemned like Lucifer, but are freed to make better decisions in the future. He wants us to see that we are “loved sinners,” with the emphasis on the adjective, because it makes us aware of God’s amazing actions. It reinforces that we are not God. God, Jesus, and Ignatius do not want us to fixate on our sins, but to look at amazement at the One who abundant forgives us – for no reason at all except that God loves us and wants us to be free to love God in response. We are able to see ourselves as we truly are – as people who try and fail and are irrevocably treated with mercy. We reduce the weight of sin when we forgive each other as God does. Go and do likewise.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Ephesians, Paul calls his brothers and sisters ‘fellow citizens’ with the holy ones of God’s household. They are no longer strangers and sojourners. Paul considers the suffering of his present time as nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed. All creation is groaning for its redemption just as we await the redemption of our bodies for we live in hope. The Spirit aids us in our weakness for we do not know how to pray as we ought. The Spirit prays within and for us to assist us. God predestined those he called and then justified them so they may be glorified. If God is for us, then who can be against us? Nothing can separate us from the love of God because every power on heaven and earth will testify on our behalf. ~ On All Saints Day, the Disciple John had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. On All Souls Day, the Book of Wisdom is read to assure us that the souls of the just are in the hand of God and no torment shall touch them.

Gospel: Jesus goes up a mountain to pray and when he comes down, he selects twelve men who form his inner circle. Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed that is conspicuously small but grows to a great size in fullness. He compares it to yeast as well that leavens the entire batch of dough. When asked if only a few will be saved, Jesus tells the crowd to strive to enter the narrow gate for there will come a time when the master of the house returns and if they are not ready, the master will not recognize them. Some Pharisees came to Jesus to warn him against Herod’s plots, but he resisted telling them that it is impossible that a prophet should die outside of Jerusalem. ~ On All Saints Day, the Beatitudes remind us of the simplicity of life for those who remain close to God through Jesus Christ. On all Souls Day, the great sermon on the great eschatological Heavenly Banquet for those who are separated like sheep and goats is proclaimed that tells us that those who are invited are blessed by the Father of Jesus.

Saints of the Week

October 28: Simon and Jude, apostles (first century) were two of the Twelve Disciples called by Jesus, but little is known about them. We think they are Simon the Zealot and Judas, the son of James. Simon was most likely a Zealot sympathizer who would have desired revolution against Rome; Jude is also called Thaddeus, and is patron saint of hopeless causes. Both apostles suffered martyrdom.

October 30: Dominic Collins, S.J., priest and martyr (1566-1602), was a Jesuit brother who was martyred in his native Ireland. He became a professional solider in the Catholic armies of Europe after the Desmond Rebellion was put down in 1583. He joined the Jesuits in 1584 at Santiago de Compostela and was sent back to Ireland in 1601 with a Spanish contingent. He was captured, tried for his faith, and sentenced to death.

October 31: Alphonsus Rodriguez, S.J. (1532-1617) was widowed at age 31. When his three children died, Alphonsus joined the Jesuits as a lay brother at age 40 after attempting to complete the rigors of study. He was sent to the newly opened college in Majorca where he served as a porter for 46 years. His manner of calling people to sanctification was extraordinary. He served obediently and helped others to focus on their spiritual lives.

October 31: All Hallows Even (evening) owes its origins to a Celtic festival that marked summer's end. The term was first used in 16th century Scotland. Trick or treating resembles the late medieval practice of souling when poor people would go door to door on Hallomas (November 1) receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2.)

November 1: All Saints Day honors the countless faithful believers - living and dead - who have helped us along in our faith. Our liturgical calendar is filled with canonized saints, but we have many blesseds and minor saints who no longer appear on it. We have local saints across the world. We have many people who live Gospel values who we appreciate and imitate. We remember all of these people on this day.

November 2: All Souls Day is the commemoration of the faithful departed. November is known as All Souls Month. We remember those who died as we hasten towards the end of the liturgical year and the great feast of Christ the King. As a tradition, we have always remembered our dead as a way of keeping them alive to us and giving thanks to God for their lives.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Oct 27, 1610. The initial entrance of the Jesuits into Canada. The mission had been recommended to the Society by Henry IV.
·      Oct 28, 1958. The death of Wilfrid Parsons, founder of Thought magazine and editor of America from 1925 to 1936.
·      Oct 29, 1645. In the General Chapter of the Benedictines in Portugal, a statement published by one of their order, that said St Ignatius had borrowed the matter in his Spiritual Exercises from a Benedictine author, was indignantly repudiated.
·      Oct 30, 1638. On this day, John Milton, the great English poet, dined with the Fathers and students of the English College in Rome.
·      Oct 31, 1602. At Cork, the martyrdom of Dominic Collins, an Irish brother, who was hanged, drawn, and quartered for his adherence to the faith.
·      Nov 1, 1956. The Society of Jesus was allowed in Norway.
·      Nov 2, 1661. The death of Daniel Seghers, a famous painter of insects and flowers.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Prayer: John Mary Vianney

Our sins are nothing but a grain of sand alongside the great mountain of the mercy of God.

Monday, October 21, 2013