Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
July 13, 2014
Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalm 65; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23

What kind of soil are you? That is, in what sort of environment do you find yourself to receive and nurture the Word of God? Every expert gardener knows the optimal conditions for planting vegetation, but we, as humans, cannot always control the environment in which we are to grow. We have to continually till our fields to keep it aerated properly, clear out rocks and invasive roots, make sure we get enough sunlight and rain, and stay clear of any debris that blows our way.

The Gospel teaches us to think of ourselves as the seed that is planted in various soils, some that are hostile, others that are fertile, but this provides a passive image of our faith responsibility. We are expected to bloom where we are planted regardless of the circumstances and we simply cannot blame our surrounding environment for our reception of God’s word. It is true that a suffocating environment can stunt our growth, but we are ambulatory and we can find ways to move to a new pot where the growth can occur with fewer impediments. It is also true that choices are often limited: we need to retain jobs that do not positively contribute to our growth or we are part of a family or tribe that restricts our healthy development.

Aside from the exterior environment in which we find ourselves, we have an interior landscape than no external force can touch. We are still responsible for providing an interior pot of soil for our faith development. Even in the worst environments, we can find time for silence and prayer. We have to learn how to use the silence because it can be awful deafening if we let our negative voices and other influential voices blare out God’s quiet but steady voice. Silence alone is not enough, we have to shape the dimensions of the silence and move pieces around so that the voice of God is familiar and steady. When we manage the silent sphere within us, God’s voice is much clearer to us – and we wonder where all the other noises went.

To alter our inner realm we must be skillful in processing the data we take in. It is good for us to see it as pieces of information that needs to be fit together before we make judgments. Sometimes our family systems give us a pattern of immediately judging something as it happens. We are negligent as Christians when we immediately judge. Sometimes sarcasm and criticism spews forth without our even being able to stop it and we tell ourselves, “I’m doing just what one of my parents did.” The Lord, however, is slow to anger and long-suffering. We need to do the same. We are much happier when we (1.) say nothing at all, and then (2.) cultivate a garden of patience. So, it often is not about the events we see that moves us away from being a kind person, it is the internal processes where we form judgments that is the problem. We can look at the same event and judge it harshly or compassionately. It is our choice to make. What type of soil do we want to be to help the Word of God grow?

Work hard to break those patterns that bring you unhappiness. If you notice you are quick to make a hard statement, bite your tongue. Keep your humor in check because it is often misunderstood and it often contains hints of anger. Once you speak harshly, you cannot retract it and you walk away feeling bad about yourself because the other person did not deserve your quick judgment. Bite your tongue. Keep silent. You must speak kind words instead. If you have the ability to quickly condemn, then you likewise have the same ability to build up and encourage.

When you find yourself ready to say something critical to a family member or colleague, find a way to compliment then on something particular instead. If you slip and say something bad, then make it up twice over to let the person know you care about them. Once you find you are deliberate in this practice, you will notice a whole change in our attitude and the way you are positively received by others. You’ll find that you are dramatically happier because you are a person who is promoting kindness. You are providing others with a rich, healthy soil in which to grow and flourish. This is the type of environment we want to find ourselves in for our own happiness. We can make a toxic environment better through our choices. Let’s be the rich, earthy soil that promotes kindness and goodwill. Let’s make the ground fertile so that the word of God can take root. It is a remarkable journey when we examine our growth and we also notice how much life we give to others through our words and many kindnesses.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Isaiah, the Lord tells the people about the type of life he would like them to live where sacrifices and offerings are not wanted, but living an upstanding moral life is desired. When Jerusalem could not be conquered, the Aramites sought to besiege it, but the Lord promised that over time, Ephraim would be crushed, no longer to be a nation. The Lord warns that Assyria will be conquered and then goes on to demonstrate his strength against other nations. The Lord then instructs the people telling them that the way of the just is smooth and is worthy to be taken. Those who choose to act unkindly will fall eventually torment and disfavor. As King Hezekiah lay dying, he repented of his wrongdoing and the Lord heard his prayers. He recovered to live another 15 years and Jerusalem was spared from the siege of the Assyrians. In Micah, the prophet says that those who plan iniquity will suffer terrible consequences and the Lord will plan evil against those who promote evil.

Gospel: Jesus tells his friends that joining his new family of faith will cause familial hardships and that hospitality is key to accepting God into their lives. Jesus chastises the towns where most of his mighty deeds were done because they failed to offer hospitality and acceptance. Jesus then spends some time with his disciples and praises God for all the blessings bestowed upon the simple ones of the world. He spends time with his friends and asks them to give over their burdens to him and take some rest. As Jesus was going through grain fields on the Sabbath, he and his disciples were criticized. They were simply eating for sustenance, and Jesus pointed out that David’s priests had set religious precedent, however, God’s claim was that mercy, not sacrifice, is desired. As the Pharisees set a death sentence against him, Jesus cured many people and taught them scripture. He also helped them see that God’s righteous servant is one who suffers.

Saints of the Week

July 13: Henry, king (972-1024) was a descendent of Charlemagne who became king of Germany and the Holy Roman Emperor. His wife had no offspring. He merged the church's affairs with the secular government and built the cathedral in the newly erected diocese of Bamberg. He was a just ruler who paid close attention to his prayer.

July 14: Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680) was the daughter of a Christian Algonquin mother and a non-Christian Mohawk chief. As a child, she contracted smallpox and was blinded and severely disfigured by it. She was baptized on Easter Sunday 1767 by Jesuit missionaries and was named after Catherine of Siena. She kept a strong devotion to the Eucharist and cared for the sick. She is named "the Lily of the Mohawks."

July 15: Bonaventure, bishop and Doctor (1221-1273), was given his name by Francis of Assisi to mean "Good Fortune" after he was cured of serious childhood illnesses. He joined the Franciscans at age 20 and studied at the University of Paris. Aquinas became his good friend. Bonaventure was appointed minister general of the Franciscans and was made a cardinal. He participated in the ecumenical council at Lyons to reunite the Greek and Latin rites. Aquinas died on the way to the council.

July 16: Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the patronal feast of the Carmelites. The day commemorates the day Simon Stock was given a brown scapular by Mary in 1251. In the 12th century, Western hermits settled on Mount Carmel overlooking the plain of Galilee just as Elijah did. These hermits built a chapel to Mary in the 13th century and began a life of solitary prayer.

July 18: Camillus de Lellis (1550-1614), began his youthful life as a soldier where he squandered away his father's inheritance through gambling. He was cared for by Capuchins, but was unable to join them because of a leg ailment. He cared for the sick in hospitals that were deplorable. He founded an order that would care for the sick and dying and for soldiers injured in combat.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Jul 13, 1556. Ignatius, gravely ill, handed over the daily governance of the Society to Juan de Polanco and Cristobal de Madrid.
·      Jul 14, 1523. Ignatius departs from Venice on his pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
·      Jul 15, 1570. At Avila, St Teresa had a vision of Blessed Ignatius de Azevedo and his companions ascending to heaven. This occurred at the very time of their martyrdom.
·      Jul 16, 1766. The death of Giusuppe Castiglione, painter and missionary to China. They paid him a tribute and gave him a state funeral in Peking (Beijing).
·      Jul 17, 1581. Edmund Campion was arrested in England.
·      Jul 18, 1973. The death of Fr. Eugene P Murphy. Under his direction the Sacred Heart Hour, which was introduced by Saint Louis University in 1939 on its radio station [WEW], became a nationwide favorite.
·      Jul 19, 1767. At Naples, Prime Minister Tannic, deprived the Jesuits of the spiritual care of the prisoners, a ministry that they had nobly discharged for 158 years.