Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Saints Peter and Paul (Thirteenth Week of Ordinary Time)

Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Saints Peter and Paul
June 29, 2014
Acts 12:1-11; Psalm 34;2 Timothy4:6-8, 17-18; Matthew 16:13-19

Jesuits celebrate this day because it marks an important turning point in Ignatius of Loyola’s life. Full of fever and near death from the injuries he received at the Battle of Pamplona against the French, Ignatius prayed fervently to the Lord and on this day his fever broke, which marked a crucial turning point in his recovery. It underscores the fervor of his prayer and is the starting point for his gratitude to God for saving his life and giving him a second chance – to go onwards and upwards so that the world might be set ablaze with the consuming fire of Christ’s love for us. The prayer of Ignatius irrevocably altered the church for the better.

The feast of Saints Peter and Paul teach us about our need of prayerful solidarity for one another. Prayer will reveal to us what our minds and hearts cannot teach ourselves. It opens our confined worlds to the larger reality surrounding us. In the story about Peter in Acts, the prayer of the whole church was made on behalf of the imprisoned Peter after King Herod killed James by the sword. It may have been the anniversary of the death of Jesus as it occurred on the feast of the Unleavened Bread. The power of prayer was obvious to non-believers and believers alike and it is credited for an angel of the Lord leading Peter into freedom and safety.

With Paul, you can sense the entire community’s rock-solid tearful support as he readies for his departure from them. They all recognize his righteous life will come to an unjust end. The people stand with him in prayer as Paul stands in solidarity with Jesus, who was always faithful to him. You can feel the depth of the close, intimate, personal relationship they shared. The love of Jesus overflows into the community too. This is the Eucharistic communion we pray for during each mass. This is the purpose and effect of prayer. Despite for foreboding future, Paul leaves for his final leg of the journey content that his unexpected life has been fulfilled.

In the Gospel, sustained prayer is the only way that Peter can answer the question posed to him by Jesus, “But who do you say that I am?” Jesus is reminding Peter that we can be distracted by the many voices that hold authority over us, but that voice of God is the only one that matters in the short and long run. We have to get used to hearing that voice and we do that through prayer. When we come to know that familiar pattern, the soft touch, the warm embrace of Jesus, then our fears and anxieties are lessened. When we identify the routine methods God communicates with us, all the other voices are filtered out and we pay attention to the only one that matters. This is the voice Peter and Paul trusted; throughout the millennia, the saints listened to this voice; it is the same voice we need to hear. We need to wake up each morning and hear God’s gentle voice in the first instance. It is like hearing the voice of our best friend greet us to a new day. With that assurance, nothing can distress us.

Look at the good example Jesus gives us in his dealing with Peter. He calls forth from Peter an answer from his personal experience of prayer. He asks, “How does your faith inform you?” Peter cannot answer this question without having a deepening relationship with God. The other voices around him tell him John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets, but Peter has to rely upon what he knows: that the God of Creation sent Jesus to them as Messiah. The questioning and listening of Jesus helps Peter along in the faith and it is because he has progressed in the spiritual life that Jesus builds his church upon his maturing faith.

So, if we are to live like Jesus, we are to help one another come to a deeper faith by developing each other’s prayer. Paul is content he has done that. He has run the race and has worked tirelessly and he is very pleased that the community is a praying one because those who pray have the resources to solve their own problems. Paul made sure the community did not orient their whole lives around him; Peter did the same thing as he built up the church. He built the church of Jesus Christ, not of himself. Every church leader’s job is to give the people to themselves and to teach them to pray. The community should never be centered around a particular priest, but on Jesus Christ – the true leader of the church. Every believer’s job is to direct another believer to Jesus so that they can answer that famous question for themselves: “Who do you say that I am?”

As I prepare to leave Jordan, my fervent prayer is that I helped you to pray better and to access Christ as a personal friend and Savior. I have seen so many positive developments within the community and I have tried to give you as a gift to one another. I tried to make your faith life center around the risen Jesus of Nazareth, not around me, and I can see the many ways we will always remain connected to one another through the Eucharist – the saving sacrament of unity. I, like Paul, feel content that I have given what I can to you. I, like Peter, have tried to build his immigrant church on the solid ground of Christ. It seems fitting that I depart from you on this feast of Peter and Paul, the church of the apostles, the feast that was the turning point in Ignatius’ maturity in the faith. He went on to do great things, as I know you will because you are rooted and grounded in love, and Christ remains here with you. That is very evident to me. Our prayer, our maturing faith, our Eucharistic communion, bonds us to one another forever and for that I am very grateful to God. It makes my heart sing, but God’s song is even more beautiful.

I see Christ when I see you and it reminds me of the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins’ God’s Grandeur: “I say more: the just man justices; Keeps grace; that keeps all his goings graces; Acts is God’s eye what in God’s eye he is – Christ – for Christ plays in ten thousand places, lovely in limbs, and lovely in limbs not his, to the Father through the features of men’s faces.” Keep looking for Christ. He is in you and your neighbor, and you’ll live in harmony. Salam!

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In the Book of Amos, the Lord reminds the Israelites of his power, but that he chooses to use it judiciously and with mercy. The Lord reminds them of the ways he has been active in their lives, bringing punishment and blessings, in order to get the people to turn to him. The Lord wants the people to meet their God. He asks them to always seek good and not evil, that they may live. The Lord wants upstanding people to care for one another and does not care about hollow offerings of sacrifice. ~ On the feast of Thomas, Ephesians tells us that we are no longer strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God. ~ The Lord sends a message to those who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land: The days of famine are coming and the people will wander from sea to sea and rove from north to south in search of the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it. On the Day of the Lord, the fallen hut of David will be raised and the fortune of the repentant will be restored.

Gospel: When the crowds pressed in on Jesus, he got into a boat and went to the other shore. He reminded his followers that he has no place to lay his head because there is so much work around him. As he set out into the sea, a violent storm came up and threatened to swamp the boat. The disciples asked him to save them and he quieted the winds and the sea. On the other side, two Gadarene demoniacs from the tombs came to meet him. They recognized his authority over them and asked to be sent into a herd of swine. When it happened, they rushed down to the sea and drowned. ~ On the feast of Thomas, Didymus, one of the Twelve, the twin, doubted that Jesus had risen from the dead. When he assembled with the other 10, he proclaimed Jesus to be “My Lord and My God.” ~ Jesus passed by a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post and called him as a disciple. The Pharisees complained that Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. John’s disciples also asked why the disciple of Jesus ate and drank, but Jesus said there is to be no fasting when the bridegroom is among them.

Saints of the Week

June 29: Peter and Paul, apostles (first century) are lumped together for a feast day because of their extreme importance to the early and contemporary church. Upon Peter's faith was the church built; Paul's efforts to bring Gentiles into the faith and to lay out a moral code was important for successive generations. It is right that they are joined together as their work is one, but with two prongs. For Jesuits, this is a day that Ignatius began to recover from his illness after the wounds he sustained at Pamplona. It marked a turning point in his recovery.

June 30: The First Holy Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (c. 64) were martyrs under Nero's persecution in 64. Nero reacted to the great fire in Rome by falsely accusing Christians of setting it. While no one believed Nero's assertions, Christians were humiliated and condemned to death in horrible ways. This day always follows the feast of the martyrs, Sts. Peter and Paul.

July 1: Junipero Serra, priest, was a Franciscan missionary who founded missions in Baja and traveled north to California starting in 1768. The Franciscans established the missions during the suppression of the Jesuits. San Diego, San Francisco, and Santa Clara are among the most famous. Serra’s statue is in the U.S. Capitol to represent California.

July 2: Bernard Realino, John Francis Regis, Francis Jerome, S.J. are known for their preaching skills that drew many to the faith, including many French Hugeunots. Regis and his companions preached Catholic doctrine to children and assisted many struck by the plague in Frances. Regis University in Denver, Colorado is named after John Regis.

July 3: Thomas, apostle, is thought to have been an apostle to India and Pakistan and he is best remembered as the one who “doubted” the resurrection of Jesus. The Gospels, however, testify to his faithfulness to Jesus during his ministry. The name, Thomas, stands for “twin,” but no mention is made of his twin’s identity.

July 5: Elizabeth of Portugal (1271-1336), was from the kingdom of Aragon begore she married Denis, king of Portugal, at age 12. Her son twice rebelled against the king and Elizabeth helped them reconcile. After he husband's death, she gave up her rank and joined the Poor Clares for a life of simplicity.

July 5: Anthony Mary Zaccaria, priest (1502-1539) was a medical doctor who founded the Barnabites because of his devotion to Paul and Barnabas and the Angelics of St. Paul, a woman's cloistered order. He encouraged the laity to work alongside the clergy to care for the poor.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Jun 29, 1880. In France the law of spoliation, which was passed at the end of March, came into effect and all the Jesuit Houses and Colleges were suppressed.
·      Jun 30, 1829. The opening of the Twenty-first General Congregation of the order, which elected Fr. John Roothan as General.
·      Jul 1, 1556. The beginning of St Ignatius's last illness. He saw his three great desires fulfilled: confirmation of the Institute, papal approval of the Spiritual Exercises, and acceptance of the Constitutions by the whole Society.
·      Jul 2, 1928. The Missouri Province was divided into the Missouri Province and the Chicago Province. In 1955 there would be a further subdivision: Missouri divided into Missouri and Wisconsin; Chicago divided into Chicago and Detroit.
·      Jul 3, 1580. Queen Elizabeth I issued a statute forbidding all Jesuits to enter England.
·      Jul 4, 1648. The martyrdom in Canada of Anthony Daniel who was shot with arrows and thrown into flames by the Iroquois.

·      Jul 5, 1592. The arrest of Fr. Robert Southwell at Uxenden Manor, the house of Mr Bellamy. Tortured and then transferred to the Tower, he remained there for two and a half years.