Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze
Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
July 27, 2014
1 Kings 3:5, 7-12; Psalm 119; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52
Consider what it would be like if church leaders in genuine humility simply prayed, “Lord, give me, your servant, an understanding heart for I do not know how to act.” This sentiment certainly has the potential to win over the hearts of many faithful servants who look to the church for hope. Many want to trust the church and the humans in control of it, but they want to see a church that decides to follow in the footsteps of Jesus of Nazareth. They want to know that the compassion and mercy that flows from Christ’s heart will not be blocked by a pulmonary obstruction to the rest of the body. Christ’s blood must flow directly from Christ’s heart, through its members, so that it reaches each part of his body.
These words of seeking wisdom are paraphrased words of Solomon as he prepares to be anointed king of Israel. He realizes that, in his youthfulness, he does not yet possess wisdom and he knows he needs it above many other virtues such as long life, riches, and security from harmful enemies. He knows to place his trust in God and to rely upon his uniformed conscience to govern rightly a vast array of God’s people.
We can concede that it is challenging to govern a worldwide church that has many complex layers, misunderstood societal and cultural adaptations, and wide-ranging class and educational levels, but it could probably lead us to the same conclusion Solomon had: “I don’t have all the answers.” If our confusion were the starting point of theology, we would be in a better position to discern the truth rather than holding onto with certitude theological ground points from previous eras. Of course, many are drawn to the church because it contains certainty dating back to Jesus through the Apostles, while others are drawn to the search for divine truths because they find the truth in the journey’s process, that is, the searching and the striving.
An understanding heart does not lead to the current “wait and see” attitude by some bishops and cardinals that want to see how long this Pope’s health serves the church or if someone will assassinate him. The clericalism culture wants to know, “Do I follow Francis or do I simply wait a short time for this experiment to end?” As you notice, the focus is directed at oneself and not at the vast majority of people to whom this God-given servant is called to govern. Narcissistic? Maybe. Which is the reason we have to help our leaders govern more wisely and compassionately.
How would an understanding heart govern today? It begins by listening, case by case, to the faith experiences of the people. It means putting aside absolute judgments and sweeping teachings when you are dealing with a soul sitting in front you that is seeking guidance to live their faith rightly in a complex and confusing world. An understanding heart governs with mercy and compassion, which does not mean that the rules of faith no longer apply to them, but that we have to figure out how choices and teachings intersect and diverge. Understanding someone does not mean that we agree with the person’s free choice, but that we respect how she or he arrives at the decision. We give the person freedom to choose after helping him or her inform and develop one’s conscience, which is the primary arbiter in making moral choices. The governing principles are “to do no harm,” “to save the person’s soul,” and “that no undue burdens be placed upon the one who seeks a way to come closer in friendship to Jesus Christ.”
Jesus talks about the treasure that we find in a field that we want to sell all we have and buy that plot of land. Of course, Jesus is that treasure and he resides within our conscience. We therefore are to do all that we can to develop this treasure. We do it by informing our conscience, which means we are to do some serious study on our own. We have to educate ourselves and expose ourselves to different ideas, even those that may make us uncomfortable so that we can seek wisdom. If we only accept ideas that are similar to our own, we are not being ethical learners because we are reading only to further our arguments, but if we place ourselves in an environment where we strive to gain wisdom, we will increase our abilities to love and govern wisely.
Whether or not the church leadership provides it, we are called to make decisions with a compassionate heart that seeks to understand. Someone else needs the benefit of your decisions. If you are kind and loving, then all things will work for good for those who love God. The mercy you give today may bring a weary soul straight to the heart of God. I think it is worth the effort.
Themes for this Week’s Masses
First Reading: In Jeremiah, the Lord gives an example to the prophet of a rotting loincloth and then making parallels to the people of Judah because they have been a wicked people. Jeremiah cries each night without rest over the great destruction that is coming. He cries out to the Lord, “How can you do this to your own people? Remember your covenant with us.” He cries out to the universe and asks why his pain is continuous and the Lord asks him to repent so he can be restored. The Lord will then deliver and rescue him. ~ On the feast of Ignatius of Loyola, Jeremiah visits the Potter’s house upon the Lord’s command. God can shape and mold the house of Israel in any way he chooses because they are in the palm of God’s hand. ~ The Lord visits the king to tell him and his priests to listen to the words of Jeremiah and to lay no harm upon him, but the priests rose up around him and demanded a death sentence for him. Jeremiah spoke well and forthrightly. Ahikan, one of the princes, protected him because he was indeed a prophet.
Gospel: Jesus gives another parable about the Kingdom of heaven saying it is like a mustard seed – small at first, but blossoming into a huge plant in maturity. ~ On the feast of Martha, the industrious woman runs out to greet Jesus, who comes to pay condolences to her deceased brother, Lazarus. Martha places her trust in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world. ~ In yet another parable, Jesus says the Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field where one should apply all his resources in obtaining the field. ~ On the feast of Ignatius of Loyola, Jesus likens the kingdom to a dragnet thrown into the seas that collects al things that have to be sorted at the end of the day. ~ When Jesus returned to his native place, many were astonished, but most of the people disbelieved. He did not perform any of his great miracles there. Herod, the tetrarch, heard of the reputation of Jesus and wanted to see the signs he could perform. His advisors thought he might be John the Baptist raised from the dead.
Saints of the Week
July 29: Martha (1st century), is the sister of Mary and Lazarus of Bethany near Jerusalem. Martha is considered the busy, activity-attentive sister while Mary is more contemplative. Martha is known for her hospitality and fidelity. She proclaimed her belief that Jesus was the Christ when he appeared after Lazarus had died.
July 30: Peter Chrysologus, bishop and doctor (406-450), was the archbishop of Ravenna, Italy in the 5th century when the faithful became lax and adopted pagan practices. He revived the faith through his preaching. He was titled Chrysologus because of his 'golden words.'
July 31: Ignatius of Loyola, priest (1491-1556), is one of the founders of the Jesuits and the author of the Spiritual Exercises. As a Basque nobleman, he was wounded in a battle at Pamplona in northeastern Spain and convalesced at his castle where he realized he followed a methodology of discernment of spirits. When he recovered, he ministered to the sick and dying and then retreated to a cave at Manresa, Spain where he had experiences that formed the basis of The Spiritual Exercises. In order to preach, he studied Latin, earned a Master’s Degree at the University of Paris, and then gathered other students to serve Jesus. Francis Xavier and Peter Faber were his first friends. After ordination, Ignatius and his nine friends went to Rome where they formally became the Society of Jesus. Most Jesuits were sent on mission, but Ignatius stayed in Rome directing the rapidly growing religious order, composing its constitutions, and perfecting the Spiritual Exercises. He died in 1556 and the Jesuit Order was already 1,000 men strong.
August 1: Alphonsus Liguori, bishop and doctor(1696-1787), founded a band of mission priests that became the Redemptorists. He wrote a book called "Moral Theology" that linked legal aspects with kindness and compassion for others. He became known for his responsive and thoughtful way of dealing with confessions.
August 2: Peter Faber, S.J., priest and founder (1506-1546), was one of the original companions of the Society of Jesus. He was a French theologian and the first Jesuit priest and was the presider over the first vows of the lay companions. He became known for directing the Spiritual Exercises very well. He was called to the Council of Trent but died as the participants were gathering.
August 2: Eusebius of Vercelli, bishop (d. 371), was ordained bishop after becoming a lector. He attended a council in Milan where he opposed the Arians. The emperor exiled him to Palestine because he contradicted secular influences. He returned to his diocese where the emperor died.
August 2: Peter Julian Eymard, priest (1811-1868) left the Oblates when he became ill. When his father died, he became a priest and soon transferred into the Marists but left them to found the Blessed Sacrament Fathers to promote the significance of the Eucharist.
This Week in Jesuit History
· Jul 27, 1609. Pope Paul V beatifies Ignatius.
· Jul 28, 1564. In a consistory held before twenty-four Cardinals, Pope Paul IV announced his intention of entrusting the Roman Seminary to the Society.
· Jul 29, 1865. The death in Cincinnati, Ohio of Fr. Peter Arnoudt, a Belgian. He was the author of The Imitation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
· Jul 30, 1556. As he lay near death, Ignatius asked Juan de Polanco to go and obtain for him the blessing of the pope.
· Jul 31, 1556. The death in Rome of Ignatius Loyola.
· Aug 1, 1938. The Jesuits of the Middle United States, by Gilbert Garrigan was copyrighted. This monumental three-volume work followed the history of the Jesuits in the Midwest from the early 1820s to the 1930s.
· Aug 2, 1981. The death of Gerald Kelly, moral theologian and author of "Modern Youth and Chastity."