Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze
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Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time
August 17, 2014
Isaiah 56:1, 6-7; Psalm 67; Romans 11:13-15, 29-32; Matthew 15:21-28


Marvel at the effects of compassion. Many of us identify with this Canaanite woman who petitions to be heard, seen, known, and fed by the one who can fill her needs. She, of course, is acting on behalf of her demonically possessed daughter and her persistence leads to getting what she needs for her dear child. She forces Jesus to respond to her and because he does, his whole philosophy of life has changed. He has his Christmas Carol moment when his heart grows leaps and bounds for the plight of the road-weary foreigner.

Conversation is the vehicle for compassion. Conversation conveys an action – a turning towards the other person where hearts and minds become actively engaged in their world of another. At first, Jesus shuts down the conversation. He will not talk to this woman because conversation is often identified with compromise. After all, she is a foreigner and she does not fit into his cultural categories for acceptable relations. This silence closes down the relationship and does not allow anyone to move forward. We probably all know someone who will not talk to us because of their passive aggression. The person simply closes themselves off from growth and reconciliation holding onto a silence filled with clamorous noise. Rather, they hold onto their anger as a show of control. Sadly, they are the ones who fail to advance in understanding and mercy.

As this woman keeps Jesus in dialogue about her needs, she leads Jesus to cast his compassion upon her. “Have pity upon me,” she pleads. She softens the hardline, absolutist approach of the mission of Jesus to one in which he honors the person standing before him and has great regard for her. His conservatism moves to a more progressive mission. He allows this foreigner to teach him about his mission and he gains wisdom formed not by ideals, but by one’s lived hardships.

Suffering is a great teacher. He holds her suffering in his hands and learns about the love of God for her and her people. As he gazes upon her and beholds this broken, desperate woman, he is able to see something other than he foreignness, something more, something greater. He sees that she is just like the Jews to whom his mission sends him – a person of faith trying to live rightly with God and her neighbors, a person who desires salvation perhaps more than others, a person who places trust in a God who sends to her a man she knows will reject her, and yet she trusts. He extols her faith as a model for all and then he does something surprising: he treats her with affection. He calls her: O woman. Not a singular woman, but a model woman of faith.

In our church and society we see categories of people that we include or exclude rather than perceiving them as individuals with unique stories. We make large swatches of people into foreigners that we hold at arm’s length away from us. Isaiah surprises us when he observes foreigners joyfully worshipping God with great zeal and he welcomes them into his house of prayer, which is for all peoples. Paul likewise delights that the foreign Gentiles are brought into the faith and he wants to playfully make the Jews jealous so that the Jews commit more fervently to the faith. When our hearts expand to hold the differences that we find in another person, we become more richly blessed with wisdom and mercy. Paul says mercy and compassion are what it is all about.  

Examine the attitudes you have about categories of people you place on the outside of your world. What wisdom might you gain if you had a conversation with one of these people? The beauty of the process is that we lose control over our world and our categories and we cannot chart where we will be led. Certainly, it will be uncomfortable for us, just as it was for Jesus who initially wanted nothing to do with that foreign woman. The journey becomes a mystery tour of discovery where we end up holding ourselves open to understand others and ourselves more roundly. Mercy leads to compassion; compassion leads to affection; affection leads to solidarity. We are one people united in the Lord and in our house, whether we yet like it or not, all are welcome. Let us go onwards and upwards on this discovery tour of the perplexing contours of our hearts. Let us pray that our hearts may grow exponentially in grace and beauty.

 Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Ezekiel, the Lord is taking away from the prophet the delight of his eyes, but the prophet is not to mourn. Ezekiel’s wife died and he did not outwardly show his grief. He was held up as an example to others as one who was rotting from the inside out. The Lord continues to speak hard words to the prophet. He says to the Son of Man, “you are not a God, but a man,” and destruction will come to you. He tells him to prophesy against the shepherds of Israel who are out for their own gain. God himself with be their shepherd and the sheep will trust him. The Lord led Ezekiel to a plain where dry bones were laying all over a field. The Lord said that he can bring these dry bones to life. He will give them flesh and a new heart and he will put his spirit into them. They will be his people and he will be their God. The angel of God led him to the edge of the Temple where he saw water flowing forth from the Temple in every direction. This life-giving water restored life to all the lands it reached.

Gospel: A young man approached Jesus and asked about gaining eternal life. Jesus tells him to sell all that he has and give to the poor as a sign of his rejection of worldly values. Jesus then explains that it is harder for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom on heaven, but those who have given up everything for the sake of Jesus will be rewarded abundantly in heaven. Jesus told the crowd a parable of a vineyard owner who paid everyone the same wage for their labors. While some were disgruntled, they missed the point that God is a fair and generous land-owner who wants to give to everyone abundantly. A law scholar approached Jesus and asked what he would interpret as the greatest commandment. When he answered rightly, Jesus was well pleased for the law of love depends upon the legal law and the prophets. Jesus attacked the motives of the Pharisses and Scribes for they teach and place heavy demands upon others, but they do not follow their own teaching. Their teaching is good, but they are not worthy shepherds of Israel.

Saints of the Week

August 18: Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, S.J., priest (1901-1952), was a Chilean Jesuit priest, lawyer, writer and social worker who was born in the Basque region in Spain. He established Hogar de Cristo, that housed at-risk children, whether orphaned or not, and provided them food and shelter. Hurtado also supported the rise of labor union and labor rights in Chile.

August 19: John Eudes, priest (1601-1680) preached missions, heard confessions, and assisted the sick and dying. He founded a new religious order for women, which includes Our Lady of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters. He eventually left the Oratorians to found the Congregation of Jesus and Mary. 

August 20: Bernard, Abbot and Doctor (1090-1153) became a Benedictine abbey in Citeaux because of its strict observance. He was sent to set up a new monastery in Clairvaux with 12 other monks. He wrote theological treatises, sermons, letters, and commentaries that dominated the thought of Europe. His writings had a tremendous influence of Catholic spirituality.

August 21: Pius X, pope (1835-1914), was an Italian parish priest for 17 years before he became bishop of Mantua, the cardinal patriarch of Venice, and eventually pope. He urged frequent communion for adults, sacramental catechesis for children, and continued education for everyone. He is known for rigid political policies that put him at odds with a dynamically changing world that led to World War I.

August 22: The Queenship of Mary concludes the octave of the principal feast of Mary as she celebrates her installation as queen and mother of all creation. This feast was placed on our calendar in 1954 following the dogmatic proclamation of the Assumption.

August 23: Rose of Lima (1586-1617) was the first canonized saint of the New World. She had Spanish immigrant parents in Lima. Rose joined the Dominicans and lived in her parents' garden to support them while she took care of the sick and the poor. As a girl, she had many mystical experiences as she practiced an austere life. She also had many periods of darkness and desolation.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Aug. 17, 1823: Fr. Van Quickenborne and a small band of missionaries descended the Missouri River to evangelize the Indians at the request of the bishop of St. Louis. On this date in 1829, the College of St. Louis opened.
·      Aug. 18, 1952: The death of Alberto Hurtado, writer, retreat director, trade unionist and founder of "El Hogar de Christo," a movement to help the homeless in Chile.
·      Aug. 19, 1846: At Melgar, near Burgos, the birth of Fr. Luis Martin, 24th General of the Society.
·      Aug. 20, 1891: At Santiago, Chile, the government of Balmaceda ordered the Jesuit College to be closed.
·      Aug. 21, 1616: At Pont a Mousson in Lorraine died Fr. William Murdoch, a Scotchman, who when only 10 years of age was imprisoned seven months for the faith and cruelly beaten by the order of a Protestant bishop. St. Ignatius is said to have appeared to him and encouraged him to bear the cross bravely.
·      Aug. 22, 1872: Jesuits were expelled from Germany during the Bismarckian Kulturkampf.

·      Aug. 23, 1558: In the First General Congregation, the question was discussed about the General's office being triennial, and the introduction of Choir, as proposed by Pope Paul IV, and it was decreed that the Constitutions ought to remain unaltered.