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.