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.