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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
August 3, 2014
Isaiah 55:1-3; Psalm 55; Romans 8:35, 37-39; Matthew 14:13-21

The recent events in the Gaza-Israeli conflict stir our hearts. Regardless of political leanings or our need to blame the ones who caused the conflict, we hope our hearts are moved by the death by innocent children who are clearly the victims. We pray for the ‘understanding heart’ that Solomon asked to receive from God in last week’s scriptures and our heart becomes formed by the style of teaching to which we are attracted. This week’s scriptures point highlights the style of Jesus that stands in opposition to the world’s styles.

I think of a conversation with a friend earlier this week on the Gaza conflict. He is certainly an educated man, but if left me wondering if we could be mis-educated. He spoke authoritatively and decisively on the topic, placed the blame for the conflict squarely upon the U.N. and Hamas, and denounced the character of the Gazans as a people whose value in the world was negligible. I am not remarking on his conclusions (though I disagree with him), but focusing upon his style.

My friend spoke and therefore there was nothing more to say. In his thinking, he is right; all other thoughts are wrong. No middle ground is necessary. He denounces the progressive network news, narcissistic academics, and those bleeding hearts that have experience of living in the Middle East. He holds the truth; everyone else is misinformed. If he speaks louder, firmer, and with more force, he silences the other voices therefore assuring his is the only voice heard. He makes himself feel good about his role in the society as he builds walls around himself. He represents a Classicist worldview that tries to conserve ideals without regard for the individual’s struggles. It stands in contrast to the Historical-minded worldview where the individual is supremely important, the search for truth is important, but the journey is more important than reaching conclusions. I noticed his sweeping, aggressive style and thought that this method must turn many people away from his anger (except for other angry people.) I also wondered about what needs to happen in order for him to develop an understanding heart.  

Listen to what happens in Scripture, for this is the God’s way forward. “Come,” all you who are thirsty, you who have no money, drink and eat. Just come. God’s gives us open invitations to freely accept what God intends for us. There are no commands, no force, no bullying, just simple invitations. Listen (in other words, do not speak) and hear, that you may have life. Imitate the Lord who is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness because the Lord has compassion to all. Know that the Lord is close; you need not fear.

Even when Jesus is at his wit’s end, he reaches out and cares for individuals because he has an understanding heart that is filled with compassion. Above all, Jesus needs time away so he can grieve the death of his friend, John the Baptist. (Today, he is grieving for all the dead in the conflicts in Gaza, Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine.) The crowds keep coming to him for healing and his heart is always being moved, being informed, by the suffering around him, and he responds with great compassion. He reaches back for them and feeds them by further educating them about God’s care (and God’s style.) It is an always-giving heart.

While we always have to practice prudential self-care just as Jesus did when he set aside time to grieve, we are to balance it with care for those in need. Jesus empowers his disciples to help him in his mission, asking them to take from their reserves and to give without cost. No one has ever gone poor by giving oneself away. Jesus blessed the activities of his disciples and offered them to God on behalf of the needy people. Notice they did not try to conserve what they had, they gave away what little they had; they looked upon the vast crowds and let their hearts be moved. Jesus may have had to nudge them a little bit, but it was because his ‘understanding heart’ knew that Scripture was being fulfilled, that the Good Shepherd has invited everyone to the table – without regard for nationality, blame, character. All are welcome to the table and all will be welcomed and fed by God. We simply have to lead people to the table, not shun them from it. We cannot let ourselves be obstacles to another person’s salvation because in the end, no created thing will ever keep us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Is your heart moved by the tragedy in Gaza, Ukraine, or Syria? Our actions may not have great effect on the national or international scene, but it has many repercussions at the local level. Help the person, whether a bully or victim, admire the style of Jesus through you. Model your style after the ways of God because your small, gentle actions may be just enough to transform the heart of one who can influence larger decisions. That grace may be just enough. Our task is to lead people to the table of the Lord, who will take care of the rest. We are free because we know that not everything depends upon us, but we have to be responsible enough to do our part. Come. Invite. Receive new life. Bring someone who needs life to come to the table. Eat, drink, and be satisfied.

 Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Jeremiah, the prophet Hananiah spoke before the priests and King Zedekiah declaring that God will break the yoke of the king of Babylon but he was a rival to Jeremiah who claimed Hananiah raised the false confidence of the people. While Hananiah broke a wooden yoke, Jeremiah will carry a iron yoke to put on the necks of all Nebuchadnezzar’s supporters. Then the Lord tells Jeremiah to write down words that say, “See, your bruise is grievous; all your lovers have forgotten you,” but then, “I will restore the tents of Jacob and make them numerous. They shall be my people and I will be your God.” ~ On the Transfiguration of the Lord, Daniel has a vision of the heavenly liturgy where the Ancient One takes up his throne and receives glory. ~ The days are coming, says the Lord, when a new covenant will be made with the houses of Judah and Israel in which the law will be written on their hearts and they will be my people. In Nahum, the prophet decries the follies of Nineveh and gives hope to Judah to fulfill her vows for Babylon will be forever vanquished. In Habakkuk, the just man is asked to wait in vigilance because the just one, because of his faith, shall live.

Gospel: Jesus made the disciples get into a boat to precede him to the other side. A few miles offshore, waves tossed the boat back and forth, and the concerned disciples saw Jesus walking towards them on the water. Jesus called Peter forth, but then Peter started to sink so he called forth to Jesus to save him. After disembarking, Pharisees ask Jesus why his disciples do not wash their hands when they eat a meal. He points out that what is outside is clean, but what goes out from the inside is often defiled. ~ On the Transfiguration of the Lord, Jesus takes James, Peter, and John up the mountain where he was transfigured within his presence. They heard a voice, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” ~ After Peter declares that Jesus is the Christ when asked, “Who do people say that I am?,” Jesus begins to preach that he must go to Jerusalem and suffers greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes and be killed only to be raised on the third day. Jesus points out that his disciples must deny themselves, take up one’s cross, and follow him, which means to imitate his lifestyle. After the Transfiguration, a man brought his boy to Jesus for healing because the disciples could not drive out his potent demons. Only faith will heal the boy.

Saints of the Week

August 4: John Vianney, priest (1786-1859) became the parish priest in Ars-en-Dombes where he spent the rest of his life preaching and hearing confessions. Hundreds of visitors and pilgrims visited him daily. He would hear confessions 12-16 hours per day.

August 5: Dedication of the Basilica of Mary Major in Rome is celebrated because it is the largest and oldest of the churches in honor of Mary. The veneration began in 435 when the church was repaired after the Council of Ephesus in 431 when Mary was proclaimed the Mother of God. This is the church where Ignatius of Loyola said his first Mass and where Francis of Assisi assembled the first crèche.

August 6: The Transfiguration of the Lord is an historical event captured by the Gospels when Jesus is singled out as God's Son - ranking higher than Moses or Elijah. In front of his disciples, Jesus becomes transfigured, thus revealing his true nature. Ironically, the anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb occurred at Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

August 7: Sixtus, II, pope and martyr with companions (d. 258), died during the Valerian persecutions in 258. They were killed in the catacombs where they celebrated Mass. Sixtus was beheaded while speaking in his presidential chair and six deacons were killed as well. Lawrence, the Deacon, is honored on August 10th. Sixtus is remembered during the 1st Eucharistic prayer at Mass.

August 7: Cajetan, priest (1480-1547), was a civil and canon lawyer who worked in the papal chancery. He later joined the Roman Order of Divine Love and was ordained a priest. He became aware that the church needed reform and he teamed up with the bishop of Theate (Gian Pietro Carafa) and formed a society of priests called the Theatines who lived in community and took monastic vows. They owned no property.

August 8: Dominic, priest (1170-1221), was a Spaniard who was sent to southern France to counter the heretical teachings of the Albigensians, who held that the material world was evil and only religious asceticism could combat those forces. Dominic begged and preached in an austere fashion and set the foundations for the new Order of Preachers for both men and women.

August 8: Mother Mary MacKillop, religious (1842-1909), who worked in Australia and New Zealand to assist the poor, needy, and immigrants to the country, was canonized on October 17th 2010. August 8th is chosen as the day in which she will be memorialized on the Roman calendar. I offer the following prayer:

Bountiful and loving God,
You have filled the heart of Mary MacKillop
with compassionate love for those
who are in need at the margins of our society.
Deepen that love within us
that we may embrace the mystery of the Cross
which leads us through death to life.
We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus
who having broken the bonds of death
leads us to everlasting life. Amen.

August 9: Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), martyr (1891-1942), became a Catholic convert from Judaism after reading the autobiography of Teresa of Avila. He earned a doctorate in philosophy, but was unemployable because she was a woman. She taught at a high school for eight years before entering the Carmelites in 1933 where she made final vows in 1938. She moved to Holland to escape persecution by the Nazis, but was arrested when the bishops spoke out against the persecution of the Jews.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Aug 3, 1553. Queen Mary Tudor made her solemn entrance into London. As she passed St Paul's School, an address was delivered by Edmund Campion, then a boy of thirteen.
·      Aug 4, 1871. King Victor Emmanuel signed the decree that sanctioned the seizure of all of the properties belonging to the Roman College and to S. Andrea.
·      Aug 5, 1762. The Parliament at Paris condemned the Society's Institute as opposed to natural law. It confiscated all Jesuit property and forbade the Jesuit habit and community life.
·      Aug 6, 1552. The death of Claude Jay, a French priest who was one of Ignatius' original companions at the University of Paris.
·      Aug 7, 1814. The universal restoration of the Society of Jesus.
·      Aug 8, 1604. St Peter Claver takes his first vows at Tarracona.
·      Aug 9, 1762. The moving of the English College from St Omers to Liege.


  1. Excellent homily! Having just returned from Israel and having seen in a small way the plight of the people of Gaza, I truly appreciate your experience there and your encouragement to listen and to be present to others and to the Lord in all ways.

    1. Lynda, I recalled that you were in Israel and the West Bank. I'm sure it was fruitful and a moving experience. You will have much to digest in the coming months.