Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Third Sunday of Lent

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze
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The Third Sunday of Lent
March 8, 2015
Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:22-25; John 2:13-25

Everyone remembers the Ten Commandments, but it is important for us to call to mind the preceding event – that God called us out of slavery and offers us freedom. The whole purpose of the laws is our liberation and we follow them in response to God’s mercy. Exodus provides us with an account of Moses giving the laws to the people in exile. Following them means life for the community while disobeying them brings death and diminishment. When Jesus overturns the Temple tables, it is because the Passover is near. Jesus reacts strongly because people are missing the point that we need to be celebrating God’s abiding love instead of commercializing our devotional practices. Since God gives freely, we must respond to God as freely as we are able. We respond in charity to God by following the laws that govern the right relationship between us, God, and our neighbor.  

            It is curious for us to see these readings paired together because the Exodus reading tells us to follow the law, while Jesus disrupts the holiest of sites and striking at the heart of the Jewish faith. This event is the one that ultimately leads to his death in the Synoptic Gospels because Jesus upsets the religious priests and community elders. His kingd0m-centered theology clashes violently with the Temple-centered theology. We are left wondering how to balance respect for the law with the proper actions to take when unjust laws are in place.

            In this case, the identity of the giver of the law is important. God, out of care for the people, gives sensible laws to follow in response to the covenant, but we have a practice of creating laws that serve selfish interests of the few and this is what we see in the Gospel passage. Merchants, the Temple authorities, and civic officials were gaining a financial advantage that imposed burdens on the people’s free worship. If a law creates inequities and imposes hardships on others, then it is not a law at all and needs to be dismantled and disregarded. The passion of Jesus is exciting because it gives us the hope that we can create a more just, more harmonious world where God lays low the mighty and lifts up those who have been mercilessly beaten down. We know God does not want injustices and yet God realizes we are inclined to profit well by cleverly exploiting others.

            Social sin buried deep within our institutions are nearly impossible to change, and yet, we must try. We have to choose wisely which battles to fight to bring about God’s justice and we have to concentrate on those narrow goals because we know others are working on other goals in a separate way, but with similar objectives. We have to do this with integrity as Jesus did because we are the example for others. So many people have started out doing the right things for society, but they get entrapped in a system that makes them choose the lesser evils – choices they would rather not have to make. We have to find a way to always choose the good. The signs Jesus did publicly made many believe in him. We have to always be attentive to our actions because we want those who see them to be led to Christ. If love is the basis of our laws and customs and if our love in action builds up and encourages others, many will be brought to Christ through us.

            It is easy to say, “Do good and avoid evil,” but life is complex. We are not even aware of the ways we become entrapped in evil structures until it is too late. Let us take this Lent as an opportunity to follow the law as best we can. It is for our own good. Commit to following the law and do not justify your actions through rationalizations. Do your own part well. Strive always to do the good. I am convinced that if we all try a little harder to make something better, that goodwill will increase exponentially. When goodness meets more goodness, it bubbles over into something mysterious that has a beautiful life of its own.

We know that good will win out, so let’s try to improve upon the good at every chance, with the zeal that Jesus has for the faith as he corrects the Temple authorities. We will meet opposition, and sometimes it will be fierce, but when we look around, we have other Jesus-inspired, goodwill-inspired people who are working towards the same goal. We have to recognize each other, build up one another, and take their hands in solidarity. Life gets better when we choose goodness. Life gets better when we make our world reflect God’s justice. Persevere. We need you always to strive because your striving is a natural response to God’s solidarity with you. God wants the very best for you and we are missioned to bring this goodness to others. God chooses for us – life, goodness, and freedom.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading:
Monday: (2 Kings 5) Naaman, the king of Aram, contracted leprosy. A captured girl wanted him to present himself to the prophet in Samaria. Naaman was instructed to wash seven times in the Jordan River and his flesh became again like the flesh of a little child.
Tuesday: (Daniel 3) Azariah asked for the Lord’s deliverance. He asked that the Lord deal with them in kindness and with great mercy.
Wednesday: (Deuteronomy 4) Moses spoke to the people asking them to hear and heed the statutes and decrees he received from the Lord. Do not forget the things the Lord has done.
Thursday: (Jeremiah 7) They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts and turned their backs, not their faces, to me.  
Friday: (Hosea 14) Return to God, who forgives all iniquity. The Lord will heal their defection and love them freely for his wrath is turned away from them.  
Saturday: (Hosea 6) Come, let us return to the Lord. It is love that I desire, not sacrificed, and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.  

Gospel: 
Monday: (Luke 4) Jesus reminded people that a prophet is without honor in his own land and he called the mind the story of Naaman, the foreigner from Syria, who was cured.
Tuesday: (Matthew 18) Peter asked Jesus about forgiveness. He said to forgiven seventy-seven time because unless each person forgives from the heart, he will not be forgiven.
Wednesday: (Matthew 5) Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Each commandment is to be observed; the one who does it will be the greatest in the Kingdom.
Thursday: (Luke 11) Jesus drove out a demon that was mute and was then accused of being in league with Beelzebul. Jesus explained to them how that does not make much sense.
Friday: (Mark 12) A scribe asked Jesus to declare which is the first commandment. Love the God with you whole soul and your neighbor like yourself. The scribe was well pleased.  
Saturday: (Luke 18) Jesus told a parable about prayer to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. The one who is humble is favored by God.  

Saints of the Week

March 8: John of God (1495-1550), was a Portuguese soldier of fortune who was brought to Spain as a child. He was a slave master, shepherd, crusader, bodyguard and peddler. As he realized that he frittered away his life, he sought counsel from John of Avila. He then dedicated his life to care for the sick and the poor. He formed the Order of Brothers Hospitallers and is the patron saint of hospitals and the sick.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Mar 8, 1773. At Centi, in the diocese of Bologna, Cardinal Malvezzi paid a surprise visit to the Jesuit house, demanding to inspect their accounting books.
·      Mar 9, 1764. In France, all Jesuits who refused to abjure the Society were ordered by Parliament to leave the realm within a month. Out of 4,000 members only five priests, two scholastics, and eight brothers took the required oath; the others were driven into exile.
·      Mar 10, 1615. The martyrdom in Glasgow, Scotland, of St John Ogilvie.
·      Mar 11, 1848. In Naples, Italy, during the 1848 revolution, 114 Jesuits, after much suffering, were put into carts and driven ignominiously out of the city and the kingdom.
·      Mar 12, 1622. Pope Gregory XV canonized Sts Ignatius, Francis Xavier, Teresa of Avila, and Philip Neri.
·      Mar 13, 1568. John Segura and five companions set sail from Spain for Florida, a fertile field of martyrs. (Nine Jesuits were killed there between 1566 and 1571.)

·      Mar 14, 1535. Ignatius received his degree from the University of Paris.