Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Twenty-seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time
October 5, 2014
Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80; Philippians 4:6-9; Matthew 21:33-43

It is a challenge not to read these texts in light of the current situation of the Middle East. In the first reading, Isaiah begins with a beautiful song about his friend who is in an idyllic setting. His friend worked hard, cultivated a beautiful plot of land, made the best choices and filled his dreams with hope, but this vision soured when wild grapes grew in the place of the choicest fruits. In short order, the crop was abandoned, bloodshed ruled the lands, and the landscape looked dry and weary. Even the palmist looked to the heavens for relief because the people once experienced God’s care and blessing.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus uses the familiar image of the vineyard to describe the stewardship of the kingdom. Because of greed, the tenants rose up in a plot to take the land and acquire the inheritance, but in the end, the owner kicked the tenants off the land and entrusted it to other tenants who will give the produce at the proper times. We, like the tenants, often forget that we are only stewards of the earth and our job is to yield the choicest produce that we can.

In the West, as we gaze upon the unfortunate events in the Middle East, we see only chaos resulting from poor choices and selfish interests. The beheadings and violence by ISIS are appalling and almost unimaginable. It reinforces stereotypes of everyone in that part of the world as brutal, thuggish, and acting in their own greedy self-interests. We have to remember that those are acts of extremists and are not descriptive of the most of society. We also are left wondering how we can help turn the situation around so nations can strive for and achieve peace, harmony, and an equitable justice.

While we may feel powerless because we have no direct effect upon the actions of other countries, we still have many resources at our disposal locally to form the world for the better. Paul conveys the key for this in his letter to the Philippians. In effect, Paul is saying that God will continue to call the best out of us so that we can create that vineyard that produces the best fruits.

On a practical level, it means that our smallest choices contribute to the common good. If I pine for better driving around me, I must drive well and obey the traffic laws without regard for the choices of others. It means I will treat the janitor and security guard with the same esteem I naturally give the CEO. I will not raise a hand or my voice to anyone because bullying and violence are not part of God’s world. God never uses force. Not only will I refrain from negative behaviors, I will consciously use positive behaviors, like encouraging the one who is trying, but does not hit the mark, or to go out of my way to include the person who is socially awkward or culturally different. The small world we build around us will be visible to others who will marvel at the peace and harmony we have achieved for our collective souls.

In the darkness that surrounds world events, we must give extra effort to making our small corner of the world a kinder, gentler place. We cannot presume our good fortune will always remain and we must cooperate with God in letting the very best be called forth from our goodness. We know from experience, we can make destructive choices and once we get on that path, it is difficult for us to step off and head in another direction, but with courage and energy, we can. Once we begin stepping in the direction God intends for us, we see how easy it comes, even in the face of stiff competition, greed, and jealousy. People around us want to pull us down, but we know right living when it reverberates deep into the marrow of our souls.

Let us always choose the good, even if family, friends, and neighbors put obstacles in our path. It shows the God is at work to make us the best person God wants us to be. We cannot let anything stop us from choosing what is right and just in the face of adversity. My memories of two years in the Middle East have shown me many heroic acts of kindness and goodness by the average person on the street even though a cycle of chaos swirled around them. The promise that more type of these memories will be created gives me hope in a region of the world that sometimes feels devoid of it. Right choices based on a heart that listens to God will steer us in the right direction.

Every day, whether you are feeling cheerful and optimistic or weighed down and depressed about events in your life, think about Paul’s words. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.”

You now have to become the one who teaches and gives and speaks and witnesses to this path of life so that others can follow your example. You have to pass this on so that the God of peace will reside in your world and in your neighbors. Go, and grow the choicest fruits you can.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading:
Monday: (Galatians 1) Paul says, “I am amazed that some of you are so quickly forsaking the gospel because there are those who are disturbing you and wishing to pervert the Gospel.
Tuesday: Let me tell you my story because I once persecuted the church as a zealot for my ancestral traditions. Through grace I was called and now I am preaching the Gospel of the one I used to persecute.
Wednesday: Fourteen years after my conversion I went to Jerusalem with Barnabas with a revelation that I should preach to the Gentiles. I opposed Cephas for his adherence to the faith and asked him while a Gentile should live like a Jew.
Thursday: O stupid Galatians. Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?
Friday: Realize that it is those who have faith who are children of Abraham to whom was given the promise, “Through you shall all nations be blessed.”
Saturday: Before faith came, we were held in custody under the law. Through faith, you are all children of God. Those who are baptized have clothed themselves with Christ.

Monday: (Luke 10) A law scholar asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus told him the story of the Good Samaritan and asked, “Who is my neighbor?  The one who does mercy. Go and do likewise.”
Tuesday: Jesus visited Martha and Mary. During the visit, Martha complained that Mary just sat and listened to Jesus. He explained that Mary has chosen the better path.
Wednesday: (Luke 11) After praying, the disciples of Jesus begged him to teach them to pray. He taught them the great Jewish prayer that starts with “Our Father.”
Thursday: Jesus tells his friends of a neighbor who gets up in the middle of the night to lend to the one in need. He tells them, “Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Friday: After Jesus drove out a demon from a man, someone in the crowd said, “By Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.” Jesus explains that a house divided against itself cannot stand.
Saturday:  While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

Saints of the Week

October 6: Bruno, priest (1030-1101), became a professor at Rheims and diocesan chancellor. He gave up his riches and began to live as a hermit with six other men. They had disdain for the rampant clerical corruption. The bishop of Grenoble gave them land in the Chartreuse mountains and they began the first Carthusian monastery. After serving in Rome for a few years, Bruno was given permission to found a second monastery in Calabria.

October 7: Our Lady of the Rosary recalls the events in 1571 of the Christian naval victory over the Turks at Lepanto near Corinth. Victory was credited to Mary as confraternities prayed the rosary for her intercession.

October 9: Denis, bishop and martyr, and companion martyrs (d. 258), was the first bishop of Paris. He died during the Decian persecutions by beheading at Montmarte, the highest hill in the city. Lore has it that he picked up his head after the beheading and walked six miles while giving a sermon. Denis was sent to Paris to bring Christianity and was thereby called, “The apostle to the Gauls.”

October 9: John Leonardi (1542-1609), was a pharmacist’s assistant before studying for the priesthood. He became interested in the reforms of the Council of Trent and gathered laymen around him to work in prisons and hospitals. He contracted the plague while ministering to those who were sick. He founded the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God to care for the sick.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Oct 5, 1981. In a letter to Father General Arrupe, Pope John Paul II appointed Paolo Dezza as his personal delegate to govern the Society of Jesus, with Fr. Pittau as coadjutor.
·      Oct 6, 1773. In London, Dr James Talbot, the Vicar Apostolic, promulgated the Brief of Suppression and sent copies to Maryland and Pennsylvania.
·      Oct 7, 1819. The death of Charles Emmanuel IV. He had been King of Sardinia and Piedmont. He abdicated in 1802 and entered the Jesuits as a brother in 1815. He is buried in San Andrea Quirinale in Rome.
·      Oct 8, 1871. The Great Chicago Fire. Most of the city was destroyed, but it missed Holy Family, the Jesuit parish, as the fire turned north thanks to the prayers of Fr. Arnold Damen. The fire lasted three days; 250 were killed.
·      Oct 9, 1627. Jansenius left Louvain for Salamanca to foment antipathy against the Jesuits and thus prevent Philip IV from giving the Society a large college in Madrid. The theological faculty at Salamanca were hostile to the Society.
·      October 10, 1806: The first novitiate of the Maryland Mission opened as ten novices began their Long Retreat under the direction of Fr. Francis Neale (himself a novice who had entered the Jesuits that day.)

·      October 11, 1688: King Louis XIV forbade all correspondence and interchange between the French Jesuits and Fr. Thyrsus Gonzalez, the Spanish General Superior of the Society.