Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thirty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Christ the King

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

Thirty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Christ the King
November 23, 2014
Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17; Psalm 23; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28; Matthew 25:31-46

Last week’s readings reminded us to give cheerfully and generously, and this week’s readings make us wonder how we can do so. We are confronted with a final judgment scene in which the goats and sheep are separated for entrance into heaven based on how concerned they were for their brothers and sisters. From the very beginning of the Bible, we are commanded to feed the hungry and thirsty, clothe those poorer than us, and to visit the sick and imprisoned. We hear it again today from the prophet Ezekiel who says the Lord seeks to bring back the strayed, seek out the lost, bind up the injured, heal the sick, and to tend the sheep. We are to imitate God, as Pope Francis continues to remind us, above all other activities in life.

Decades ago, the church was known as a powerful witness of these corporal acts of mercy. Churches ran hospitals and orphanages, houses for unwed mothers, soup kitchens, clothing drives, and it looked after the welfare of its own parishioners, but since then, governments and public service agencies have taken on this responsibility to care for its own citizens and it lessened the visible church role in these ministries. It is not so clear to many of us how we can be involved in direct care for those in need.

Take, for instance, the story of the 90-year-old Fort Lauderdale man who was arrested for serving food in a public area to the homeless. It is a complicated situation where competing goods conflict with each other. The elderly man wants to continue his act of Gospel ministry while the city itself set up many different ways to offer more extensive food services with greater public safety. The city has indoor food service facilities with regulated procedures to assist the needy. The individual and the state are on the same side, but it is difficult to feel personally involved into corporate efforts. Life has forever changed. Homegrown acts of generosity are now replaced by institutional commitments. For example, bake sales are no longer held because institutions cannot regulate home cooking, but are liable if someone because sick.

We feel disconnected from direct care in a corporate church and society. When a devastating natural disaster occurs, we want to pour money into relief efforts and we are disillusioned when the money makes greedy individuals rich at the expense of others who remain underserved. We earmark money for direct care of the homeless and find that it pays inflated salaries of executives. We lose trust in institutions and people that betray our well-place intentions. We no longer know how to contribute to our church when we our voice is repeatedly taken away from us and we are told to give even more. Experience has taught us to withhold our generosity or to place conditions around our giving. We ponder what is the best course of action and we are confused about ways to show our natural concern. We wonder: in the face of this, am I like the sheep or the goats?

When we wake up each day, we have to put on the mindset that we will continue to give freely of ourselves and to care for others. Sustained, developed prayer will help us discern with Jesus Christ how we will share our financial resources, but the prayer will help us always be cheerful as we interact with others. We need to be present to others in their times of need and our physical presence is more important that our financial presence. We are not the Savior and we cannot fix other people’s lives, but we can show the emotional presence of our Savior to them. What is most important for us is to discuss with our Savior what is our best way of loving in the face of complicated moral situations. The ongoing conversation with Christ will continue to make us friends of God, and we trust that God will guide us as a shepherd tends the flocks.

This is our final week of the year when Christ gathers up those who have been faithful to him and our standard of measurement is the love we give to others. Invent creative ways to increase the love you want to share. It might not be the traditional ways of charity, but we exist in a love-starved world. The old commandments are to be fulfilled and you are given free reign to figure out with Christ the best way to address complex situations. Christ has challenged every power on this earth and has been victorious, even conquering death. Christ will infuse you with all the resources you need to love him back and to bring that essential love to others. Rejoice with him today as he gathers his loved ones and brings them to his heart and then blesses them by sharing us with God. Rejoice with him for the dynamic love that continues to increase in this world. Rejoice with him because he dearly wants you with him – to the end of the ages.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading:
Monday: (Revelation 14) I, John, saw the Lamb standing on Mount Horeb with 144,000 upon whose foreheads were written the name of God. They sang a new song and were marked as the first fruits of the human race for God and the Lamb.
Tuesday: I, John, saw a white cloud and under it was a son of man with a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. The time to reap the harvest is upon us.
Wednesday: I, John, saw another sign. Seven angels brought seven plagues and through them, God’s fury was accomplished. A victory song ensued.
Thursday: (Thanksgiving Day) (Sirach) Bless the God of all who had done wondrous things on the earth. May God grant you joy of heart and may God’s goodness endure.
Friday: I, John, saw an angel come down from heaven with a chain and lock. He seized the dragon, which is the devil, and tied it up for a thousand years so it could never lead nations astray. I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the former had passed away.
Saturday: I, John, saw a river of life-giving water, flowing from the throne of God. On either side grew the tree of life that produces fruit twelve times a year. Night will be no more for God will provide all light, and God shall reign forever more.

Monday: (Luke 21) Jesus looked up to see a poor widow placing two small coins into the temple treasury. He applauded her for giving from her lack, while others gave from their surplus.
Tuesday: Some were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings. Jesus announced that there will come a time when not one stone will be left. When asked when it would happen, he cautioned them that others will say they are the Messiah. Do not be terrified.
Wednesday: Jesus said to the crowd, “They will seize you and persecute you. It will lead to your giving testimony. I shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.”
Thursday: Ten lepers met Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. He cured them, but only one returned to give thanks, and he was a Samaritan.
Friday: Jesus asked his disciples to consider the fig tree and all other trees. You know that summer is near when the buds are about to blossom. In the same way, you will see these things happening in the world showing you the kingdom of heaven is near.    
Saturday: Be aware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness because the days may catch you like a trap. Be vigilant at all times and pray.

Saints of the Week

November 23: Clement I, pope and martyr (d. 99) is also mentioned in the First Eucharistic prayer. He is the third pope and was martyred in exile. He is presumed to be a former slave in the imperial court. He wrote a letter to the Corinthians after a revolt and as pope he restored ordered within the ministries.   

November 23: Columban, abbot (d. 615) was an Irish monk who left Ireland for France with 12 companions to found a monastery as a base for preaching. They established 3 monasteries within 10 years. Columban opposed the king's polygamy and was expelled. He set up monasteries in Switzerland and Italy before he died. Though he was expelled, the monasteries were permitted to remain open.

November 23: Miguel Pro, S.J., martyr (1891-1927) lived in Guadalupe, Mexico before entering the Jesuits. Public worship was forbidden in Mexico so Miguel became an undercover priest often wearing disguises. He was arrested and ordered to be shot in front of a firing squad without benefit of a trial. Before he died she shouted out, "Long live Christ the King."

November 24: Andrew Dung-Lac and companion martyrs (1785-1839) were missionaries to Vietnam during the 17th through 19th centuries. Over 130,000 Christians were killed, including priests, sisters, brothers, and lay people. Many of these were Vietnamese citizens.

Fourth Thursday: Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. is derived from a mix of European and Native American traditions. Joyous festivals were held in Europe to give thanks for a good harvest and to rejoice with others for their hard work. It is a day to give thanks for the many blessings we have received through God's generosity throughout the year.

November 25: Catherine of Alexandria, martyr, (d. 310) is said to have been born in Egypt to a noble family. She was educated and converted to Christianity because of a vision. She refused to marry a man arranged to be her husband by the emperor, and she denounced him for persecuting Christians. She was arrested, tortured, and killed.

November 26: John Berchmans, S.J., religious (1599-1621), was a Jesuit scholastic who is the patron saint of altar servers. He was known for his pious adherence to the rules and for his obedience. He did well in studies, but was seized with a fever during his third year of philosophy and died at the age of 22.

November 29: Bernardo Francisco de Hoyos, S.J., religious (1711-1735) was the first and main apostle to the devotion of the Sacred Heart. He entered the novitiate in Spain at age 14 and took vows at 17. He had mystical visions of the Sacred Heart. He was ordained in January 1735 with a special dispensation because he was not old enough. A few weeks after celebrating his first mass, he contracted typhus and died on November 29th.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Nov 23, 1545: Jeronimo de Nadal, whom Ignatius had known as a student at Paris, entered the Society. Later Nadal was instrumental in getting Ignatius to narrate his autobiography.
·      In 1927: the execution of Fr. Michael Augustine Pro, SJ, by leaders of the persecution of the Church in Mexico.
·      Nov 24, 1963: The death of John LaFarge, pioneer advocate of racial justice in the United States.
·      Nov 25, 1584: The Church of the Gesu, built in Rome for the Society by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, was solemnly consecrated.
·      Nov 26, 1678: In London the arrest and imprisonment of St Claude la Colombiere. He was released after five weeks and banished.
·      Nov 27, 1680: In Rome the death of Fr. Athanasius Kircher, considered a universal genius, but especially knowledgeable in science and archeology.
·      Nov 28, 1759: Twenty Fathers and 192 Scholastics set sail from the Tagus for exile. Two were to die on the voyage to Genoa and Civita Vecchia.
·      Nov 29, 1773: The Jesuits of White Russia requested the Empress Catherine to allow the Letter of Suppression to be published, as it had been all over Europe. "She bade them lay aside their scruples, promising to obtain the Papal sanction for their remaining in status quo.