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.