Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Fifth Sunday in Easter

Fifth Sunday in Easter
May 18, 2014
Acts 6:1-7; Psalm 33; 1 Peter 2:4-9; John 14:1-12

A helpful skill to develop in life is to know when and how to ask for help. When lost while driving a car, men like me do not like to pull over to the side of the road to ask for directions. Partly, it is because we have been steered in the wrong direction too many times. However, today’s GPS’s keep us moving along without the need for the input of others. Some people will not travel to new places because they have never been there before. My mother is like this and I always tell her that cities, governments, and businesses help you out as much as possible because they want you to visit. They actually want to make your travel simple. They want to be helpful. The simple fact is: most people want to help others. This is one quality that distinguished the early Christian church from other religious groups.

As the early Christian community grew, balancing ordained ministry with practical welfare assistance challenged them. Cultural problems arose and the Hellenists, the Greeks, protested that Hebrews neglected their widows, but took care of their own. The church took sensible actions: they called willing men to serve as deacons so that the elders could concentrate of the ministries of the word. The Spirit, through the disciples, ordained them and they successfully met the community’s needs. This willingness to adapt as a ministry of mercy reveals to others that God was present to them. Converts to the faith increased exponentially and even Jewish priests joined the faith.

Jesus also tells his disciples that he is going away from them so that he may become the source of ultimate consolation. His first task is to get his father’s house ready for them, a place so large and with so many rooms that no one has to worry about whether God will accept them. Jesus opens his arms widely for them and he offers his friends sweeping hospitality. He does more than that. He makes sure they know that he will always be around to help them out. The perplexed Philip protests, “We don’t know the way,” and Jesus replies something like this: “Of course you do, every time you see the work of God at hand, you know I am around. I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Believe in the works you see around you. I will give you everything you need. Just look for me. Just ask.”

My prayer is that we can get over our inability to ask for help. We have to let go of pride, self-importance, self-reliance, and anything else that stops us from seeking the help that is readily available to us. Tons of help await those who simply choose not to ask. As a boy who grew up in a very poor family, I saw that real poverty is not being able to ask for and receive assistance and of not knowing the options. The pursuit of money seldom solves problems, but recognizing the extensive network of support leads us to new realms of enrichment. The poor often lack knowledge, which makes options less available, and it keeps their imagination of the possible very low. Everyone has degrees of freedom and can choose to shape their own futures, even when in situations of servitude. St. Paul gave thanks to God for his imprisonment because he was freed up to proclaim the Gospel. Jesus then came to his help to offer him more freedom.

The knowledge that Jesus Christ offers us will give us enough authority and power to solve our problems. If Jesus is the most important person in life, then we instinctively want to spend time with him and learn about him. If we become friends with him in this life, he will promise us those mansions both in this life and the next. Jesus is not a magician who will mysteriously solve our problems while we sit around and pray. For instance, praying that we will get lots of undeserved money without applying for jobs or accepting even the lowly ones offered to us will only give us frustration. We have to get up and work hard at make life better for ourselves. Do not be afraid of getting your hands dirty. Sweat and grime builds beautiful monuments. Taking responsibility for your life begins with small steps and tiring work. Keep your nose to the grindstone and keep moving forward. Drop the self-pity because it does not make you look attractive and it destroys your worldview.

Along the way, we will encounter many people who give us new opportunities and recognize our dedication. Jesus who sees your faith-filled toil sends these people to you and he will not stop sending them until you relent and say yes to his offers. He, like so many other people, wants the best for you, but they need you to do your own hard work. Be a helper along the way, even though it disrupts your plans, and you notice all the helpers along the way. The opportunities they offer you are like the mansions Jesus promises, but there is a catch: you have to point out the availability of those mansions to others. He wants his Father’s house filled beyond capacity.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: As Gentiles and Jews in Iconium were about to attack Paul and Barnabas, they fled to Lystra where Paul healed a lame man. The crowds began to put their faith in Paul and Barnabas as gods, but the men protested and told the story of the Christ event. Opposition to Paul arose shortly afterwards and he was stoned. They left for Derbe and strengthened the disciples in those cities and encouraged them during times of hardship. Some of Paul's Jewish opposition raised the question of circumcision and adherence to the Mosaic laws. Along the way to Jerusalem to seek the advice of the Apostles, they told everyone of the conversion of Gentiles. After much debate, Peter and James decided that no further restrictions are to be made of the Gentiles. The Apostles and presbyters were chosen to give news to Paul and Barnabas that the Gentiles were indeed welcomed into the faith with no extra hardships placed on them. The people were delighted with the news. Paul heard of a man named Timothy who was well regarded by the believers.  Paul had him circumcised and they travelled to Macedonia to proclaim the good news.

Gospel: In The Farewell Discourse, Jesus reassures his disciples that he will remain with them if they keep his loving commandments. To punctuate his message, he tells them he will send an advocate to teach and remind them of all he told them. He leaves them his lasting peace that will help them endure many difficult times. This peace will allow us to remain close to him - we will be organically part of him as we are the branches and he is the vine. Remaining close to him will allow us to share complete joy with one another. Jesus once again proves his love to them by saying the true friend, that is, the Good Shepherd, will lay down his love for one's friends. However, even with the love of Jesus, we will experience hatred in this world, but as friends of Jesus and as God's elect, their harm can never really wound our souls.

Saints of the Week

May 18: John I, pope and martyr (d. 526), was a Tuscan who became pope under the rule of Theodoric the Goth, an Arian. Theodoric opposed Emperor Justin I in Constantinople who persecuted Arians. John was sent to Justin to end the persecutions. He returned to great glory, but Theodoric was not satisfied, though Justin met all his demands. John was imprisoned and soon died because of ill treatment.

May 20: Bernardine of Siena, priest, (1380-1444) was from a family of nobles who cared for the sick during plagues. He entered the Franciscans and preached across northern and central Italy with homilies that understood the needs of the laity. He became vicar general and instituted reforms.

May 21: Christopher Magallanes, priest and companions, martyrs (1869-1927) was a Mexican priest who served the indigenous people by forming agrarian communities. He opened seminaries when the ant-Catholic government kept shutting them down. He was arrested and executed with 21 priests and 3 laymen.

May 22: Rita of Cascia, religious (1381-1457), always wanted to become a nun but her family married her off to an abusive man. He was murdered 18 years later. Rita urged forgiveness when her two sons wanted to avenge their father's murder. They soon died too. Rita wanted to enter a convent, but he marital status kept her out. Eventually, the Augustinians in Cascia admitted her. She became a mystic and counselor to lay visitors.

May 24: Our Lady of the Way or in Italian, Madonna della Strada, is a painting enshrined at the Church of the Gesu in Rome, the mother church of the Society of Jesus. The Madonna Della Strada is the patroness of the Society of Jesus. In 1568, Cardinal Farnese erected the Gesu in place of the former church of Santa Maria della Strada. 

This Week in Jesuit History

·      May 18, 1769. The election of Cardinal Lorenzo Ganganelli as Pope Clement XIV. He was the pope who suppressed the Society.
·      May 19, 1652. Birth of Paul Hoste mathematician and expert on construction of ships and history of naval warfare.
·      May 20, 1521. Ignatius was seriously wounded at Pamplona, Spain, while defending its fortress against the French.
·      May 21, 1925. Pius XI canonizes Peter Canisius, with Teresa of the Child Jesus, Mary Madeleine Postal, Madeleine Sophie Barat, John Vianney, and John Eudes. Canisius is declared a Doctor of the Church.
·      May 22, 1965. Pedro Arrupe was elected the 28th general of the Society of Jesus.
·      May 23, 1873. The death of Peter de Smet, a famous missionary among Native Americans of the great plains and mountains of the United States. He served as a mediator and negotiator of several treaties.

·      May 24, 1834. Don Pedro IV expelled the Society from Brazil.