Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
July 6, 2014
Zechariah 9:9-10; Psalm 145; Romans 8:9, 11-13; Matthew 11:25-30

For those of us enjoying good weather in the Northern Hemisphere, summer is a time of relaxation and recreation. We can let work’s pressing demands take a back seat to family vacations and time with friends, especially when we spend an evening eating outdoors while watching the sun set on these long days of light and warmth. Yes, it is quite fun to laugh and share stories, but it is the silence that allows for the meaningful moments to surface. Those breaks in activities and conversations allow us to become aware that a greater presence is around us. These are the time we recognize the beauty in the person sitting across from us and we have time and space to recognize God’s silent, but assured presence.

To emphasize the importance of silence, every meeting we conducted in the corporate world had a built in two minute silence. At first this silence seemed terribly long and we could not wait for it to break, but soon people began to recognize how swiftly that time passed and that the silence contained a flurry of activities that rose to the surface more easily. The silence respected the internal processes introverts go through, it allowed no one’s agenda to dominate and it neutralized possible manipulative processes, it ensured everyone had a voice if one chose to speak, and best of all, it allowed new ideas and concepts to surface so common objectives could be met. To say the least, what we discovered in the silence always surprised us.

 Building down times into our schedule is crucial for our ability to hold onto and generate gratitude. Prayer is one of those constants in our day that keeps us rooted and grounded in God, who is always Other than us, and we emerge from that experience grateful for something, even if it is a chance to safely vent about the day’s concerns. Rest is always a quality of prayer, even if we fill it with stream-of-conscious babbling.

Deliberately setting boundaries around these downtimes is helpful because you have to choose what you need for your own space. It again becomes a distinction between the ‘good’ and the ‘right.’ It may be good to do many things that others want to do with you under the guise of recreation and enjoyment, but it might not be what you need for relaxation. You need to plan your week according to what you need, which includes building in time for your activities. Therefore, when you are asked if you are free on a particular day of the week, you can always say, “I am not available. I already have something planned at that time. Maybe next time. Thanks for the offer.” It prevents you from being carried away according to someone else’s plan, even though these offers are filled with goodwill and fun.  You will not regret taking charge of your life. These moments for ourselves give us the time to reflect upon our lives and to create a culture of gratitude.

Jesus included those down times into his ministry. In Matthew’s Gospel, we encounter him taking a break with his friends to enjoy their company. First, he simply enjoys that they are with him. It is a good motto to remember that we have to be ‘with’ someone, this is to get to know them on their time, before we can be ‘for’ them, which is a ministry of service. Relationships are strengthened when we get to know each other’s stories.

Jesus knows the life’s challenges are extreme for many people. Anytime you attentively listen to someone else’s story, you can hear their cry for a savior. As I left the Kingdom of Jordan, I heard many pleas from people who want me to get them a visa so they can escape from their oppressive reality. Their cries were from deep within because they know they cannot live according to the potential for which they were created and they yearn for their self-actualization in freedom and grace. The final text I received from one man was a reiteration of many pleas I heard, but it was still a heartbreaker. It read, “Don’t leave me here.”

Many are desperately searching for a savior to magical lift them out of their confining prison structures, and I want them to realize that we already have a savior who is accessible to them. He is the one who beckons, “Come to me all who are weary and whose load is heavy and I will give you rest for your souls.” Every day we have the opportunity to tell our savior what we need and want. Just doing this daily will lighten our loads because we will feel heard, valued, and known, and we will walk away from this time together filled with a deepening gratitude. Building in the time to do this will save our lives because our savior does want to save us daily – from ourselves and from others. We owe it to ourselves to make time for this conversation because it is the most important task we can do. It is a matter of life or death. Choose life – because you are worth it.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Hosea, the Lord speaks of Israel as a beautiful wife. He will allure her into the desert and speak to her heart and he will win her over. The Lord claims that Israel has done many things like other nations, but they failed to consult the Lord or to ask for his counsel. Therefore, because they turned away, they have been treated like a harlot, but the Lord still finds beauty in her. He knows that destruction will come to them because of their sinfulness and they shall one day repent of their misdeeds. The Lord longingly claims, “When Israel was a children I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son.” His heart feels overwhelmed and his pity is stirred so that he will not give vent to his blazing anger for He is God and not human. The Lord asks Israel to return to the Lord with all his heart so that he can forgive the people’s sins. He will profess his love for them and set them aright. In Isaiah, the prophet was given a chance to see the heavenly liturgy and he became radically aware of his sinfulness. When an angel of the Lord cleansed his tongue, he responded to the call of the Lord who asked, “Whom shall I send?”  “Here I am,” he said, “Send me.”

Gospel: As Jesus was speaking, an official came forward to tell him of his young daughter’s death. He was convinced that if Jesus laid his hands on her, she would live again. They went to the official’s house where he took her by the hand and the little girl arose. A demoniac was then brought to Jesus and when the demon was driven out, people exclaimed that they never saw anything like this in Israel before. Jesus went to all the neighboring towns and villages proclaiming the Gospel and curing every disease and illness. Jesus then summoned his Twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits and to cure just as he did. He named the Twelve and gave them instructions to visit the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The Twelve were to proclaim, “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” They are to go where they are offered hospitality and where peace is present, they should stay and live simply. He is sending them forth like sheep in the midst of wolves and he tells them to be shrewd and simple. Persecutions will come their way, but the spirit of Jesus will be with them in those times they are hated, but they are to remain faithful to their mission. He encourages them and asks them not to be afraid because God will see everything that they do. No harm shall come to the little ones of God.

Saints of the Week

July 6: Maria Goretti, martyr (1890-1902) was a poor farm worker who was threatened by Alessandro, a 20-year old neighbor. When she rebuffed his further advances, he killed her, but on her deathbed, she forgave him. He later testified on her behalf during her beatification process, which occurred in 1950.

July 9: Augustine Zhao Rong, priest and companions, Chinese martyrs (1648-1930) were 120 Chinese martyrs that included priests, children, parents, catechists and common laborers. Christians were persecuted throughout Chinese history. Augustine Zhao Rong was a diocesan priest who was brought to the faith after the example of the French missionary bishop Dufresse. Zhao Rong was arrested in 1815 and died in prison.

July 9: Leo Mangan, S.J.

July 11: Benedict, Abbot (480-547), was educated in Rome, but left after a few years to take on a life of solitude. He became a monk at Subiaco and lived alone, but his lifestyle developed followers so he built 12 monasteries for them. He left to found a monastery at Monte Cassino where he wrote his Rule that became a standard for Western monasticism. He adopted the practices of the austere Desert Fathers for community life and emphasized moderation, humility, obedience, prayer, and manual labor. 

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Jul 6, 1758. The election to the papacy of Clement XIII who would defend the Society against the Jansenists and the Bourbon Courts of Europe.
·      Jul 7, 1867. The beatification of the 205 Japanese Martyrs, 33 of them members of the Society of Jesus.
·      Jul 8, 1767. D'Aubeterre wrote to De Choiseul: "It is impossible to obtain the Suppression from the Pope [Clement XIII]; it must be wrested from him by occupying papal territory."
·      Jul 9, 1763. The Society is expelled from New Orleans and Louisiana at the bidding of the French government.
·      Jul 10 , 1881. Fr. Frederick Garesche' wrote from Sequin, Texas, to his Superior: "The cowboys who had not deigned at first to lift their hat to the priest or missionary; who had come to the mission as to a camp meeting, for the fun of the thing, gave in, and their smiles and awkward salutes showed that they had hearts under their rude exterior."
·      Jul 11, 1809. After Pius VII had been dragged into exile by General Radet, Fr. Alphonsus Muzzarrelli SJ, his confessor, was arrested in Rome and imprisoned at Civita Vecchia.

·      Jul 12, 1594. In the French Parliament Antoine Arnauld, the Jansenist, made a violent attack on the Society, charging it with rebellious feelings toward King Henry IV and with advocating the doctrine of regicide.