Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
July 20, 2014
Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Psalm 86; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13:24-43

Many values in our secular world are filled with the pursuit of power. We celebrate with Germany as they show they are the strongest football (soccer) team in the world, and we appreciate that the best basketball player on the planet, Lebron James, has returned home. We pursue money as safety and security and as a way to influence political and social decisions. We strive for the best and give awards to the top performers and we want to be part of a community that is the most successful at its craft. It is very natural to pursue power, but it is helpful for us to examine the ways real power is used.  

The Book of Wisdom draws our eyes to focus upon the ways God uses power: (1.) the Lord’s mastery over all things makes God lenient to all, (2.) the Lord’s perfection of power is used during those times when people disbelieve it, (3.) God judges and governs with clemency and acts in kindness. God does not use power to force or coerce, but uses it to give freedom to others to act responsibly. Neither force nor violence ever has the last word; true power lies in gentleness and mercy. These are the qualities the sage in Wisdom wants us to see in God so we can replicate this practice on earth.

The Gospel is an example of this use of freedom. In the parable of the seed sown in hostile fields, the Master of the household warns the servants not to pull up the weeds because the plants of the good seed can be destroyed in the process. The first message in ministry and service is ‘to do no harm.’ God’s care extends to the solitary good plant that is struggling to survive in a harmful environment. All must be done to protect that plant from others who eclipse and stunt its growth. All laws in society ought to care for the most vulnerable in society. No person who is striving to live rightly ought to be cut off from God’s grace, but we have responsibility to help the person access it.

Let’s look at ways real power can be used in life. Israel, which certainly has tremendous military power, can show its strength not by obliterating Hamas in Gaza, but by extending an olive branch that leads to peace. Reconciliation and forgiveness are many times more powerful than brute force. Speeding your car along to bulldoze your way onto the exit ramp does not show as much power as realizing your mistake and taking the next exit safely. Repeatedly saying ‘hello’ to someone who refuses to talk with you shows more adaptability than the one who closes in on herself. Building for yourself a culture of the godly virtues of welcome, compassion, understanding, and tolerance will trickle over into the way people start to interact with you. If you show people an accessible, easily-imitated way of living, they will model their lives after yours because they intuitively know it is the right way to act. It is the Golden Rule. It is the way we way God to act towards us, and we have to want to act that ways towards others.

It is easy today to live anonymously because global corporations have become people where underpaid employees are expendable because they are merely numbers and expenses. Internationally, proxy governments wage wars on foreign soils. Locally, we see many cars and big SUV’s on the road and we cannot see the person behind the wheel. People relate to people, not to machines. The online world makes it possible that we send messages to many electronic messaging systems, but we may not have a real conversation with a live person throughout the day. Once familiar neighborhoods are now next to shopping malls where hundreds of consumers pass into large-scale stores without any claim to living in the district. Because of all these factors, our Christian virtuous standards are in more demand than ever before. Bringing our humanity into a technologically powerful world will allow us to see God’s power ironically at work.

In a world where many feel disconnected and disaffected, it is our responsibility to offer them a glimpse of God’s true power. We have to acknowledge the enormous influences in life that dictate many of our decisions, and we can also acknowledge our freedom to create a world around us built upon God’s criteria for right living. The world may smack us down in some ways, but we retain our dignity when we go out of our way to make it a little more humane for others. When we do have might and influence, it remains up to us to use it rightly. We always retain our ability to be kind and compassionate, to heal, and to encourage. Weeds sown by the enemy may be all around us, but we can choose to thrive as best we can. The final judgment, and all the intermediary judgments leading up to it, is not up to us. It frees us up to build a world where we can love well and often and then let God do all the rest. If we trust enough in God, we will be free enough to respond as divinely as we can – and that makes all the difference in the world. We will sleep well every night.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Micah, the prophet instructs them to listen to Lord who has a plea against them. The just person will do right before the Lord, will love goodness, and will walk humbly with God. The just one trusts in the Lord each day for governance for there is no other god quite as compassionate and caring as the God of Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac. In Jeremiah, God destined the prophet since the womb to be faithful and to speak fervently on the Lord’s behalf. The Lord remembers Israel’s devotion since her youth where she loved the Lord as a bride does her groom. She followed him in the desert faithfully, but turned away and defiled the land. ~ On the feast of St. James, 2 Corinthians reminds us that we are earthen vessels that are easily broken, but the surpassing power of God will endure. ~ Jeremiah stands at the gates of the city and proclaims that people must give up Baal and are to reform their ways if they are to follow the Lord.

Gospel: Jesus balks when the scribes and Pharisees ask for a sign that he is from God. No sign will be given because in front of them is something greater than Solomon or Jonah. ~On the feast of Mary Magadene, she is found at the tomb weeping for the deceased Jesus but his body has been taken. She asks the gardener if he knows where the boy lay and Jesus speaks familiarly to Mary. ~ Jesus went down to the shore and began to teach in parables. He taught them about the seed sown in different types of soils. When the disciples asked why he teaches in parables, he tells them that some can hear, but others cannot so it is imperative to speak to those who try to understand while giving the common person a way of understanding basic truths. ~ On the feast of St. James, the mother of the Zebedee boys petition Jesus to hold the places of honor in the kingdom. They ask to drink the cup of suffering and Jesus obliges to give it to them. ~ In another parable, Jesus likens the Kingdom of Heaven to the good seed sown in a field where the enemy has sown cockle. The seed is to grow and flourish amidst the weeds while awaiting the final thrashing.

Saints of the Week

July 20: Apollinaris, bishop and martyr (1st century) was chosen directly by Peter to take care of souls in Ravenna. He lived through the two emperors whose administrations exiled and tortured him, though he was faithful to his evangelizing work to his death.

July 21: Lawrence of Brindisi, priest and doctor (1559-1619) was a Capuchin Franciscan who was proficient in many languages and well-versed in the Bible. He was selected by the pope to work for the conversion of the Jews and to fight the spread of Protestantism. He held many positions in the top administration of the Franciscans.

July 22: Mary Magdalene, apostle (1st century), became the "apostle to the apostles" as the first witness of the resurrection. Scriptures point to her great love of Jesus and she stood by him at the cross and brought spices to anoint his body after death. We know little about Mary though tradition conflates her with other biblical woman. Luke portrays her as a woman exorcised of seven demons.

July 23: Bridget of Sweden, religious (1303-1373), founded the Bridgettine Order for men and women in 1370, though today only the women’s portion has survived. She desired to live in a lifestyle defined by prayer and penance. Her husband of 28 years died after producing eight children with Bridget. She then moved to Rome to begin the new order.

July 24: Sharbel Makhuf, priest (1828-1898), joined a monastery in the Maronite tradition and lived as a hermit for 23 years after living fifteen years in the community. He became known for his wisdom and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

July 25: James, Apostle (1st century), is the son of Zebedee and the brother of John. As fishermen, they left their trade to follow Jesus. They occupied the inner circle as friends of Jesus. James is the patron of Spain as a shrine is dedicated to him at Santiago de Compostela. He is the patron of pilgrims as many walk the Camino en route to this popular pilgrim site.

July 26: Joachim and Anne, Mary's parents (1st century) are names attributed to the grandparents of Jesus through the Proto-Gospel of James. These names appeared in the Christian tradition though we don't know anything with certitude about their lives. Devotion of Anne began in Constantinople in the 6th century while Joachim gained acclaim in the West in the 16th century. He was revered in the Eastern churches since the earliest times.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Jul 20, 1944. An abortive plot against Adolf Hitler by Claus von Stauffenberg and his allies resulted in the arrest of Fr. Alfred Delp.
·      Jul 21, 1773. In the Quirinal Palace, Rome, the Brief for the suppression of the Society was signed by Clement XIV.
·      Jul 22, 1679. The martyrdom at Cardiff, Wales, of St Phillip Evans.
·      Jul 23, 1553. At Palermo, the parish priests expressed to Fr. Paul Achilles, rector of the college, indignation that more than 400 persons had received Holy Communion in the Society's church, rather than in their parish churches.
·      Jul 24, 1805. In Maryland, Fr. Robert Molyneux was appointed the first superior by Father General Gruber.
·      Jul 25, 1581. In the house of the Earl of Leicester in London, an interview occurred between Queen Elizabeth and Edmund Campion. The Queen could scarcely have recognized the worn and broken person before her as the same brilliant scholar who had addressed here at Oxford 15 years before.
·      Jul 26, 1872. At Rome, the greater part of the Professed House of the Gesu was seized and appropriated by the Piedmontese government.