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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time 2015

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

The Fourth Sunday of Ordinary time
February 1, 2015
Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 95; 1 Corinthians 7:32-35; Mark 1:21-28

Mark’s Gospel portrays Jesus of Nazareth more fully human than the other Gospels, so it is quite extraordinary when he first preaches with great authority. To them, Jesus is an ordinarily good man from a decent family that lives in their village. He does not have a formal religious upbringing like the educated Scribes or Pharisees; his study is mostly what he is able to glean from his local synagogue’s education and his prayer. It is astounding that he somehow possesses such great knowledge of God’s kingdom and that he comes from their local community. Not only does he speak with convincing authority, the unclean spirits recognize him and cannot survive while his words ring true. The power of God is manifested in his way of speaking and in remaining silent.

Words are powerful when they are followed by reverential silence.

In the synagogue, the unclean spirit tries to enroll Jesus into its drama. Jesus simply says, “Stop. Be quiet. I’m not going there with you. Basta!” In the face of this powerful silence the spirit convulses, shrieks, and leaves the person. Silence confounds and confuses disturbed spirits, but it leaves the good spirits at peace.

Just as musical notes are meaningless unless they are punctuated by silence, every good statement deserves to be heard. Think back on the last time you were part of a meaningful conversation. You had to turn towards the other person so you could listen with your eyes. You did not try to speak; you simply attended to this person with your full senses so you could hold his or her words with reverence. Both of you were enriched by the way you cared for the other and a greater good was generated. You honored the person by giving your time and attention – something that each of us wants and few of us get.

It has taken me a long time to realize being silent is better than speaking. I have much work to do. Often we want to be acknowledged for being right and we do not want to often give away a valuable part of ourselves. The way we make up for it is by inserting ourselves into the conversation under the delusion that since we are speaking, we are being heard. If we do not feel like we are being heard, we fill up the space with more words and we speak even louder even though we sense the other person still is not getting it.

When we are not being heard, it is our obligation to retreat and to figure out how to speak in a way we can be heard. We cannot blame the other person. We are speaking ineffectively. The words we choose, the style of contributing, and our framing of the conversation calls us to be the innovators – if we want to be heard. We might have to change our techniques often with different people, but the responsibility lies with us to intelligently figure out a methodology that works.

As Jesus demonstrates, we do not have to answer every question that comes our way. He does not get embroiled in the unclean spirit’s drama, but he lets the power of silence work its charm. The silence of Jesus builds up while the unsettled spirits will do themselves in. Appropriate silence keeps us free from unnecessary entanglements because we appropriately keep the “proverbial monkey on their shoulders” rather than having them place it upon ours. We will never be at peace if we keep accepting other people’s burdens. It is not that we have to give the monkey back, we have to learn never to take it in the first place. We will not be trapped unknowingly. Employing silence allows us to set positive boundaries for healthy stable living.

Likewise, we do not have to correct everyone’s wrong answers. We cannot be helpful to a person unless he or she is ready to accept the offer of goodness. We also cannot make a person ready for the truth on our schedule. Even if it is a simple verifiable fact, we have to let the person come to the realization on his or her own time schedule. It may flummox us, but we can find peace in that we are ready to assist and inform when the time is right. Being purveyors of the truth is not the most important virtue if we want to be heard.

Each daily interaction can be an experiment of a new technique of using words and silence effectively. It will feel uncomfortable at first because people have already typecast you into a certain role. You have the ability to change the narrative around with your new style of language. When Jesus, the synagogue speaker preached, he was received much differently than Jesus, the carpenter. He learned, through prayer and instruction, how to effectively communicate in ways to be heard. We are called to imitate him in his teaching and way of life, so it is not out of our grasp. It is our responsibility. People around you need you to speak and to listen and to give them reverential silence. Please give it to them. When you do, you let the power of God speak through you. God’s voice cannot be heard if you are continually speaking. God’s voice will be heard when others can hear the voice in your silence. Some may say of you, “You are a Holy One of God.”

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading:
Monday: (Malachi – Presentation of the Lord) I send my messenger to prepare the way before me and suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek.
Tuesday: (Hebrews 12) Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin. Let’s persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.
Wednesday: (Hebrews 12) In your struggle against sin, you have not resisted to the point of shedding blood. Strengthen your resolve. Strive for peace with everyone.
Thursday: (Hebrews 12) Your experience is different from the time when Moses stood before the blazing fire of the bush.
Friday: (Hebrews 13) Let brotherly love continue. Attend to hospitality, be mindful of prisoners, let marriage be honored, and let your life be free from love of money.  
Saturday: (Hebrews 13) Through Jesus, let us offer a sacrifice of praise. Do not neglect to do good. Obey your leaders.  May God furnish you with all that is good.

Monday: (Luke 2 – Presentation of the Lord) Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to Jerusalem to consecrate him to the Lord and to offer the required sacrifice. They met Simeon and Anna, who could now depart in peace. The child returned home to Nazareth and grew in wisdom and obedience.
Tuesday: (Mark 5) A woman afflicted with hemorrhages for 12 years touched the cloak of Jesus and was healed. The daughter of Jairus, a synagogue office, died, but Jesus raised her to life
Wednesday: (Mark 6) Jesus returned home and many were astonished at his words. Some took offense to him causing Jesus to say, “A prophet is not without honor at home.”
Thursday: (Mark 6) Jesus summoned the Twelve and sent them out with power over unclean spirits. He gave instructions on how to act when they are on mission.
Friday: (Mark 6) King Herod heard about Jesus and was curious to meet him. This is the king who cut off the head of the Baptist because he criticized his marriage to his brother’s wife.
Saturday: (Mark 6) Jesus beckoned the crowds to, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” When he crossed the sea, he saw the crowds and his heart was moved with pity towards them.

Saints of the Week

February 2: The Presentation of the Lord is the rite by which the firstborn male is presented in the Temple as an offering to God. It occurs 40 days after the birth while the new mother is considered ritually unclean. Two church elders, Simeon and Anna, who represent the old covenant, praise Jesus and warn his mother that her heart will be pierced as her son will bring the salvation of many.

February 3: Blase, bishop and martyr (d. 316), was an Armenian martyr of the persecution of Licinius. Legends hold that a boy, choking to death on a fish bone, was miraculously cured. Blase's intercession has been invoked for cures for throat afflictions. The candles presented at Candlemas the day earlier are used in the rite of the blessings of throats.

February 3: Angsar, bishop (815-865), became a monk to preach to pagans. He lived at the French Benedictine monastery of New Corbie and was sent to preach in Denmark and Sweden. He was made abbot and then became archbishop of Hamburg. He is known as the Apostle of the North because he restored Denmark to the faith and helped bolster the faith of other Scandinavians.

February 4: John de Brito, S.J., priest, religious, and martyr (1647-1693), was a Portuguese Jesuit missionary who served in India and was named “The Portuguese Francis Xavier” to the Indians. De Brito was martyred because he counseled a Maravan prince during his conversion to give up all but one of his wives. One of the wives was a niece to the neighboring king, who set up a round of persecutions against priests and catechists.

February 5: Agatha, martyr, (d. 251), died in Sicily during the Diocletian persecution after she refused to give up her faith when sent to a brothel for punishment. She was subsequently tortured. Sicilians believe her intercession stopped Mount Etna from erupting the year after her burial. She has been sought as a protector against fire and in mentioned in the First Eucharistic prayer.

February 6: Paul Miki and Companions, martyrs (d. 1597), were martyred in Nagasaki, Japan for being Christians. Miki was a Jesuit brother and a native Japanese who was killed alongside 25 clergy, religious, and laypeople. They were suspended on crosses and killed by spears thrust into their hearts. Remnants of the Christian community continued through baptism without any priestly leadership. It was discovered when Japan was reopened in 1865.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Feb 1, 1549. The first Jesuit missionaries to go to Brazil set sail from Lisbon, Portugal, under Fr. Emmanuel de Nobrega.
·      Feb 2, 1528. Ignatius arrived in Paris to begin his program of studies at the University of Paris.
·      Feb 3, 1571. In Florida, the martyrdom of Fr. Louis Quiros and two novices, shot with arrows by an apostate Indian.
·      Feb 4, 1617. An imperial edict banished all missionaries from China.
·      Feb 5, 1833. The first provincial of Maryland, Fr. William McSherry, was appointed.
·      Feb 6, 1612. The death of Christopher Clavius, one of the greatest mathematicians and scientists of the Society.

·      Feb 7, 1878. At Rome, Pius IX died. He was sincerely devoted to the Society; when one of the cardinals expressed surprise that he could be so attached to an order against which even high ecclesiastics brought serious charges, his reply was: "You have to be pope to know the worth of the Society."

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