Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time
August 24, 2014
Isaiah 22:19-23; Psalm 138; Romans 11:33-36; Matthew 16:13-20

As I read the daily news of mass destruction in Gaza, Ukraine, Iraq, and Syria, I wonder what it will be like when they begin to rebuild. New houses, commercial buildings, roads and infrastructure will be constructed for residents, but the question that emerges is, “Who gets the contracts?” The new jobs will be discreetly given to particular companies and workers. When you put up buildings, the last exterior portions are doors and windows that will allow some people in and keep out most others. A key is given to those new doors to select people. Access is the advantage.

In Isaiah, the Lord says to Shebna, the soon-to-be-overthrown master of the new palace, “I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut; when he shuts, no one shall open.” Jesus tells Peter that he will build his house, his church, upon Peter’s faith and that Peter will be the guardian of the key with the terrific powers of access that it provides. We have to remember that for many, denying people access to the church is to deny them access to God. We therefore need to remember that we ought not to place undue burdens upon a person as they seek to integrated God sacramentally and communally into their lives.

Our actions have long-lasting effects on the church and society when we adhere too rigidly to rules without regard for the person standing in front of us. Do our actions lubricate or agitate society? It is far easier to lubricate, to work with what we have and to find ways to make something work than it is to agitate, to step on the brakes and place obstacles along the path. When driving in traffic, it is simply easier to let the annoying driver who is using her blinker access to get right in front of you when it would be more advantageous for her to be behind you. Let her in. Go with the flow and stop fighting it. You’ll get to your destination. You may be right in denying her that privilege, but at what cost to you both. Let her into traffic rather than creating anger and road rage. The same goes with the church. Find ways to help people come to mass, to get marriages regularized, to have children baptized, and to educate the people on the positive role the church can have in their lives. Talking about forms and the rules will keep people far away because they would rather not bother with necessary protocols. A smoother system with less fighting makes everyone happier.

We need to know when to agitate. Peter was not entrusted with the keys just to let people in; they are also meant to lock. Doors that are closed might need to be opened through agitation. During the past decade, the laity has learned to speak with various voices when their normal voices are not heard. They withhold money, speak with media professionals, remain vigilant in shuttered buildings, and assert pressure at pastoral and finance council meetings. Some speak with their feet and go elsewhere or nowhere at all and some speak with the power of the purse. No one ever disputes that rules are needed, but the style our church leaders present to the laity determines whether they want doors opened or closed. Just a few years ago, bishops were gleefully saying they want a smaller, purer, more obedient church that follows their commands without question. With the emphasis on style coming from Pope Francis these days, that rhetoric has ceased.

With Christ, we continue to build the church founded upon Peter’s faith. Have we sufficiently reflected upon what we want to build? …what Christ wants us to build? As members of the church, we hold the keys to permit or deny access. Our styles will determine whether we are open or not. Peter was open when he answered the question Jesus asked him because he did not rely upon traditional answers, like, “You are John the Baptist, Jeremiah, or Elijah.” No, Peter had to think for himself and let his experience of his friend dictate his answer. He said, “Dear Jesus, you are my Christ! You are more than all the others. You are the Son of the Living God.” Because Peter was free enough to think differently, he could see the possibilities that were open before him. Like Peter, we must always look for the possibilities. They may lead us to uncomfortable opposition, but because we are people of classy style, we can lead others along the path the matters most – to the heart of God through Jesus Christ. For from him and through him and for him are all things. Any path we are on can lead us to Christ; we have to be playfully adventurous enough to find our unique way, but let it lead you back to the church where you can be an instrument that transforms it. No one will ever damn you for leading them to Christ’s beating heart.

 Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Second Thessalonians, Paul greets the Greek Gentiles affectionately and reminds them that he prays for them often, and when he does, he receives joy. Paul implores the people to stand firm in the faith and not to be shaken by the slightest affront from others who fail to understand the reasons for our conduct. People are to act in accord with the tradition handed onto them. If someone walks in a disorderly way, then that person ought to be shunned. Paul gave himself as a model to imitate. ~ In First Corinthians, Paul greets the leaders and the people will great joy reminding them that he is always praying for them and commending them for their rich testimony to Christ. ~ On the martyrdom of John the Baptist, Paul tells the people that Christ sent him to preach the gospel so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning. The wise one prays to a crucified God who suffered on the cross because God’s wisdom is strong than human strength. He reminds them that none of them is remarkable, but that God’s grace has made something more of them. God’s wisdom is at work when we see something that seems foolish. God has made Jesus the wisdom of God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

Gospel: Jesus rips apart the conduct of the Pharisees and scribes who act hypocritically in taking in converts to themselves instead of the faith and who swear by gold at the altars of worship. He then rips them apart for making sure everyone pays tithes, but they neglect the weightier aspects of the law: judgment, mercy, and fidelity. Jesus rants about paying attention to unclean utensils when the inside of a person is filthy. He also destroys them for memorializing the prophets, but in maintaining the same behavior as those who killed the prophets. Jesus asks his disciples to remain vigilant because they cannot know when the end of days is coming. The blessed disciple is the one whom upon his master’s arrival finds him tending to the duties entrusted to him. ~ On the martyrdom of John the Baptist, the story of Herod’s promise to Salome is told. She danced so beautifully that he promised her anything she wanted, up to half of his kingdom, but she asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Jesus told his friends a story about a man who is leaving for a journey who entrusts his money to servants. All but one of the servants invested the talents and brought back nice returns, but one servant was fearful and hid his talent so that it produced nothing. The owner took the talent from him in anger and cast the man out of his job.

Saints of the Week

August 24: Bartholomew (First Century), according to the Acts of the Apostles, is listed as one of the Twelve Disciples though no one for sure knows who he is. Some associate him with Philip, though other Gospel accounts contradict this point. John's Gospel refers to him as Nathaniel - a Israelite without guile.

August 25: Louis of France (1214-1270) became king at age 12, but did not take over leadership until ten years later. He had eleven children with his wife, Marguerite, and his kingship reigned for 44 years. His rule ushered in a longstanding peace and prosperity for the nation.  He is held up as a paragon of medieval Christian kings.

August 25: Joseph Calasanz, priest (1556-1648), was a Spaniard who studied canon law and theology. He resigned his post as diocesan vicar-general to go to Rome to live as a pilgrim and serve the sick and the dying. He used his inheritance to set up free schools for poor families with children. He founded an order to administer the schools, but dissension and power struggles led to its dissolution.

August 27: Monica (332-387) was born a Christian in North Africa and was married to a non-Christian, Patricius, with whom she had three children, the most famous being Augustine. Her husband became a Christian at her urging and she prayed for Augustine's conversion as well from his newly adopted Manichaeism. Monica met Augustine in Milan where he was baptized by Bishop Ambrose. She died on the return trip as her work was complete.

August 28: Augustine, bishop and doctor (354-430),  was the author of his Confessions, his spiritual autobiography, and The City of God, which described the life of faith in relation to the life of the temporal world. Many other writings, sermons, and treatises earned him the title Doctor of the church. In his formative years, he followed Mani, a Persian prophet who tried to explain the problem of evil in the world. His mother’s prayers and Ambrose’s preaching helped him convert to Christianity. Baptized in 387, Monica died a year later. He was ordained and five years later named bishop of Hippo and defended the church against three major heresies: Manichaeism, Donatism, and Pelagianism.

August 29: The Martyrdom of John the Baptist recalls the sad events of John's beheading by Herod the tetrarch when John called him out for his incestuous and adulterous marriage to Herodias, who was his niece and brother's wife. At a birthday party, Herodias' daughter Salome danced well earning the favor of Herod who told her he would give her almost anything she wanted.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Aug. 24, 1544: Peter Faber arrived in Lisbon.
·      Aug. 25, 1666: At Beijing, the death of Fr. John Adam Schall. By his profound knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, he attained such fame that the Emperor entrusted to him the reform of the Chinese calendar.
·      Aug. 26, 1562: The return of Fr. Diego Laynez from France to Trent, the Fathers of the Council desiring to hear him speak on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
·      Aug. 27, 1679: The martyrdom at Usk, England, of St. David Lewis, apostle to the poor in his native Wales for three decades before he was caught and hanged.
·      Aug. 28, 1628: The martyrdom in Lancashire, England, of St. Edmund Arrowsmith.
·      Aug. 29, 1541: At Rome the death of Fr. John Codure, a Savoyard, one of the first 10 companions of St. Ignatius.
·      Aug. 30, 1556: On the banks of the St. Lawrence River, Fr. Leonard Garreau, a young missionary, was mortally wounded by the Iroquois.