Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 26, 2014
Isaiah 8:23-9:3; Psalm 27; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17; Matthew 4:12-23

When Jesus began his mission to proclaim the kingdom of heaven is at hand, he helped people that could only see doom and gloom become enlightened. They were now able to see every situation in life filled with potential and promise rather than seeing obstacles and stumbling blocks. The proverbial glass that was half empty was now half full; in fact, it was overflowing with capacities that were once hidden. Jesus unleashed optimism for the world because he taught us that God is active and is very concerned with the realities we face in life. Life was reordered because we placed confidence in God and in the words of Jesus and we knew that we had a trustworthy advocate on our side. The great powers of the world no longer weighed us down.

In Matthew’s Gospel, immediately after Jesus begins to preach, he calls two sets of brothers in the fishing trade, Simon and Andrew, and James and John, to join his mission. They leave their professions and follow him in this great enterprise. The Jesus movement begins in earnest. Other disciples were later added as they taught and cured every disease and illness among the people. While in Corinth, Paul stresses unity among the believers, that they be of the same mind and in the same purpose. He points out the rivalries that set in and urges believers to forget their factions and to unify under Christ. In fact, if you listen to the prayerful words in the mass, you will find the Church stresses unity above all other concerns.

We are a church filled with diverse cultures and interests. Our goal is to be unified in common mind and purpose even though we represent different traditions, experiences, races, and backgrounds. You can bet that the disciples of Jesus had natural animosities to one another. Simon, a zealot does not make easy peace with a compromiser; Matthew, a traitorous collaborating tax collector is his natural enemy. Simon is chosen over his brother; James and John and their mother vie for power and anger the other ten. Judas controls the purse strings because he is trusted to act with integrity. The diverse interests and opinions of the Twelve and their many followers conflicted many times, but they had one thing in common: they agreed to follow the promise of Jesus and this settled all other matters.

Our local church community has to let go of the simple-minded ways we approach service to the larger community. We have to put the community before ourselves. In any church across the world we will find these types of people: the untrained musician who will not give up her style of playing guitar despite the protests of the community because her pride will be hurt if others find out she does not have foundational musical skills (The great secret is very public anyways); the unbending person who takes up the weekly offertory in his own peculiar way because it is one aspect of life where he can contribute and exert control; the organizer of socials who demands that others cannot eat or have fun at a party until the game she wants everyone to play is finished; the reader who makes the same mistakes every week  because he will not listen to proper protocol.

These peculiar behaviors are numerous and hold the community back from coming together as one body. However, despite their fierce resistance, the church will move forward because the church is larger-minded. Small-minded people stay in their place and are therefore left behind; large-hearted people move forward and see the possibilities for growth. The most helpful question a person can ask their priest is this: I would like to be generous in offering my service to the church. What is the best way the church can use my gifts? Believe me, every good gift will be used for God’s greater glory and the generous person will find a place where he or she can thrive and be very happy. Being a “person with and for others” brings exponential happiness.

I’ll read a quote from the early deliberations that started the Jesuits way back in 1540. Knowing that their dedication to serve the Church and Christ, the Lord, would undoubtedly separate them from one another, the first companions discerned if they should somehow bind themselves to one another. Here is their response. 

In the end, we established the affirmative side of the question, that is, that in as much as our most kind and affectionate Lord had deigned to gather us together and unite us, men so spiritually weak and from such diverse geographical and cultural backgrounds, we ought not split apart what God has gathered and united; on the contrary, we ought day by day to strengthen and stabilize our union, rendering ourselves one body with special concern for each other, in order to effect the greater spiritual good of our fellow men. For united spiritual strength is more robust and braver in any arduous enterprise than it would be if segmented.

The disciples of Jesus may have disagreed on many topics, just as this community of faith does. The purpose is not to change the other person, but to offer freedom and to respect what God is doing. God brings us together. God gathers and unites. We have to step out of ourselves, sometimes out of our small-minded ways, to strengthen and stabilize our union, and show special care for one another. This is for our spiritual good. Help God in his enterprise. Get out of your own way and build up one another in freedom and genuine care and service. May our prayer be that of Jesus: that we may be one, as you and I are one.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: The tribal elders approached David in Hebron and petitioned him to become their King. He accepted at age 30 and ruled for another forty years. His first crusade was to capture Jerusalem from the Jebusites who inhabited the region, but David took Zion and his strength increasingly grew. David went to bring the ark of God from Obed-deom to the City of David. After the ark was set in its place within the tent David pitched for it, he danced and offered sacrifices and fed the entire multitude of Israel in thanksgiving. That night, the Lord said to Nathan, the prophet: Tell David not to worry about making me a house of cedar or stone. My house shall be the House of David and my kingdom shall endure forever. David, in the presence of Nathan and the whole court, asked for God’s blessing on his house. On a war conquest against the Ammonites, David say the beautiful Bathsheba bathing and he had relations with her. Since she was married to Uriah the Hittite, he ordered Uriah to be sent to the dangerous front lines because he refused to have sexual relations with his wife while on duty. Uriah was killed in the fighting and he never knew his wife had a son through King David. Nathan told a parable of a rich man who treated a poor man with jealousy and greed. David reacted and wanted to strike down the rich man, but Nathan said, “You are the man.” The blame is all on you. David realized he sinned against the Lord. When he realized the child to be born to him would die, he remained in vigil praying for the life of the child. He would not take food and he lay on sackcloth all day.

Gospel: Scribes accused Jesus of getting his power from Beelzebul because he drove out demons, but Jesus points out that  a house divided against itself cannot stand. As Jesus was teaching inside a house, his mother and brothers arrived at the house. Disturbed, they wanted him to come out and stop bringing dishonor to the family, but Jesus retorted, “Those who do the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Jesus began to teach by the sea and he told them a parable of the sower and the seed. He explained the parable to them to depict the seed is the word of God and needs to fall on suitably rich soil in order to grow. Jesus asks, “Is a lamp to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed?” He says, “Nothing is hidden except to be made visible.” The measure with which you measure is the one that will be given back to you. He explained the parables to the disciples in private, and he taught the crowds with these meaning-laden stories. As he finished teaching, he crossed to the other side of the sea by boat. As he slept in the boat, a violent storm whipped up and when he disciples awoke him, he stilled the storm, which raised questions in their minds about his source and origin.

Saints of the Week

January 26: Timothy and Titus, bishops (1st century), were disciples of Paul who later became what we know of as bishops. Timothy watched over the people of Ephesus and Titus looked after Crete. Both men worked with Paul and became a community leader. Timothy was martyred while Titus died of old age.

January 27: Angela Merici (1474-1540), was the founder of the Ursuline nuns. Relatives raised her when her parents died when she was 10. As an adult, she tended to the needs of the poor and with some friends, she taught young girls at their home. These friends joined an association that later became a religious order. Ursula was the patron of medieval universities.

January 28: Thomas Aquinas, priest and Doctor (1225-1274), studied in a Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino as a boy. He joined the newly formed Dominicans where he studied in France and Italy. He is a giant scholar. He wrote much on Scripture and theology, including his summation of theology (Summa Theologiae). He wrote several songs for liturgy, such as the Tantum Ergo, Pange Lingua, and Adoro Te Devote.

January 31: John Bosco, priest (1815-1888), formed his Society to aid children who were imprisoned. He used Francis de Sales as his inspiration. He taught poor and working class boys in the evenings wherever it was possible to meet them - in fields, factories, or homes. A sister community was set up to assist young girls who were sent to work.
This Week in Jesuit History

·      Jan 26, 1611. The first Jesuit missionaries sailed from Europe for New France (Canada).
·      Jan 27, 1870. The Austrian government endeavored to suppress the annual grant of 8,000 florins to the theological faculty of Innsbruck and to drive the Jesuit professors from the university, because of their support of the Papal Syllabus.
·      Jan 28, 1853. Fr. General John Roothaan, wishing to resign his office, summoned a General Congregation, but died on May 8, before it assembled.
·      Jan 29, 1923. Woodstock scholastics kept a fire vigil for several months to prevent the Ku Klux Klan from setting the college on fire.
·      Jan 30, 1633. At Avignon, Fr. John Pujol, a famous master of novices, died. He ordered one of them to water a dry stick, which miraculously sprouted.
·      Jan 31, 1774. Fr. General Laurence Ricci, a prisoner in Castel S Angelo, claimed his liberty, since his innocence had been fully vindicated. He received from the Papal Congregation the reply that they would think about it. Pope Clement XIV was said at this time to be mentally afflicted.
·      Feb 1, 1549. The first Jesuit missionaries to go to Brazil set sail from Lisbon, Portugal, under Fr. Emmanuel de Nobrega.