Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 20, 2013
Exodus 17:8-13; Psalm 121; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2; Luke 18:1-8

Each of the readings tell of persistence in prayer as a virtuous habit, but we have to know the difference between a virtue and hardheaded stubbornness. In Exodus, when Joshua is defending Israel from the attacks of Amalek, Aaron and Hur assist Moses in keeping his hands raised and the troops motivated. The raised hands become a symbol for victory because of God sees the persevering efforts of its spiritual leader. Paul in his letter to Timothy encourages all people to be faithful, whether convenient or not, to proclaim the word and to help others accept the invitations to gain salvation.

The Gospel presents a different portrait of persistence when we learn of a widow who petitions an unjust judge for a fair and correct decision against her adversary. We know little about the merits of the case, but we know the widow swayed the judge’s decision. For all we know she may have bullied him, but we presume that since she was a widow she was on the border line of subsistence and that an unjust ruling would have made her precariously vulnerable. We presume that she was able to get him to look at the unjust law and rule in her favor thus giving her a chance to live without worry. This is the type of advocacy we need against unjust laws and the people who are swayed by political pressures. We want to make it uncomfortable for those leaders who are actively working against helping others come to the right decisions for the common good. Relentless advocacy will make unjust influential leaders do the right thing for society and the individual.

We have to know the difference between a virtuous act and unhealthy boundaries. Two weeks ago, I sat in my office after saying Mass and had my two regularly scheduled morning meetings. When those meetings were over, I noticed I had fourteen phone calls from the same person. She later called six times and had a mutual friend call me three times. I texted her back three times and called her several times over the next few days to address her request, but apparently I did not give her the satisfaction at the time and manner she wanted it and she never returned my calls. This is not the type of persistence that Jesus praises, but it is the type of unhealthy behavior that tells us we must look at our dysfunction. This caller was not looking for a just decision, but was looking to control someone else’s behavior to satisfy her specific needs. If she approached the situation respectfully and for a laudatory goal, her persistence could have been rewarded. However, something else was going on with her and her problems had nothing to do with me. Such persistence only becomes unhealthy annoyances.

Prayer and silent listening will tell us if our desires are God- and other-centered. Jesus tells us that God will speedily provide justice for all those who call out to him day and night. God understands the plight of the poor and wants society to create policies that protects the fundamental rights of the most vulnerable. Therefore, we must bring hope to every situation where we find discouragement, whether it is in the political, legal, or cultural arenas. We must learn to be Christian activists who advance, not our own agendas, but those that represent God’s will for those whose zeal for life might be in danger of getting extinguished. Be patient. We will know it is God’s will if we watch the unfolding of grace before our eyes.

Persevere in small matters as a start. A friend told me the other day that he was going to start painting with watercolors until he saw my second painting. He reasoned that he would not be able paint like me so he wanted to give up, but we have to try. We cannot defeat ourselves until we give a sustained effort first. We do not know what will emerge until we try and we find out how we feel about the process. Everyone can succeed at painting. Everyone can exceed at something that is unique and particular to him or her. I was going to throw my painting in the trash until someone said that he really liked it and thought it should be framed.

The evil spirits run rampant in the world and they are looking for ways to defeat us. We can become our worst enemies if we listen to their words of downfall. These spirits always try to prevent a good person from becoming better – whether blatantly or through silky barely-detectable deceptions. A Christian must always remember that these forces are at work to challenge and defeat our good spirit and therefore we must use greater courage and energy to persist in our good efforts. After all, we are Christians and our Lord has decisively claimed victory over these spirits. We live in the freedom that the Holy Spirit affords us. Therefore our work, whether it activism or striving to actualize our potential, is blessed by God. Give yourself over to the good Spirit’s promptings because it will guide to you holy and life-giving places. Cultivate a habit of patient persistence in prayer and allow God to sanctify your desires.  Give God the freedom to extol your gifts in service to others and to invite others to salvation through you. Show the world that your perseverance, with God’s blessing, can bring a just victory to a world in search of balance and order.
Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Romans, Paul tells his followers that Abraham did not doubt God’s promise in unbelief; rather, he was empowered by faith and gave glory to God and was fully convinced that what God promised to do he was also able to do. Paul then argues that through one man, sin came into the world, and through sin, death; and thus, death came to all, but since through the obedience of one, the many will be made righteous. Sin must not reign over you so that you obey only their desires. Sin no longer has power over you since you are not under the law, but guided by grace. The wages of sin are death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ, the Lord. Even though I wish to do good, I do not the good that I want, but I do the evil I do not want. It is sin that still dwells in me, but redemption comes through Jesus Christ as a gift. No condemnation comes to those who are in Christ. The Spirit lives within us and will give life to our mortal bodies when our bodies are dead.

Gospel: A man petitions Jesus to have his brother share his inheritance with him, but Jesus says he is not his judge or arbitrator. He then launches into a discourse about storing up in heaven only the things that are intangible. Jesus begins to preach vigilance so that one can await the return of the master. If the servant knew the return of the master, he would make sure the house is well prepared to receive him, but for the servant who squanders his time and does not make the proper preparations, he will find himself tormented by his master’s beatings. Jesus said that he came to set the world afire. He wishes to see it blazing already. The time will come when families will be split apart because of their faiths. The one who places his faith in the God of Jesus will receive eternal life. One must learn to discern the signs of the times because we naturally make daily judgments over life’s events. We must learn to forgive before the case is brought to court so that we can correctly discern how the winds are blowing. Jesus then points out examples of daily life where accidents happened and people assign blame for the cause of the sin. He tells them not to judge those events, but to be patient to see God’s work at hand in them.

Saints of the Week

October 20: Paul of the Cross, priest (1694-1775), founded the Passionists in 1747. He had a boyhood call that propelled him into a life of austerity and prayer. After receiving several visions, he began to preach missions throughout Italy that mostly focused upon the Passion of the Lord. After his death, a congregation for nuns was begun.

October 23: John of Capistrano, priest, had a vision of Francis of Assisi when he was imprisoned during an Italian civil war at which time he was the governor of Perugia. He entered the Franciscan Friars Minor in 1415 after ending his marriage. He preached missions throughout Europe including a mission to Hungary to preach a crusade against the Turks. After the Christian victory at the Battle of Belgrade in 1456, John died.

October 24: Anthony Claret, bishop (1807-1870) adopted his father's weaving career as a young man, but continued to study Latin and printing. After entering seminary, he began preaching retreats and giving missions. He published and distributed religious literature and founded the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He was appointed archbishop of Cuba but was called back to Spain to be Queen Isabella II's confessor. He resumed publishing until the revolution of 1868 sent him into exile.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      October 20, 1763: In a pastoral letter read in all his churches, the Archbishop of Paris expressed his bitter regret at the suppression of the Society in France. He described it as a veritable calamity for his country.
·      October 21, 1568: Fr. Robert Parsons was elected Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford. He resigned his Fellowship in 1574.
·      October 22, 1870: In France, Garibaldi and his men drove the Jesuits from the Colleges of Dole and Mont Roland.
·      October 23, 1767: The Jesuits who had been kept prisoners in their college in Santiago, Chile, for almost two months were led forth to exile. In all 360 Jesuits of the Chile Province were shipped to Europe as exiles.
·      October 24, 1759: 133 members of the Society, banished from Portugal and put ashore at Civita Vecchia, were most kindly received by Clement XIII and by the religious communities, especially the Dominicans.
·      Oct 25, 1567. St Stanislaus Kostka arrived in Rome and was admitted into the Society by St Francis Borgia.
·      Oct 26, 1546. The Province of Portugal was established as the first province in the Society, with Simao Rodriguez as its first provincial superior.