Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 17, 2013
Malachi 3:19-20; Psalm 98; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19

When hearing Luke’s Gospel passage, let us keep in mind that he is writing his account after the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. The Roman occupiers want to squash the forthcoming Jewish revolt that leads to the fall of the Temple. Both Jews and Christians are equally disrespected and Luke encourages Christians to persevere in their faith as persecutions rage around them. Luke is well aware of the hardships the community faces and takes the events that have already happened and turns them into a warning that persecutions have not ended and may indeed increase. He capitalizes on the prophet Malachi’s warning about the end-times and his belief that the sun of justice with its healing rays will shine upon the community. He is instructing Christians not to be alarmed when family and adversaries hand them over to authorities because he knows that people act out of fear and not faith. Perseverance in discerning the signs of the times will help them cope with expected events with great balance and fortitude.

The apostle Paul corrects the Thessalonians for believing that the world is already ending and that work is therefore useless. Paul is addressing a specific pastoral problem in the community because he knows the tendencies of people well. They can be lazy. We are much like the Thessalonians because we look for all sorts of reasons to get out of work. For instance, if a holiday approaches, we effectively find ways to take off a whole week and cheat the system. Everything comes to a standstill when we do not honor and value our specific role in the larger system around us.

Paul gives us an example to follow. He wants people to imitate him and the core of his community because they act honorably by working in toil and drudgery night and day so no further burden is placed on anyone else. This is a very caring attitude. Just think about that for a minute. What type of efficient workplace would we create if we adopted an attitude where no further burden is place on anyone else? In the Middle East it takes at least three people to make a simple business decision like ringing up a sale or placing a food order. If three or more people are involved, no one gets the blame for something that goes wrong because many participated in the decision; in the West, a manager has to be called out of her office to approve certain basic functions. Policies and procedures have evolved for self-protection because of fear of being sued is paramount. In the end, great additional burdens are placed on people just trying to make a simple monetary transaction and business relations become more tedious and less enjoyable.

Let us work as if everything depends upon us as we pray that everything depends upon God. Let us flip that statement around too. Let us pray as if everything depends upon us and work as if everything depends upon God. This gives us the twins of freedom and responsibility. This is what Paul and Ignatius of Loyola teach us. We have to take our work seriously and be responsible for our actions while at the same time realize that God is primarily and ultimately in control. It means focusing on the little details were we can stamp our work with pride and say, “I did my best.” Jesuit-run schools always teach students to write Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam at the end of an assignment because it means the person has done his or her best to bring the greater glory to God. It is a stamp of authenticity and the virtue of integrity. No shortcuts are taken; no plagiarism, no slack effort. All is done for God’s greater glory. It is a terrific Christian life-skill to develop.

If our work is oriented to doing our best in service to others where obstacles are erased, then we can rest comfortably in knowing God’s glory is being served. It means we cannot think about our own gain, but that we call people to act better, more virtuously. We call people to a higher standard by letting them know we believe in their goodness to do better. We feel very good about ourselves when we do the right things well. When we feel good about our actions, and ourselves, we get bursts of energy that help us to do even more. This is what Ignatius calls the Magis, the More, because the right things that we do are always done for the least of Christ’s loved ones. The judgment day happens on the feast of Christ the King and this is how he judges us – on how well we take responsibility for our brothers and sisters. Christ is always challenging us to persevere in doing the right things, which means we have to keep our focus on the greater good. It is not easy because of the emotional and psychological drama that others bring us into, but as we keep our focus on Christ’s work, we find it becomes much easier with experience.

The work that we do in this life has great value in the light of eternity. We develop a culture of integrity that tells others the Lord is within our midst and that we do everything for him. Take responsibility for your work and stretch yourself so you have pride in it. Do it yourself rather than asking someone else to do it for you. Put your unique stamp on your effort and develop a habit of asking yourself, “Will this task make life easier for another person?” Persevere in doing the “right,” which is different from the “good.” Ask, “Can I stamp my work with Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam? At the coming Day of Judgment, we will be called to testify to our works because faith is expressed in our deeds and Jesus will be asking, “Just how much do you love yourself? Just how much do you love others?” I hope you can stretch out your arms as wide as he did when he gave his life for you on his Cross.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: The Book of Maccabees tells us of the conflict between those religious zealots and the conciliatory Jews who wanted to make an alliance with the neighboring Gentiles. King Antiochus Epiphanes declared that all scrolls of the law were to be burned and unclean food was to be eaten. Those who resisted were killed.  Eleazar, a venerable scribe of advanced age, was treated with mercy as his friends tried to find ways to spare his life, but he refused to eat unclean meat and suffered death at the hands of the King’s men. His death left the young and the whole nation a model of courage and an unforgettable example of virtue. Seven brothers and their mother were arrested and were forced to eat pork in violation of God’s law, but they resisted as they believed that the creator of the universe will give them back both breath and life. Emboldened by his example, Mattathias, a city leader, gathered many zealots around him, killed a Jew who was going to follow the king’s orders,  and fled to the desert to settle and practice their faith. Once the enemies of Israel had been crushed, the Maccabeans joyfully celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days and made burnt offerings. This is the magical burning of oil of Hanukah. King Antiochus, while in Persia, heard that the armies he sent into Judah were expelled and the city was retaken. He was filled with remorse for the evils he did to Judah and Jerusalem and he realized he would die in bitter grief in a foreign land.

Gospel: A blind man in Jericho asks Jesus for pity because he cannot see. Jesus restores his sight and the man follows him to Jerusalem. While still in Jericho, Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus who was to pass that way. As Jesus tells him that he will dine at his house tonight, Zacchaeus declares that he will right every wrong he committed against the people. Jesus tells a parable about the kingdom of heaven where a nobleman set off to another country to become king and then returned home to retrieve his investments. Some invested the money in a bank while one kept it stored away where it did not receive any interest. Those who have talents, more will be given; to those who have non, even what he has will be taken away. As Jesus approaches Jerusalem, he weeps for it because they do not recognize the time of their Lord’s visitation. Jesus enters the temple area and drives out those who were selling and making God’s house a den of thieves. The people of Jerusalem began to think of ways to put him to death. Jesus debates the Sadducees on the notion of the resurrection of the dead and he tells them that to God, all are alive.

Saints of the Week

November 17: Elizabeth of Hungary, (1207-1231) was the daughter of Andrew II, king of Hungary. She married Ludwig IV of Thuringia and as queen supported many charities. When her husband died in a crusade in 1227, she entered the Third Order of Franciscans.

November 18: The Dedication of the Basilicas of Peter and Paul celebrates churches in honor of the two great church founders. St. Peter's basilica was begun in 323 by Emperor Constantine - directly over Peter's tomb. A new basilica was begun in 1506 and it was completed in 1626. Many great artists and architects had a hand in building it. St. Paul Outside the Walls was built in the 4th century over Paul's tomb. It was destroyed by fire in 1823 and subsequently rebuilt.

November 18: Rose Philippine Duchesne (1769-1852) joined the Sisters of the Sacred Heart and at age 49, traveled to Missouri to set up a missionary center and the first free school west of the Mississippi. She then founded six more missions. She worked to better the lives of the Native Americans.

November 21: The Presentation of Mary originated as a feast in 543 when the basilica of St. Mary's the New in Jerusalem was dedicated. The day commemorate the event when Mary's parent brought her to the Temple to dedicate her to God. The Roman church began to celebrate this feast in 1585.

November 22: Cecilia, martyr (2nd or 3rd century), is the patron saint of music because of the song she sang at her wedding. She died just days after her husband, Valerian, and his brother were beheaded for refusing to sacrifice to the gods. She is listed in the First Eucharistic prayer as an early church martyr.

November 23: Clement I, pope and martyr (d. 99) is also mentioned in the First Eucharistic prayer. He is the third pope and was martyred in exile. He is presumed to be a former slave in the imperial court. He wrote a letter to the Corinthians after a revolt and as pope he restored ordered within the ministries.   

November 23: Columban, abbot (d. 615) was an Irish monk who left Ireland for France with 12 companions to found a monastery as a base for preaching. They established 3 monasteries within 10 years. Columban opposed the king's polygamy and was expelled. He set up monasteries in Switzerland and Italy before he died. Though he was expelled, the monasteries were permitted to remain open.

November 23: Miguel Pro, S.J., martyr (1891-1927) lived in Guadalupe, Mexico before entering the Jesuits. Public worship was forbidden in Mexico so Miguel became an undercover priest often wearing disguises. He was arrested and ordered to be shot in front of a firing squad without benefit of a trial. Before he died she shouted out, "Long live Christ the King."

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Nov 17, 1579. Bl Rudolph Acquaviva and two other Jesuits set out from Goa for Surat and Fattiphur, the Court of Akbar, the Great Mogul.
·      Nov 18, 1538. Pope Paul III caused the governor of Rome to publish the verdict proclaiming the complete innocence of Ignatius and his companions of all heresy.
·      Nov 19, 1526. Ignatius was examined by the Inquisition in Alcala, Spain. They were concerned with the novelty of his way of life and his teaching.
·      Nov 20, 1864. In St Peter's, Rome, the beatification of Peter Canisius by Pope Pius IX.
·      Nov 21, 1759. At Livorno, the harbor officials refused to let the ship, S Bonaventura, with 120 exiled Portuguese Jesuits on board, cast anchor. Carvalho sent orders to the Governor of Rio de Janeiro to make a diligent search for the supposed wealth of the Jesuits.
·      Nov 22, 1633. The first band of missionaries consisting of five priests and one brother, embarked from England for Maryland. They were sent at the request of Lord Baltimore. The best known among them was Fr. Andrew White.
·      Nov 22, 1791: Georgetown Academy opened with one student, aged 12, who was the first student taught by the Jesuits in the United States.

·      Nov 23, 1545: Jeronimo de Nadal, whom Ignatius had known as a student at Paris, entered the Society. Later Nadal was instrumental in getting Ignatius to narrate his autobiography.