Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Second Sunday in Lent

Second Sunday in Lent
March 16, 2014
Genesis 12:1-4, 3:1-7; Psalm 33; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; Matthew 17:1-9

Each of the three readings challenges us to be bold in our faith as we learn to be obedient to God’s plan for us. The fidelity of Abram ought to give us courage as he was called at the advanced age of seventy-five to leave the home of his ancestors for a land in due time that God would reveal to him. Each day of the journey would have meant that he had to rely upon God to sustain him and his kin as they wandered through a harsh terrain.

In the second reading, Timothy instructs us to bear our share of hardship for the sake of the Gospel with the strength that comes from God. This again is a dramatic reliance upon God during times when we are beset by the unjust treatment of those who are petty, base, and simple-minded. When faced with these types of hardships, we often find it difficult to pray or to rely upon God, but this is precisely when we are to strive for greater holiness. We are not like other people and we are asked to suffer injustices from non-believers contentedly because our reward is much greater than the harm we suffer.  

The account of the Transfiguration appears in each of the four Gospels. It is not often that all four Gospels agree on what is to be included, but it is significant because it is a climactic moment in the ministry of Jesus. A significance of the Transfiguration is that it points out that Jesus is more than just the man from Nazareth, but that he is specially favored by God as one who is a unique revealer of the truth. God declares, “He is my Beloved Son.” He is revealed to be greater than the two great Jewish traditions of Moses, the lawgiver, and Elijah, the prophetic tradition. God the Father singles out Jesus as the one to whom all should listen because he has God’s special favor. It is the point in the ministry of Jesus where everything clicks, when almost everything falls into place. Following the Transfiguration, the journey to Jerusalem becomes immanent.

Have you had a point in your personal Christian history when everything clicks? …When everything that we have been diligently working towards comes together? Grace overflows when this happens and people comment on the ease at which we cooperate with God. It is a time when our own personal traditions come together and yet something greater shines through our being. We are being actualized in potential and confirmed in our choices. Prayer is rich and enjoyable and we are able to gain new insights very readily. We are in sync with the world around us and we marvel at the easiness of our efforts. Our hard work has paid off and signs of success mark us. Others are able to see the transcendent through our human cooperation with grace as it flows out of us like a spring mountain stream. This is the way life should be.

Thomas Merton once exclaimed, “There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” I think those are the best words you could ever say to a person. The whole essence of the person seems to be transfigured by God’s radiating presence. God is at work in our lives through our prayer, our good works, our fidelity to the commandments, and that we recognize the challenging work of bringing the Gospel to life, which means learning, reading, and exploring Scripture. This is the grace that gives us boldness to take a great risk like leaving home at age seventy-five like Abram and do something new. This is the grace to smile at our oppressor when we are being unjustly treated because we know Christ broke the bonds of slavery. This is the grace that allows us to forget about ourselves so completely that Christ shines forth without our realizing his strength.

God can transform our lives so that we shine like the dazzling sun. Maintaining an easy, familiar prayer style will train us to listen to the voice that guides us even when we doubt. When we are confirmed by God, our whole being changes and we become more faithful and trusting in God’s plans for us. As I think of all of you, I see the sparks flying all over the place. Let us learn to kindle the flame that burns more brightly. Let us turn to one another and behold the power God is working in each of us. Peter, James, and John where changed when they saw Jesus transfigured before their eyes. It was an event they could never forget. Look more closely at your fellow Christian to see God shining as brightly as we allow. Let’s make a little more space within us so that the light of Christ increases so that he and you appear as one.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Daniel, the men of Judah and the residents of Jerusalem confess their waywardness to the Lord as they rebelled against the commandments of the Lord. Isaiah speaks words to Sodom and Gomorrah: cease doing evil and learn to do good. Set things now aright and your sins will be forgiven. ~ On St. Joseph’s feast, Nathan tells David that the Lord is choosing David’s house to endure forever. ~ Jeremiah tells us, “Cursed is the one who trusts in humans.” The Lord alone shall probe the mind and test the heart of all people and will reward everyone according to his ways. In Genesis, we hear that Israel loved Joseph best of all and gave him a bright tunic to wear and to show off his favor. His brothers did not like it and conspired to do away with him, but they eventually sold him to the Ishmaelites for 20 pieces of silver. In Micah, the prophet praises God for his compassionate shepherding. God is one who removes guilt and pardons sins.

Gospel: Jesus tells his disciples to be merciful just as your Father is merciful. It means that we cannot judge and that we have to forgive. Jesus mentions that the Pharisees have taken their places at tables of honor and that they are to be respected, but also to be wary of imitating them because their actions do not mirror their words. ~ On St. Joseph’s feast, we are told of the gracious actions of Jesus in receiving Mary into his home; we also hear that he and Mary looked diligently for their youthful son when he stayed behind in Jerusalem to discuss matters of faith with the elders. ~ Jesus tells the Pharisees a story of a rich man who died and was sent to Hell, but the poor, tormented Lazarus was received into heaven after his death. Jesus meant to tell the Pharisees that people will not listen to Moses and the prophets. Why would they listen to someone even if he were raised from the dead? He told them another parable. This one was of an owner of a vineyard who went away on a journey and entrusted the land to his servants. New tenants seized the land and beat the servants and even killed them. Then the owner sent his son and the tenants killed him as well. Jesus was indicated that the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. Tax collectors and sinners were coming to listen to Jesus. He then told the Pharisees and scribes a parable of the prodigal son to show the forgiving, inclusive nature of the Father.

Saints of the Week

March 17: Patrick, bishop (389-461), is the revered Apostle of Ireland and patron saint of many U.S. dioceses. He is credited for bringing the faith to all of Ireland. He was abducted and enslaved at age 16 by pirates and taken to Ireland where he worked as a cattle herded and shepherd in the mountains. He escaped after six years and eventually returned to his native Britain where he became a priest. Pope Celestine sent Patrick as a missionary to Ireland to evangelize them. Though he was under constant risk from hostile pagans, he converted many of them and developed a native clergy by the time of his death.

March 19: Joseph, husband of Mary is honored today for his support of Mary in their marriage. He is portrayed as a righteous man who obeys the will of God. Therefore, his ancestry is upheld as a virtuous stock through which God’s promises come true. We seldom contemplate his marital relationship to Mary and his responsibility to love and raise Jesus as his son. He was a descendent of King David and a carpenter or builder by trade. In Matthew's dream sequence, Joseph was embarrassed by Mary's pregnancy before their marriage, but went through with the wedding because he was a righteous man. He considered dissolving their marriage because of Mosaic Law, but is told in a dream to take Mary as his wife and to raise Jesus as his own. He is honored as the earthly father of Jesus.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Mar 16, 1649. The martyrdom in Canada of St John de Brebeuf, apostle to the Huron Indians. Captured by the Iroquois along with some Christian Hurons, he endured horrible tortures.
·      Mar 17, 1964. The death of Joseph O'Callahan. He was awarded the US Medal of Honor for heroism as chaplain on the USS Franklin, off Japan on March 19, 1945.
·      Mar 18, 1541. Two letters arrived from Lisbon from Francis Xavier. One was addressed to Ignatius, the other to Frs. LeJay and Laynez. They were written just before his departure to India.
·      Mar 19, 1836. By imperial decree, the Society was allowed to re-enter the Austrian dominions.
·      Mar 20, 1602. The first "Disputatio de Auxiliis" was held before Clement VIII. The disputants were Fr. Gregory de Valentia SJ and Fr. Diego Alvarez OP.
·      Mar 21, 1768. In Spain, at a special meeting of the Council of State in the presence of King Charles III, the Suppression of the Society was urged on the pretense that it was independent of the bishops, that it plotted against the State, and that it was lax in its teaching.
·      March 22, 1585: In Rome, the three Japanese ambassadors were received by Fr. General with great solemnity in the Society's Church of the Gesu.