Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
March 2, 2014
Isaiah 49:14-15; Psalm 62; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34

Last week after mass, I greeted some Jordanians who were in church to baptize their little boy. I spoke to the grandparents, picked up the infant, and started making high-pitched embarrassing baby noises like “goo goo ga jube,” “kee, kee, kee, kee, kee,” and “click, click, click.” No response. I twirled the boy up in the air and contorted my face and made more sounds and received no response. I smiled and lathered great attention on the baby and said to the father, “I don’t know how to make your baby smile.” He said, “Father, he doesn’t smile. He is Jordanian.” (It is [erroneously but] widely said that Jordanians never smile.)

Then I was sent a video filmed in Amman with people on the street dancing to a peppy song called “Happy” with the refrain “clap along.” The dance movement was often stiff and people looked very uncomfortable, but they were at least moving and enjoying themselves. It is about a people who want to move onwards and upwards through the drudgery of their day so they can enjoy the beautiful moments of life. It brought a smile to their faces. I often will attract stares from other drivers when I’m singing in my car. Wherever you are and no matter how heavy life can be, you have to smile and dance and sing.

Of course, life has its burdens and we can worry about all sorts of things. Some are worth our attention, but for other concerns that we can do nothing about, we have to lessen the drama. If we are a people who really trust in God, we will understand very fundamentally that God provides – generally for everyone, and particularly for me. If that is the case, we ought to have very few worries. In the end, all will be well. If for the moment, things are not well, then it is not the end. Keep going – onwards and upwards – as you learn to trust and wait. Be patient and trust in God. It is all about how much you are able to trust, and given our experiences in the daily world, it is understandable that our trust levels are very low.

Learn from happy people because they are the ones who trust in God. They are the proverbial wild flowers that grow and spin and radiate God’s beauty. They are the ones who have the same tragedy and disaster in their lives as we all do, but they deal with it differently internally. They know they control little in this world and that this life is God’s dominion for them to enjoy. They take each moment as a gift from God and they are grateful for the many opportunities God gives them. Tragedies and hardships are unfortunate and yet we can find God’s consolation buried within these difficulties. Life does not have to beat us down because we can still find God, still find joy, as we let our trust define our responses to life’s dealings.

Very many people ask me to pray for particular needs that worry them. I can feel the weight of these concerns as people ask me to be involved in their heaviness, and somehow I feel light because I know the people making the prayer request is searching for God. I see that they are people who want to trust more deeply and I know for sure that God is active in his or her life. Positive attitudes help us see beyond our own needs and it brings us in touch with a different plane of existing – a more fruitful, fulfilling way of living. It is a happy existence when we can find delight in all things – even when the world around us seems bleak. No one, but you, can erode your happiness. Happiness is one of the most basic choices you make as you begin each day. Just as the song says, “Be happy.” Construct the type of world you want to live in.

It helps every now and then to still yourself and to recognize you are in the presence of God. We need our alone time with God to feel God’s care and presence. God will never deny you this gift. We have to learn to let our senses become fully alive so that we feel like a little child who is newly discovering the world. Our senses are the place of encounter with God so we have to let our senses grasp the minute details of existence – the warmth of the sun, the soft kiss of rain, the notice of your favorite color, the aroma of your favorite coffee, the profound connection that comes from a simple smile. When we take in and appreciate these moments, we are very near to God. God wants nothing more from us than to just recognize the gifts that God lavishes upon us.

When we sense God’s embrace, we remember the Lord’s words from Isaiah: “Can a mother forget her infant or be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even if should she forget, I will never forget you.” Believe what I know is true: God cherishes you more than you could know. God tenderly holds you each moment of your day and is working hard to get you to realize his extraordinary, particular care for you. God simply wants to hold you in his lap, gaze upon your face, to marvel at who you have become, and smile at you. Give God that pleasure today, and if you want to repay God in thanks, then sing your heart out, dance in great joy, clap your hands, or at least smile at one person who needs to know God has not forgotten her – through your happiness.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In his first letter, Peter rejoices in the mercy of Jesus Christ who has given us new life and hope. Because of this, we can withstand various trials and testing so that we may be proved worthy of him.  Peter tells his friends to live soberly and to set hopes completely upon the grace of Christ, who calls us to holiness.

On Ash Wednesday, the prophet Joel declares the Lord’s words: “Return to me with you whole heart with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

Moses sets before the people a choice of life or death: Choose life, which means following the commandments and listening to the Lord God. Isaiah outlines the manner of fasting of the Jews: to release those unjustly bound, to untie the thongs of the yoke, to set free the oppressed, to share bread with the hungry, to shelter the homeless, and to clothe the naked. He says that if people do not bully, refrain from false accusation and malicious speech, and share their bread with the hungry, a light will shine upon the community. If you honor the commandments, you shall have life and the favor of the Lord.

Gospel: A man runs up to Jesus to ask him about the way to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him to keep the commandments and to sell all that he has and give to the poor, then to follow him. The man’s face fell and he went away sad because he had many possessions. Peter retorts that he and the other Eleven have given up everything to follow Jesus, and he asks if they will be saved.

On Ash Wednesday, Jesus cautions his disciples about displaying their penitential acts publicly to gain fame and honor from other people. He suggests that their acts become private because God will see everything that is done in secret.

Jesus tells his friends that the Son of Man must suffer greatly, be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and raised on the third day. John the Baptist’s disciples ask about the reason for the lack of fasting of the disciples of Jesus, and Jesus replies that the assembly does not fast when the groom is with them. Jesus sees a tax collector at his post and calls him to become a disciple. People are confused that he associates with this type of people and he explains that he comes to call sinners to repentance.

Saints of the Week

March 4: Mardi Gras is your last chance to eat meat before Lent. This is the last day of Carnival (Carne- meat, Goodbye – vale). Say goodbye to meat as we begin the fasting practices tomorrow.

March 5: Ash Wednesday is the customary beginning to the season of Lent. A penitential time marked by increased fasting, prayer and almsgiving, we begin our 40-day tradition of sacrifice as we walk the way of Jesus that ends at the Cross during Holy Week. Lent is a time of conversion, a time to deepen one’s relationship with Christ, for all roads lead to his Cross of suffering and glory.

March 7: Perpetua and Felicity (d. 203), were two catechumens arrest and killed during a persecution in North Africa. Perpetua was a young noblewoman who was killed alongside her husband, their young son, and their pregnant slave, Felicity. They were baptized while under arrest and would not renounce their faith. Felicity was excused from death because it was unlawful to kill a pregnant woman, but she gave birth prematurely three days before the planned execution. They were flogged, taunted by wild beasts, and then beheaded. They appear in the First Eucharistic Prayer.

March 8: John of God (1495-1550), was a Portuguese soldier of fortune who was brought to Spain as a child. He was a slave master, shepherd, crusader, bodyguard and peddler. As he realized that he frittered away his life, he sought counsel from John of Avila. He then dedicated his life to care for the sick and the poor. He formed the Order of Brothers Hospitallers and is the patron saint of hospitals and the sick.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Mar 2, 1606. The martyrdom in the Tower of London of St Nicholas Owen, a brother nicknamed "Little John." For 26 years he constructed hiding places for priests in homes throughout England. Despite severe torture he never revealed the location of these safe places.
·      Mar 3, 1595. Clement VIII raised Fr. Robert Bellarmine to the Cardinalate, saying that the Church had not his equal in learning.
·      Mar 4, 1873. At Rome, the government officials presented themselves at the Professed House of the Gesu for the purpose of appropriating the greater part of the building.
·      Mar 5, 1887. At Rome, the obsequies of Fr. Beckx who died on the previous day. He was 91 years of age and had governed the Society as General for 34 years. He is buried at San Lorenzo in Campo Verano.
·      Mar 6, 1643. Arnauld, the Jansenist, published his famous tract against Frequent Communion. Fifteen French bishops gave it their approval, whereas the Jesuit fathers at once exposed the dangers in it.
·      Mar 7, 1581. The Fifth General Congregation of the Society bound the professors of the Society to adhere to the doctrine of St Thomas Aquinas.
·      Mar 8, 1773. At Centi, in the diocese of Bologna, Cardinal Malvezzi paid a surprise visit to the Jesuit house, demanding to inspect their accounting books.