Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
August 10, 2014
1 Kings 19:9, 11-13; Psalm 85; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:22-33

The main characters in Matthew’s Gospel and the Elijah passage in 1 Kings give us images of men caught in the midst of swirling storms who learn something new about God. On Mount Horeb, Elijah, after fleeing for his life, takes refuge in a cave. God, at that time, was thought to be active in storms and natural calamities such as fires and earthquakes, but Elijah learns that God is not in the wind and crushing rocks or earthquakes or fire. God is found in the tiny whispering sound of silence. Elijah walks out of his refuge to meet this God of calmness. After all those catastrophic events occur, God’s tiny voice is heard.   

In the Gospel, Jesus, whose mourning the death of John the Baptist is interrupted by the hungry crowds, finally takes time by himself to grieve and pray on the nearby mountain. The disciples who earlier set off in a boat to cross Tiberias Sea are beset by a storm that threatens their lives. As Jesus approaches them by walking on the sea, they lose fear of the storm because they cannot comprehend that their friend is defying natural law. They fear Jesus instead. Jesus encourages them even to the point that the bold Peter wants to walk on water just as his friend is able, but when the storm picks up again, Peter doubts. After the storm passes, the disciples learn something new about their friend – that he possesses power over the natural world. Once again, after the wind dies down, God’s presence is more discernable in the calm after the storm. God’s voice is clearer and more articulate.

Peter and Elijah give us permission to doubt. Elijah waits to meet God, who does not appear as Elijah expects. He doubts that God will show up to speak to him. It is only after he is able to calm down that he can hear God approach him. Similarly, Peter’s initial enthusiasm is lost once he turns his eyes away from Jesus and pays attention to the worsening storm. When his focus turns to his surrounding environment, he sinks to the point of peril. God accepts doubt as part of faith and uses it to strengthen our inmost calm.

We think we are weak because we doubt, but doubt often is the pathway for deeper faith. We always become stronger when we wrestle with faith and wonder about God’s real presence to us. We seldom look at what is behind the doubt. Is our doubt based on intellectual curiosity about God’s relevance in the modern world? That will lead us to a partial and frustrated search for God. We want rational, convincing answers that we know no one is able to satisfactorily give us. We often place ourselves in God’s domain as the one who judges rightly. Is it is cynical doubt that helps bat away any opposing ideas about the reality of God? This approach will keep us very distant from God because we simply do not want God, the church, or any convincing arguments to sway us back into the prescribed path of an institutionalized structure. Our fight might be with organized institutions rather than with God and we protect ourselves by rejecting our church. Is our doubt based upon fear that we may be asked to change something within ourselves? Always contained within fear is an invitation to come to peace and to obtain a new understanding of an incomprehensible reality. Always embedded within doubt is the capacity to trust God more fully.

Elijah and Peter are taken aback when they are confronted with a new reality about God. God speaks to Elijah in a soft way that he can accept outright. Peter is asked to banish his fear and to entrust his safety to Jesus. We all are asked to evolve in some capacity in order to get a more comprehensive view of our relationship to God, but we have to ask, “What is my fundamental attitude towards my personal growth in my faith?” Am I open to it, do I fear something I cannot yet pinpoint, do I want to bother with it at all? Our answer to these questions will determine how much we allow ourselves to grow. These growing pains are our doubts as we wrestle with moving forward. If we can embrace these struggles, realize God wants to reveal something new about our relationship while bringing us peace, and trust that my discomfort today will not last too long, we will accept the wonderful invitations that God extends to us. We make God’s job much easier because too often we are fighting a battle we cannot win because God will eventually draw every doubter to God’s own heart.

So, when you doubt, doubt courageously knowing that it will bring you to new places. Share your unsettled questions with your friends and family who want to know what you are going through. Ask God for what you need and you will certainly hear God’s voice, but beware, you will probably not find it in the storm or the wind or the earthquake. It is not in the fire. It is in the quiet that follows the whisper. So, keep calm and carry on and you will find yourself moving onward and upward into Christ’s loving embrace.

 Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Ezekiel, the prophet sees figures that resemble four living creatures, but their form was human. On a throne was the appearance of a man who was surrounded with splendor. The hand of the Lord reached out to Ezekiel to unroll a scroll that read, “Lamentation and wailing and woe.” Ezekiel ate the scroll as commanded, which tasted very sweet like honey. The glory of the Lord descended upon the Holy City with a destroying weapon to strike down those who practiced abominations. After those who deplored the abominations were marked with “Thau” on their foreheads, the glory of the Lord left the temple and rested on the cherubim. Ezekiel was asked to act as an example for Israel. He was to appear as one who is to shoulder the burdens of many, to set out in darkness going through a hole he dug out in the wall, and covering his face lest he be seen by anyone. ~ On the feast of the Assumptions, a Mary-like figure appears in Revelation in front of a fire-consuming dragon. When she delivers her son, both are swept up in safety to the heavens. ~ The Lord does not punish children for the sins of their fathers. If a person is virtuous, that person shall surely live. Each person will be judged according to his ways as every individual is responsible for his or her own actions.

Gospel: Jesus gathers his disciples in Galilee and tells them he will be handed over. Just then, Temple tax collectors came and Jesus tells Peter to take the first fish he catches, open its mouth to find a coin worth twice the temple tax. Give it to them for the two of them. Jesus asks, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom?” and he took a child, placed him on his lap, and declared the young one as the ones who are not be exalted, not despised. He then tells them to settle disputes with their brothers before they reach the courts. Forgiveness is one of the most important virtues within the Kingdom of God. Peter questions the teachings of Jesus on forgiveness and Jesus responds by telling a parable of a King who returned from a trip and wanted to settle with his servants. The one who forgives is worthy to enter the kingdom. ~ On the feast of the Assumption, Mary sings her Magnificat when Elizabeth notices that she is carrying her Lord in her womb. ~ Children once again are brought to Jesus because he warns his disciples never to obstruct their path to him.

Saints of the Week

August 10: Lawrence, deacon and martyr (d. 258) was martyred four days after Pope Sixtus II and six other deacons during the Valerian persecution. A beautiful story is told about Lawrence's words. When asked to surrender the church's treasure, Lawrence gathered the poor and presented them to the civil authorities. For this affront, he was martyred. He is the patron of Rome.

August 11: Clare, founder (1193-1253), was inspired by Francis of Assist so much that she fled her home for his community to receive the Franciscan habit on Passion Sunday 1212. She lived in a nearby Benedictine convent until she was made superior of a new community in San Damiano. She practiced radical poverty by wearing no shoes, sleeping on the ground, and giving up meat.

August 12: Jane Frances de Chantal, religious (1572-1641), founded the Congregation of the Visitation with her spiritual advisor, Francis de Sales. This congregation was for women who wanted to live in religious life, but without the austerity of the other orders. Jane was married to a Baron with whom she had six children and she sought religious answers to her suffering. Her order established eighty-five convents dedicated to serving the poor before she died.

August 13: Pontian, pope and martyr and Hippolytus, priest and martyr (d.236). Pontian's papacy was interrupted by a persecution when the Roman Emperor Maximinus arrested him and his rival, Hippolytus, and banished them to Sardinia. Pontian resigned so another pope could succeed him. Hippolytus, who formed a schismatic group and claimed to be the real pope, reconciled with the church before he and Pontian were martyred.

August 14: Maximilian Kolbe, priest and martyr (1894-1941), was born in Russian-occupied Poland. He entered the Franciscans in 1910 and preached the gospel with his devotion to Mary in Poland and Japan. When the Nazis conquered Poland in 1939, he ministered to thousands of refugees. He was arrested, sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. When a prisoner escaped and retaliation was sought, Kolbe offered himself to replace one of the ten randomly chosen men to be executed.

August 15: The Assumption of Mary is the principal feast of Mary with her Queenship celebrated at the end of the octave. This feast celebrates that she was taken up to heaven, body and soul, at the end of her earthly life. The Council of Ephesus in 431 proclaimed her Mother of God and devotion of her dormition followed afterwards.

August 16: Stephen of Hungary (975-1038) tried to unite the Magyar families and was able to establish the church in Hungary through Pope Sylvester II's support. Rome crowed Stephen as the first king in 1001 and he instituted many reforms in religious and civil practices. He built churches and trained local clergy.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Aug 10, 1622. Blessed Augustine Ota, a Japanese brother, was beheaded for the faith. He had been baptized by Blessed Camillus Costanzi on the eve of the latter's martyrdom.
·      Aug 11, 1846. The death of Benedict Joseph Fenwick. He was the second bishop of Boston, twice the president of Georgetown, and the founder of the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts.
·      Aug 12, 1877. The death of Fr. Maurice Gailland. He was an expert in languages and spent many years at St Mary's Mission in Kansas. He wrote a dictionary and grammar of the Potawatomi language.
·      Aug 13, 1621. The death in Rome of St John Berchmans. He died while still in studies, preparing for a public disputation.
·      Aug 14, 1812. Napoleon I and his army arrived at Polosk, in White Russia. They plunder the property of the Society and violate the tombs of the Generals.
·      Aug 15, 1821. Fr. Peter DeSmet sailed from Amsterdam to America. He hoped to work among the Native Americans. He became the best known missionary of the northwest portion of the United States.
·      Aug. 15, 1955: The Wisconsin Province was formed from the Missouri Province and the Detroit Province was formed from the Chicago province.

·      Aug. 16, 1649: At Drogheda, Fr. John Bath and his brother, a secular priest, were shot in the marketplace by Cromwell's soldiers.