Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze
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Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time
September 14, 2014
Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 78; Philippians 2:6-11; John 3:13-17


When we suffer, it is not easy to lift our chins high. It is less easy to do when we are told to look at the Cross of suffering, that ironically gives us new life. We want our pain to go away so we can return to our normal practices in life – back to our true selves. We grumble like the freed Israelites who have no food and water as they wander through a barren desert filled with seraph serpents that are sent as punishment for their bitter complaining. God wants them to suck it up and get on with life. The last thing anyone who has been bitten by a snake wants to do is to look at any image of a serpent. We fear them for good reason. We would rather turn away, but we must lift our eyes and fix it on the agent of suffering we most fear if we are to no longer suffer. What a strange faith we have.

Earlier this week I had a conversation with an elderly woman in a nursing home who struggles to find integrity in her life. She is bleeding emotionally because life did not turn our exactly as she dreamed and she suffers disappointments numerous times. She is unable to control events in life to her satisfaction, especially in bringing her family together harmoniously. Others are seldom right because she has all the answers. She is stymied that the world does not conform to her ideals and designs and she looks back at choices she made or did not make in her life and wonders, “How could I have changed things with my decisions to make life go my way?”

As she examines herself and sees her disappointments, she keeps her head down and sees only ‘what went wrong.’ She closes in upon herself and does not have the energy to raise her eyes. What she wants most is to be loved and she fails to see the love that is around her. Instead of celebrating that family and friends come to visit, she laments that her family does not visit often enough. Instead of being grateful for everyone’s good health, she focuses on behaviors that do not meet her satisfaction. In fact, few people live out their lives in the manner she envisions for them. She unknowingly prefers to enroll others into her unresolved drama, but her suffering cuts her off even from those she cherishes most dearly. She realizes she lacks control over others and she keeps her eyes down and fails to see the loving grace that surrounds her.

The very wrong path for me to take is to refute her points or try to correct her thinking or to argue with her. Undisciplined talking seldom resolves issues. Besides, that is not what she needs. She needs to feel Christ’s mercy expressed through the people around her. Our task as Christians is to help her raise her eyes to the cross of suffering and to the One who was raised up. Many resist because looking squarely at the cross is painful and requires courage and energy we do not think we have, but it is the only path to salvation and peace. The One who suffered for us still suffers for us and He wants to touch our hearts with merciful love. We become a different person when we let someone else’s compassion touch our wounds.

Imagine what it will be like when someone in great angst raises his eyes to notice the compassionate eyes of Jesus fixed upon him. It is a moment in which he becomes aware of the ‘other,’ who has radical concern for him. In my prayer, that is all I want to experience – Jesus looking at me while I contemplate his facial expression, hear his tone of voice, and notice the acceptance I feel in his eyes. And when I gaze upon him as I suffer, I lose sight of my own suffering and I perceive his. Our sufferings become our point of contact, and we communicate our solidarity with each other just by being in the presence of the one we love.

When we find ourselves with someone in deep pain, let us recognize that our greatest gift to that person is to be with her silently, by communicating with simple gestures that let her know she is not alone. For that person, we are the ones who are mediating Christ’s love. The next step is to eventually ask her, “What is it you need?” and we give great space and patience as she formulates her answer. In due time, we assist her in her prayer to speak directly to the person of Jesus, who will comfort and tend to her wounds. Christ’s tenderness will quiet her as he raises her to his heart and blesses her entire being and strokes those sorrows and pains as he soothes her worries. Then he will simply embrace her in silence.

Just as God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that we may have life, we must imitate God’s example in concrete ways. We must give Jesus Christ to those who are in pain because we so love the people in our lives that we want them to rest in the care of Jesus. We are all in pain. Let us lift up others so they can behold the broken, crucified, suffering One who was lifted up for us. Christ saves us from ourselves and he will gives us what we mostly deeply yearn for and need. He always delivers on his promise.

 Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading:
Monday: (2 Corinthians 11) You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah, are doing more harm than good. Factions exist among you. When you eat the Lord’s Supper, you are to do it as a unified group, not with one group going hungry while another group gets drunk.
Tuesday: A body is one, though it is made of many parts. The Spirit baptized all into one Body. You are Christ’s Body now and God has given you distinct gifts. Strive early for the greatest spiritual gifts.
Wednesday: If I speak in human and angelic thoughts, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. Love never fails. Our love for the other person perfects them.
Thursday: I handed onto you what is of supreme importance: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Lastly, he appeared to me.
Friday: Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep and our bodies and souls will be resurrected in Christ.
Saturday: The first man, Adam, became a living being, the last Adam a life-giving spirit. The natural was first, then the spiritual. The first man was from earth, the second man from heaven. We have borne the image of the earthly one and we shall bear the image of the heavenly one.

Gospel: 
Monday: (Our Lady of Sorrows) Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When he saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother.”
Tuesday: (Luke 7) Jesus journeyed to Nain and saw a dead man being carried out, the only son of his mother. When the Lord saw his mother, he was moved with pity and said, “Do not weep.” He touched the coffin and the dead man sat up and began to speak.
Wednesday: (Luke 7) Jesus noticed the fickle nature of the people. When John the Baptist visited they said, “He is possessed by a demon.” When Jesus came they said, “Look, he is a glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”
Thursday: At a dinner with a leading Pharisee, a sinful woman burst in to anoint the feet of Jesus with her tears. The host was stymied, but Jesus scolded him and exclaimed that she was the one who provided great hospitality. He forgave her sins and sent her on her way.
Friday: Jesus journeyed from town to town and proclaimed the Kingdom of heaven. With him were the Twelve plus some women who were cured of evil spirits and infirmities.
Saturday:  A large crowd gathered and he told them a parable of a sower and the seed. The seed is the word of God and it falls on particular soils. The seed that is set in fertile ground will grow a hundredfold in faith.

Saints of the Week

September 14: The Triumph of the Holy Cross remembers the finding of the true cross by the Emperor Constantine's mother, Helen in early 4th century. Two churches were dedicated in the name of the cross on this day in the 4th century. Therefore, the feast was applied to this day. In the 7th century, the feast was renamed, "The Triumph." The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in 335 was also dedicated on this day.

September 15: Our Lady of Sorrows was once called the Seven Sorrows of Mary as introduced by the Servite Friars. After suffering during his captivity in France, Pius VII renamed the devotion that encapsulates: Simeon's prophecy, the flight into Egypt, searching for Jesus at age 12 in the Temple, the road to Calvary, the crucifixion, the deposition, and the entombment.

September 16: Cornelius, pope and martyr (d. 253) and Cyprian, bishop and martyr (200-258) both suffered in the Decian persecutions. Cornelius was being attacked by Novatian, but since Novatian's teachings were condemned, he received the support of the powerful bishop, Cyprian. Cyprian was a brilliant priest and bishop of Carthage who wrote on the unity of the church, the role of bishops, and the sacraments. Cyprian died under Valerius after supporting his church in exile by letters of encouragement.

September 17: Robert Bellarmine, S.J., bishop and doctor (1542-1621) became a Jesuit professor at the Louvain and then professor of Controversial theology at the Roman College. He wrote "Disputations on the controversies of the Christian faith against the Heretics of this age," which many Protestants appreciated because of its balanced reasoning. He revised the Vulgate bible, wrote catechisms, supervised the Roman College and the Vatican library, and was the pope's theologian.

September 19: Januarius, bishop and martyr (d. 305), was bishop of Benevento during his martyrdom during the Diocletian persecution. He was arrested when he tried to visit imprisoned Christians. Legend tell us that a vial that contains his blood has been kept in the Naples cathedral since the 15th century liquefies three times a year.

September 20: Andrew Kim Taegon, priest, martyr, Paul Hasang, martyr, and companion martyrs (19th century), were Korean martyrs that began to flourish in the early 1800’s. The church leadership was almost entirely lay-run. In 1836, Parisian missionaries secretly entered the country and Christians began to encounter hostility and persecutions. Over 10,000 Christians were killed. Taegon was the first native-born priest while the rest were 101 lay Christians.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Sep 14, 1596. The death of Cardinal Francis Toledo, the first of the Society to be raised to the purple. He died at age 63, a cardinal for three years.
·      Sep 15, 1927. Thirty-seven Jesuits arrived in Hot Springs, North Carolina, to begin tertianship. The property was given to the Jesuits by the widow of the son of President Andrew Johnson.
·      Sep 16, 1883. The twenty-third General Congregation opened at Rome in the Palazzo Borromeo (via del Seminario). It elected Fr. Anthony Anderledy Vicar General with the right of succession.
·      Sep 17, 1621. The death of St Robert Bellarmine, bishop and doctor of the Church.
·      Sep 18, 1540. At Rome, Pedro Ribadeneira, aged fourteen, was admitted into the Society by St Ignatius (nine days before official papal confirmation of the Society).
·      Sep 19, 1715. At Quebec, the death of Fr. Louis Andre, who for 45 years labored in the missions of Canada amid incredible hardships, often living on acorns, a kind of moss, and the rind of fruits.
·      Sep 20, 1990. The first-ever Congregation of Provincials met at Loyola, Spain, on the occasion of the 450th anniversary of the approval of the Society and 500th anniversary of the birth of St Ignatius.