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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Third Sunday in Easter

Third Sunday in Easter
May 4, 2014
Acts 2:14, 22-33; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Luke 24:13-35

I remember a time in my education when something that was frustrating for me finally clicked. Having moved to a new school because we were forced out of our house to a new town by a devastating fire, I struggled with the concept of mathematical fractions. Frankly, they were the last worry on my mind. The math teacher pulled me aside to help me understand the reasons fractions were important. I think it was her interest in my learning the concept that caused me to choose to learn about them. She cared enough about me to give me individualized attention. Adding fractions together pointed to “wholeness” and when I understood their intrinsic value, I delighted in learning more about them and math in general because it was great fun to solve those mysteries. I went home night after night creating new fraction equations so I could solve them on my own. Learning was fun.

I suppose this is how the disciples felt after the Risen Jesus appeared to them. Peter, after receiving forgiveness, became the “Great Teacher” that instructed the remaining Ten and the Jewish believers. He read scripture to them in ways they never approached it before and he showed them how the hidden testimonies of the prophets and kings plainly pointed to the person of Jesus. Peter gave them the framework through which to interpret the life of Jesus. The Galilean fisherman became the renowned intellectual who could instruct the religious authorities and the chief priests on the uncovered truths of the faith. Within a short period of time, Peter was transformed into a man of great courage and insight because Jesus taught him how to place all matters into proper perspective.

The two disciples who left Emmaus from Jerusalem on that first Easter day were likewise instructed. They were probably extroverts who had to talk their ideas out with one another to get clarity. The stranger who joined in on their conversation helped enlighten them. He gave them the framework to get out of the confines of their own thinking so they could see the possibilities for greater comprehension. When it clicked for them, their joy led them directly back to the community who were still processing the incomprehensible news. Their testimony instructed the Disciples and the women because they were able to relate to them the supreme importance of Scripture in pointing to and validating the role Jesus of Nazareth played in their salvation. I presume they knocked themselves on their foreheads and exclaimed, “Why did we not see this before? It was plainly in front of our eyes.”

These stories tell us of three insightful ways by which we can learn more about our faith: Reading Scripture, telling our faith stories, and breaking bread with believers. (One.) Scripture is the starting point for all learning. We must not only read scripture, we must figure out the many ways to analyze biblical texts. Examining the literary, historical, and theological methods will bring greater understanding. Knowing how the Gospels were formed and the biblical interpretations of the Hebrew Scripture in the time of Jesus will create greater awareness. Interpreting the philosophical, literal, and spiritual senses of the texts help a person see how Catholics approach the bible. Every time you read it, you are a changed person who will discover new ideas and approaches. Never stop reading Scripture.

(Two.) Share your faith understanding with those who walk with you. Do not dig yourself into an entrenched position because you will never learn that way. Ask more questions than you answer and let the ideas and experiences of others enrich you. This is what the Emmaus disciples, Peter and the Eleven, and the women did. Let them be a model to us of learning through dialogue. Open-ended conversations allows us to grow, so look at all the ways you stop yourself from dialoguing with the larger truths and find new ways of letting your heart and mind be open and free. Never stop telling your stories; Always find ways to hear in new ways the experiences of others.

(Three.) Come to the Eucharist because this is where the great dialogue with Jesus takes place. Bring others who need to hear. Few people see the Eucharist as a place of learning, but this is the place where Jesus is made known to us. Jesus is alive and continues to teach those who open their minds and hearts to him. The mass and Eucharist call us together as a community where we share our stories and our nourishment with others. It is a place of refuge and enlightenment. Mostly, when Jesus sits with us at table, takes the bread, says the blessing, breaks it, and gives it to us, our eyes are opened to see the world as God sees it. What a gift! What joy we experience when we learn something more about the Lord. When we are enlightened, we want more and we want to tell others about what we know and experience. This is the Magis, the “More,” that Jesus hands to us each meal.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading:  We continue with the Acts of the Apostles and we read the account of Stephen who was working great signs and wonders among the people in the name of Jesus. False testimony is lodged against him but he stands angelic before them. His angry opponents stone him including Saul who gave consent to execute him. A severe persecution breaks out in Jerusalem and the believers are displaced to Judea and Samaria. Saul, trying to destroy the Church, enters house after house to arrest them. Philip's testimony and miracles in Samaria emboldens the believers. Philip heads out to Gaza and meets an Ethiopian eunuch who is reading Isaiah's texts. Philip interprets the scripture and the eunuch begs to be baptized. Meanwhile, Saul is carrying out hateful acts against the believers and is struck blind as he beholds an appearance of Jesus. The beginning of his call and conversion is happening. 

Gospel: In John 6, Jesus feeds the 5,000 as a flashback to the Eucharistic memory of the believers with the Bread of Life discourse. Jesus instructs them, "it was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven; my heavenly Father gives true bread." Jesus proclaims, "I am the bread of life." He further states that anyone who comes to him will never hunger or thirst. Jesus will raise everyone on the last day. All that is required is belief in him. Belief is a gift not given to all and the way to the Father is through the Son. As you would expect, opposition arises to the statements of Jesus as his cannibalistic references are hard sayings to swallow. He tells the people, "my flesh is true food, and by blood is true drink." If you eat of Jesus, you will live forever.

Saints of the Week

May 4: Joseph Mary Rubio, S.J., priest (1864-1929), is a Jesuit known as the Apostle of Madrid. He worked with the poor bringing them the Spiritual Exercises and spiritual direction and he established local trade schools. 

May 10: Damien de Veuster of Moloka'i, priest (1840-1889), was a Belgian who entered the Congregation of the Fathers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. He was sent on mission to the Hawaiian Islands and was a parish priest for nine years. He then volunteered as a chaplain to the remote leper colony of Moloka'i. He contracted leprosy and died at the colony. He is remembered for his brave choice to accept the mission and to bring respect and dignity to the lepers. He was canonized in 2009. A statue of him stands in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      May 4, 1902. The death of Charles Sommervogel, historian of the Society and editor of the bibliography of all publications of the Jesuits from the beginnings of the Society onward.
·      May 5, 1782. At Coimbra, Sebastian Carvahlo, Marquis de Pombal, a cruel persecutor of the Society in Portugal, died in disgrace and exile. His body remained unburied fifty years, till Father Philip Delvaux performed the last rites in 1832.
·      May 6, 1816. Letter of John Adams to Thomas Jefferson mentioning the Jesuits. "If any congregation of men could merit eternal perdition on earth and in hell, it is the company of Loyola."
·      May 7, 1547. Letter of St. Ignatius to the scholastics at Coimbra on Religious Perfection.
·      May 8, 1853. The death of Jan Roothan, the 21st general of the Society, who promoted the central role of the Spiritual Exercises in the work of the Society after the restoration.
·      May 9, 1758. The 19th General Congregation opened, the last of the Old Society. It elected Lorenzo Ricci as general.
·      May 10, 1773. Empress Maria Teresa of Austria changed her friendship for the Society into hatred, because she had been led to believe that a written confession of hers (found and printed by Protestants) had been divulged by the Jesuits.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Spirituality: C.S. Lewis, "Mere Christianity"

Your real, new self (which is Christ's and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. Does that sound strange? The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. 

Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Spirituality: From "Practical Mysticism" by Evelyn Underhill

We know a thing only by uniting with it; by assimilating it; by an interpenetration of it and ourselves. It gives itself to us, just in so far as we give ourselves to it; and it is because our outflow toward things is usually so perfunctory and so languid, that our comprehension of things is so perfunctory and languid too. The great Sufi who said "Pilgrimage to the place of the wise, is to escape the flame of separation" spoke the literal truth. Wisdom is the fruit of communion; ignorance is the inevitable portion of those who "keep themselves to themselves," and stand apart, judging, analyzing the things which they have never truly known.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Poem: "Spring" by Edna Jaques

The smell of burning maple boughs,
White seagulls following after plows,
A killdeer piping in the rain –
We wondered if he’d come again
From the warm southland where he goes
To get away from winter snows.

The starlings came five hundred strong
And swooped down with a burst of song
To feed upon a chickweek patch,
Like happy folk who know the latch
Is ever out for their return;
For them the candles ever burn.

A man works with his pruning shears;
We wonder if he ever hears
The choir of song above his vines
Or the tall wind blowing through the pines,
Where clouds as white as thistledown
Drift over his fields toward the town.

A tractor putts in from the gate
To turn brown furrows clean and straight;
A little girl in overalls
Is playing with a pair of dolls
Under an apple tree nearby,
Which waves its branches at the sky.

There is a feeling in the air
Of new life coming everywhere,
In beast and bird and creeping thing;
Of earth responsive to the spring;
Of joy and beauty gathered here,
And heaven bending very near.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Poem: “Magdalen” By Henry Kingsley

Magdalen at Michael’s gate
Tirled at the pin;
On Joseph’s thorn sang the blackbird,
“Let her in! Let her in!”
“Hast thou seen the wounds?” said Michael,
“Knowest thou thy sin?”
“It is evening, evening, sang the blackbird,
“Let her in! Let her in!”
“Yes, I have seen the wounds,
And know my sin.”
“She knows it well, well, well,” sang the blackbird.
“Let her in! Let her in!”
“Thou bringest no offerings,” said Michael,
“Naught save sin.”
And the blackbird sang, “She is sorry, sorry, sorry.”
“Let her in! Let her in!”
When he had sung himself to sleep,
And night did begin,
One came and opened Michael’s gate,
And Magdalen went in.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Prayer: "From Death to Life" by Peter Faber, S.J.

Jesus Christ, may your death be my life
and in your dying may I learn how to live.
May your struggles be my rest,
Your human weakness my courage,
Your embarrassment my honor,
Your passion my delight,
Your sadness my joy,
In your humiliation my I be exalted.
In a word, may I find all my blessings in your trials.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Poem: "Easter" by John of Damascus

Now let the heavens be joyful,
Let earth her song begin:
Let the round world keep triumph,
And all that is therein;
Invisible and visible,
Their notes let all things blend,
For Christ the Lord is risen
Our joy that hath no end.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Second Sunday in Easter

Second Sunday in Easter
April 27, 2014
Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 118; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

We see the great potential for unity in the Acts of the Apostles when the early disciples committed themselves to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread, and to the prayers. It creates an idyllic community when we care for the social needs of others because we realize we have enough to share with those around us. We are able to see the wonders of God through each other and we realize God is in our midst.

Though it was the early church, the community was mature in its understanding that we are in this together. They were, as Richard Rohr, O.F.M. describes in his work on “Falling Upward,” a community that is doing its second half of life work. A community in its first half of life is insecure, seeks to gather everything to itself, is preoccupied with its own needs like acceptance, intimacy, fairness, and justice; while a community in its second half of life is more concerned with others, seeks to give materials away, strives to encourage and to build up others because it knows its rightful place in God’s order. A maturing Christian community respects and honors its members and seeks to bring about a social order filled with God’s values. It becomes secure knowing they are a people on a journey whose beginning and end is the Lord.

Peter, in the second reading, and the Evangelist of the Fourth Gospel, bless those who have not seen the Lord in their temporal lives, but love him all the same. We have much in common with Thomas, the twin, who was not present with the other Ten Disciples on that first Easter night. He is the one who professes, “I will not believe unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands.” However, when the risen Jesus appears before him and wishes him “peace,” he abandons his demand to physically touch the body of Jesus because he knows the risen Lord is not a ghost, but is a man who has been raised from the dead and is alive to him in a new way of existing. He remains his friend. He is the same man he knew before that fateful trip to Jerusalem.

This is an era in which everyone demands that we prove to them that God exists. Many are just like Thomas who want proof that meets their own demands, but without doing their own work. How do we deal with these people, especially those who want to bring down the church with insults and highly idealistic claims that can never be met? Do not get immersed in their drama, but see past their highly volatile emotional state and see their hidden request. You cannot answer their questions satisfactorily. You never will. Only God can do that, but do offer them an invitation. Let them come to know you because hidden with their questions, insults, or charges, is an request to join your community and to know about your God. Let Christ be the one who offers them peace. Just find a place for them at your community’s table and let Christ do the rest.

Simply invite people to the table. Try not to see yourself as Anglo, Hispanic, Filipino, or African, but as a community of believers called by and rooted in Christ. Do not worry about whether your house is in order or whether people will see your best face. Do not be ashamed of flighty aunt Gracie or cantankerous uncle Zaid. Your guests are not coming to judge you, but they are coming to see whether you accept them into your family. They are anxious enough. Just love them and give them freedom. Honor and respect them by gently asking questions and do not try to overfeed them. Be like the community of disciples in the Acts of the Apostles who come together to care to enjoy one another because when we see another person smile, we see the Risen Jesus in our midst.

We are blessed because we are able to see the Risen Lord. We do not need great physical evidence to know Jesus is near like Thomas thought he did. We have it when we hold each other as maturing people of faith who look outwards towards the community. We see the Lord when we give each other freedom and let them be who they are. We know he is with us when we strive to bring our community together, not just our small groups, but also our larger community, especially those people who stay outside the walls of the church. When we are secure that he is with us, we finally receive the peace he offers us. Christ’s peace will do the work we cannot do. Let us be the ones who pass this radical peace onto others. May Christ be with us! May Christ be before us! May Christ be in us, Christ be over all! Let us go with him onwards and upward singing songs of praise. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading:  We continue with the Acts of the Apostles in the Easter octave. Peter and John return to their people after being released from the religious authorities. They prayed to the Lord about their ordeal and as they prayed, the whole house shook. The high priest with the Sadducees had the Apostles jailed but during the night the doors of the prison were opened by the Lord and the Apostles went back to the Temple to teach. As the Apostles were brought forth again during their arrest, they were reminded that they were forbidden to preach. Peter said on behalf of the Apostles that they are to obey God, not men. Gamaliel the Pharisee urged wisdom for the Sanhedrin declaring that if this is of God it cannot be stopped, but if it is of men it will certainly die out. The number of disciples grew. Hellenists complained to the Hebrews that their widows were being neglected. The Twelve decided it was right to select seven reputable men (deacons) to take care of the daily distribution while they continued with prayer and the ministry of the word. Meanwhile the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly. Even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

Gospel: In John, Nicodemus appeared to Jesus at night asking how one could be born again to which Jesus answered, "you must be born from above." As the discourse continues, the Evangelist proclaims, "God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but that the world might be saved through him." He explains that Jesus has come from above and speaks of the things that are from above. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. At a feast of the Passover, Jesus miraculously feeds the hungry crowds as a good shepherd would. He reminds the people that the actions in his earthly life were precursors of the meal that are to share. They are to eat his body and drink his blood. Jesus then departs to the other side of the sea. When a storm picks up, he walked on the turbulent waves and instructed them not to be afraid. He is with them. He has power over the natural and supernatural world.

Saints of the Week

April 28: Peter Chanel, priest, missionary, martyr (1803-1841), is the first martyr of the Pacific South Seas. Originally a parish priest in rural eastern France, he joined the Society of Mary (Marists) to become a missionary in 1831 after a five-year stint teaching in the seminary. At first the missionaries were well received in the New Hebrides and other Pacific island nations as they recently outlawed cannibalism. The growth of white influence placed Chanel under suspicion, which led to an attack on the missionaries. When the king’s son wanted to be baptized, his anger erupted and Peter was clubbed to death in protest. 

April 28: Louis of Montfort, priest (1673-1716), dedicated his life to the care of the poor and the sick as a hospital chaplain in Poitiers, France. He angered the public and the administration when he tried to organize the hospital women's workers into a religious organization. He was let go. He went to Rome where the pope gave him the title "missionary apostolic" so he could preach missions that promoted a Marian and Rosary-based spirituality. He formed the "Priests of the Company of Mary" and the "Daughters of Wisdom."

May 1: Joseph the Worker was honored by Pope Pius XII in 1955 in an effort to counteract May Day, a union, worker, and socialist holiday. Many Catholics believe him to be the patron of workers because he is known for his patience, persistence, and hard work as admirable qualities that believers should adopt.

May 2: Athanasius, bishop and doctor (295-373), was an Egyptian who attended the Nicene Council in 325. He wrote about Christ's divinity but this caused his exile by non-Christian emperors. He wrote a treatise on the Incarnation and brought monasticism to the West.

May 3: Philip and James, Apostles (first century), were present to Jesus throughout his entire ministry. Philip was named as being explicitly called. James is called the Lesser to distinguish him from James of Zebedee. Little is known of these founders of our faith.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Apr 27, 1880. On the occasion of the visit of Jules Ferry, French minister of education, to Amiens, France, shouts were raised under the Jesuit College windows: "Les Jesuites a la guillotine."
·      Apr 28, 1542. St Ignatius sent Pedro Ribadeneira, aged fifteen, from Rome to Paris for his studies. Pedro had been admitted into the Society in l539 or l540.
·      Apr 29, 1933. Thomas Ewing Sherman died in New Orleans. An orator on the mission band, he was the son of Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman. He suffered a breakdown, and wanted to leave the Society, but was refused because of his ill health. Before his death he renewed his vows in the Society.
·      Apr 30, 1585. The landing at Osaka of Fr. Gaspar Coelho. At first the Emperor was favorably disposed towards Christianity. This changed later because of Christianity's attitude toward polygamy.
·      May 1, 1572. At Rome, Pope St. Pius V dies. His decree imposing Choir on the Society was cancelled by his successor, Gregory XIII.
·      May 2, 1706. The death of Jesuit brother G J Kamel. The camellia flower is named after him.

·      May 3, 1945. American troops take over Innsbruck, Austria. Theology studies at the Canisianum resume a few months later.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Poem: "See the land" by Charles Kingsley

See the land, her Easter keeping,
Rises as her Maker rose.
Seeds, so long in darkness sleeping,
Burst at last from winter snows.
Earth with heaven above rejoices...

Monday, April 21, 2014

Spirituality: "Easter" by Clarence W. Hall

If Easter says anything to us today, it says this: You can put truth in a grave, but it won't stay there. You can nail it to a cross, wrap it in winding sheets and shut it up in a tomb, but it will rise!

Poem: "Easter" by Richard Le Gallienne

Celestial spirit that doth roll
The heart's sepulchral stone away,
Be this our resurrection day,
The singing Easter of the soul -
O gentle Master of the Wise,
Teach us to say: "I will arise."

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Poem: "Easter Bells" by Lizzie Akers

O the Easter bells are gladly ringing,
Let the whole world join the happy lay,
Let the hills and vales break forth in singing,
Christ, the Lord of Life, is ris'n today.

Poem: "An Easter Carol" by Phillip Brooks

Tomb, thou shalt not hold Him longer;
Death is strong, but Life is stronger;
Stronger than the dark, the light;
Stronger than the wrong, the right...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Poem: "Christ Comes through the Ruins" by Thomas Merton

Slowly, slowly
Comes Christ through
the ruins
Seeking the lost disciple
A timid one
Too literate
To believe words
So she hides.

Friday, April 18, 2014

"Three Flames" by John Predmore, S.J.

Three flames flickered. Weeks of preparation have ceased and the Pascal Triduum begins. Last minute drama and anxieties filled the air as parishioners moved about hurriedly to do their last few devotionals as they ready spiritually for these sacred moments. I caught sight of those three flames they flickered.

The trinitarian candelabra was brought out only for these three days. The gentle draft cause to flame to lean towards the Mary Statue and to hold steady. Events swirled about them, but those flashes of fire just held themselves in balance. I breathed. I let all go and I entered into Christ’s drama. His were the eyes that we waiting to be noticed. He wanted me to gaze at his face and notice his calm countenance. His look captured me and I rested in his gaze. Together, we would begin the sacred liturgy.

Moses began to tell his newly freed friends, “This is how we are to keep the feast. Let us celebrate to remember how God delivered us from the hands of our oppressors. Pray for them because they have done what all people do. They are not evil and we wish no harm to them, but let us escape to safety because God is delivering us. Let us celebrate in haste and remember this day always.”

Paul then told his community, “This is what we must hand onto others because Jesus handed it to us on the night before he died. Let us remember him whenever we gather and eat and drink. Let us always strive to love – something which is not always easy to do, but let us never give up.”

Then Jesus walked over to them and asked if he could be joined to them by washing their feet. The flames of those candles skipped a beat before they settled into their steady beaconing.

It wasn’t quite the washing that caught them by surprise or the words that were spoken. It was the way he gently touched their feet in a way they could not say no to this gentle man. It only made them want to be more united with him because his touch proved how much he cared for them. It was when he gazed into their eyes. He saw the flame in their eyes flickered a great deal and burned brightly. He knew they would dim in the coming hours, but the flame would be rekindled one day. He knew they would remember this moment. Instead of acting in fear, Jesus reached out and tended to their needs very personally. It was the great act of reconciliation that though his efforts would end in death, his care for them would endure. He just did not know how, but he knew that memories live on and one day they are rekindled.

Those flames flickered. Did anyone else notice them? Who cares? I saw them and they formed my prayer. The heat and fragrance that rose to heaven was enough for me. I knew my being was getting nourished. I just had to sit and notice and Jesus washed over me. We would spend these next days together.