Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 23, 2014
Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18; Psalm 103; 1 Corinthians 3:16-23; Matthew 5:38-48

Very hard sayings that are lofty ideals, but very difficult realities come down to us this week: Bear no hatred, take no revenge, cherish no grudge and love your neighbor. These are difficult sayings when someone has wronged us because we want to fight to bring about the truth. The last thing we want to do is to offer no resistance, especially when bullied by someone who is unhealthy. But God, through Moses and Jesus, tells us to be holy, to be perfect, as God is holy and perfect. This is the moment when we realize humbly that we are not God and that the swirling forces around us are potent.

Each of us has had a time when someone who is immature will pick a fight with us and will pull out all of the stops to get his way. He will lie, speak loudly, complain to the higher authorities, and stomp his feet until he gets his way all because you are telling him that his behavior is nonsense and that you want it to stop. He makes the conflict something personal because and will try everything possible to trip you up because he cannot deal with the possibility that he has done something wrong. He knows that the squeaky wheel gets the grease and if he is loud enough, someone will pacify him. Infants do this behavior early on and if the person does not grow out of his narcissistic world, he carries it into adulthood. All the higher-level reasoning in the world matters nothing to a man like this because he is acting at a child-like level and he will do whatever he can to bring you down to his level. So, I ask you, “Have you ever encountered someone in your life like this?” I think the answer is “yes.” The question becomes, “How do you deal with someone like him?”

You know it would feel good to retaliate and to give him a good metaphorical slap on the behind when you have your chance, but that is not what people of faith are called to do. Somehow, we are supposed to love this person and to take the upper road even though we know that this way leads to humiliation and persecutions. We are supposed to find a new creative way that resolves the tensions before it escalates further. We are supposed to take the senseless beatings and bruises because we are in sympathy with the crucified Christ and then we have to try to find a way to love the injured person who is beating us up. This person is living in a first half of life battle where he is searching for security, and we as maturing Christians have to do our second half of life work when we no longer deal with illusions, but we face the hard realities of life. What a strange faith we have.

We know that the road of integrity is a lonely one. While the angry immature man looks at concrete actions to tear us down, we have to keep the larger vision in mind without getting distracted by the hurtful things this man does to us. He will try to increase the drama; we must lessen it. We have to move onwards and upward through chaos and mud; sometimes the steps are slow and murky. We may be forced to react to what this person is saying to us, but we do not have to do it. We retain our choices and we know that it is much more mature to take some time to respond in a measured way after a few nights of sleep. Distance gives us perspective. We know that it stings to stand in the heart of the hornet’s nest, and while we are feeling pain, we have to look at the pain this person is feeling and have compassion upon him. Placing ourselves in a vulnerable place is discomforting, especially when we are completely in the right in our actions and behaviors, but becoming vulnerable makes us aware of the immense pain the other person is feeling. This is the moment when we can begin to love the other in the way God wants us to do. This is the moment when we feel the victory that Christ has won for us. His mercy is the enduring quality that we remember, not the senseless tragedy that precedes it.

Paul writes to the Corinthians, “If any one among you considers himself wise, let him become a fool, so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.” All belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God. We have permission from God to become the fool of this world when we love another person, especially the one who deliberately tries to harm us. We realize it is not easy and that it may take us a long time to heal from the sufferings of becoming vulnerable, but somehow we do it with and for Christ and his suffering body stands in solidarity with ours. We may stand with him bloodied and bruised, but we stand with him as the victor of the world, and as victor, he begins his ministry of reconciling the broken and consoling the wounded and he asks us to join him in his work. This is the vision we hold onto; this is the divine plan that sustains us; this grace allows us to become a fool in this world because his love has the last word. The love of Christ will perfect us and make us holy. The love of Christ gives value to everything, and it bears all things well. Keep striving – onwards and upward – for Christ gives us hope.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In the Letter of James, the author says that the wise one shows his or her works by a good life in the humility that comes from wisdom. He writes that bitter jealousy and selfish ambition work against wisdom. All the conflicts arise from one’s passions and disordered attitudes, but Christians have the Spirit of God to guide and purify them. He warns them against making plans because no one knows when one’s life is going to end. The fragility of life helps us realize that we are to emphasize our humility in front of God and others. James implores the people of wealth to treat others respectfully and to deal with people fairly. Otherwise, they will be condemned for the injustices they sow. Do not complain about one another because you do not want to be judged in the same way you judge others. Leave the judging up to the Lord who is compassionate and merciful. Finally, he tells them to confess their sins to one another and they will receive heaving. Prayer should come to them like it did with Elijah who prayed for rain.

Gospel: After the Transfiguration, a crowd gathered around a man whose son was possessed by a mute spirit and was having a seizure. The disciples tried to rid him of the evil spirit, but they were unsuccessful. Jesus cured the boy and the man said, “I do believe, but help my unbelief.” Jesus and his disciples left from there and when they were in private, Jesus disclosed that he would be handed over, sentenced to death, and will be raised on the third day, but they did not understand what he meant. When the disciples told Jesus that they saw someone driving out demons in the name of Jesus, he permitted him to continue because they are working for the same common good. If anyone does good works, the Father in heaven will see it; likewise, if someone causes another person to sin, especially one who is very vulnerable, they will be assigned to places in hell. When Jesus crossed the Jordan River, the Pharisees tried to trick him by asking a question about divorce. Jesus replied that what God joins together, humans ought not to divide. People then brought little children to Jesus and he warned his followers not to impede their desire to get close to him. He blessed them and praised them.

Saints of the Week

February 23: Polycarp, bishop and martyr (69-155), was made bishop of Smyrna and was the leader of the second generation Christians. He was a disciple of the apostle John and a friend of Ignatius of Antioch. He wrote catechesis and rites for initiation into the Christian community. He was martyred in 155 and is a Father of the early church.

March 1: Katherine Drexel (1858-1955), was from a wealthy Philadelphian banking family and she and her two sisters inherited a great sum of money when her parents died. She joined the Sisters of Mercy and wanted to found her own order called the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament to work among the African and Native Americans. Her inheritance funded schools and missions throughout the South and on reservations. A heart attack in 1935 sent her into retirement.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Feb 23, 1551. The Roman College, the major school of the Society later to become the Gregorian University, began its first scholastic year with 15 teachers and 60 students.
·      Feb 24, 1637. The death of Francis Pavone. Inflamed by his words and holy example, sixty members of a class of philosophy that he taught and the entire class of poetry embraced the religious state.
·      Feb 25, 1558. St Aloysius Gonzaga received tonsure at the Lateran basilica. Within the next month he would receive the minor orders.
·      Feb 26, 1611. The death of Antonio Possevino, sent by Pope Gregory XIII on many important embassies to Sweden, Russia, Poland, and Germany. In addition to founding colleges and seminaries in Cracow, Olmutz, Prague, Braunsberg, and Vilna, he found time to write 24 books.
·      Feb 27, 1767. Charles III banished the Society from Spain and seized its property.
·      Feb 28, 1957. The Jesuit Volunteer Corps began.

·      Mar 1, 1549. At Gandia, the opening of a college of the Society founded by St Francis Borgia.