Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The First Sunday of Lent

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

The First Sunday of Lent
February 22, 2015
Genesis 9:8-15; Psalm 25; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:12-15

When Noah and his family stood on solid ground after the great flood, God established a covenant with all creatures declaring that God would never again devastate the earth. The bow set in the sky was a sign of God’s enduring fidelity and it is a sign that continues to be seen in our Eucharistic prayers. In the second reading, Peter tells us that the waters of Noah prefigured baptism, which now saves us. He writes, “It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience.” The Gospel reminds us that the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert for forty days for testing by Satan. As we stand on the edge of Lent, we go forth into our spiritual wilderness recognizing that we have God’s backing from start, that our consciences are clear because of our baptism, and that we are already in the time of fulfillment.

            We do nothing in Lent on our own, but let us not take God’s support for granted. We cannot go through life passively relying upon the fact that God supports us; we have to be more deliberate in forecasting our day with God and actively invite God into the mundane parts. God is alive and active and desires greater mutuality in our relationship, which is the reason God gives us the rainbow sign – to remind us that God is part of our lives. It is a symbol for us that we remember God as much as a sign that God remembers us.

            Often our prayer looks backward when we tell God what we have experienced and we ask for consolation, comfort, or encouragement for the events that occurred. Sometimes we give thanks for blessings we received. We may ask for a particular grace, but then we do not know where else to go so we end the prayer.

            Prayer begins with the Noah experience by letting God simply gaze upon us as part of the covenant and marvel at who we are. Once we are assured that we are seen, we ask that God see, know, and feel what we are feeling. With that solidarity assured, it is easy for us to explore our feelings in greater detail so we are able to respond to God’s questions, “What do you want?” and “What do you need?” Once that conversation comes to fruition and we feel heard, seen, and known, we thank God for the time together.

            At this point the prayer becomes mutual. Once we know we have been treated with respect, we become concerned for “the other,” that is, God. We say, “Let me gaze upon you, O God. What are you going through today? What is on your mind?” As we give God a chance to answer, we thank each other for sharing who we are with one another, and then we plan for the next day.

            We are able to say to God, “These are events coming up in my life tomorrow. Some worry me; others bring me hope for happiness. Will you be there with me as I go through these events? I’ll be looking for some aspect of your presence at these times.” What else is God going to say, but “yes?” God is probably pleased that you thought about the role God plays in your life and is delighted you considered enough to ask.

God is not an extension of you, but an independent being who can say things different from what you might expect to hear. Give God the chance to speak and be a part of your life. God certainly might challenge you, but mostly God works through gentle invitations that respect our freedom. God does not use force or bully anyone. God does not use violence. Nor should we. God respects our free will so we can choose with an informed conscience and a responsive heart.

Try something different this year for Lent. Instead of deciding what you will give up as a sacrifice or what you will add as a personal devotion, allow God to enter into your life so that your friendship has greater mutuality and that together you plan how you will spend each day. Learn daily from God. Choose your Lenten devotion together each day. You will become familiar with God’s unique way of relating to you and you will find that you just want to be in God’s presence. That is also what God wants and you will see many signs and symbolic rainbows to let you know God is happy with that. The Spirit pushed Jesus into the wilderness. Let the Spirit nudge you the same way so that you come to know maturing, mutual relationship God wants with you. Together, you are formidable. The Kingdom of God is here; let us enjoy God’s presence among us.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading:
Monday: (Leviticus 19) The Lord gives Moses ten commandments that he inscribes on stone tablets.
Tuesday: (Isaiah 55) God’s word will issue forth from his mouth and shall not return until it has fulfilled his will.
Wednesday: (Jonah 3) Jonah set out to Nineveh asking them to proclaim a fast and then repent. The king does repent and the Lord dropped his threat because they turned from evil.
Thursday: (Esther 3) Queen Esther appeals to God for help in converting the king’s heart for hatred of the enemy  that threatens them.
Friday: (Ezekiel 18) If the wicked turns from sinfulness and keeps the Lord’s statutes, he will surely live. Likewise, if a virtuous man becomes wicked, he shall die.
Saturday: (Deuteronomy 26) Moses tells the people to observe the Lord’s statutes and decrees with their whole heart and soul. The Lord will stand by you.

Monday: (Matthew 25) Jesus tells his disciples about the last judgment when the goats and sheep will be separated. The measuring stick is the mercy shown to the most vulnerable.
Tuesday: (Matthew 6) The disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. He tells them not to pray like the pagans, who seek honor and glory, and then gives them the Lord’s prayer.
Wednesday: (Luke 11) Jesus chastises the crowd that seeks a sign, but none will be given to them. Because of Jonah’s preaching, the king and people repented.
Thursday: (Matthew 7) Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened. The Father is generous, especially to those who love him.
Friday: (Matthew 5) Your righteousness must surpass the levels of the scribes and Pharisees in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Show righteousness by quickly settling disputes.
Saturday: (Matthew 5) Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Heavenly Father. Be perfect as the Father is perfect.

Saints of the Week

February 22: The Chair of Peter is celebrated on this day. Previously, both Peter and Paul were remembered until their feast was transferred to June 29th. As the custom was ingrained in practice, Christians continued to honor the contributions Peter made to the church as the first of the apostles in continuous succession.

February 23: Polycarp, bishop and martyr (69-155), was made bishop of Smyrna and was the leader of the second generation Christians. He was a disciple of the apostle John and a friend of Ignatius of Antioch. He wrote catechesis and rites for initiation into the Christian community. He was martyred in 155 and is a Father of the early church.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Feb 22, 1599. By order of Pope Clement VIII, the superiors general of the Jesuits and the Dominicans, assisted by others, met to settle, if possible, the controversies about grace. Nothing came of the meeting, since the Dominicans insisted on the condemnation of the writings of Fr. Molina.
·      Feb 23, 1551. The Roman College, the major school of the Society later to become the Gregorian University, began its first scholastic year with 15 teachers and 60 students.
·      Feb 24, 1637. The death of Francis Pavone. Inflamed by his words and holy example, sixty members of a class of philosophy that he taught and the entire class of poetry embraced the religious state.
·      Feb 25, 1558. St Aloysius Gonzaga received tonsure at the Lateran basilica. Within the next month he would receive the minor orders.
·      Feb 26, 1611. The death of Antonio Possevino, sent by Pope Gregory XIII on many important embassies to Sweden, Russia, Poland, and Germany. In addition to founding colleges and seminaries in Cracow, Olmutz, Prague, Braunsberg, and Vilna, he found time to write 24 books.
·      Feb 27, 1767. Charles III banished the Society from Spain and seized its property.
·      Feb 28, 1957. The Jesuit Volunteer Corps began.