Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze
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Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 26, 2015
Acts 4:8-12; Psalm 118; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18

            Pope Francis once addressed 1,600 Cardinals, bishops, and priests during the Chrism mass that precedes the Holy Week liturgies and called on the world’s priests to bring the healing power of God’s grace to everyone in need, to stay close to the marginalized, and to be “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep.” Those priests who do not go out of themselves by being mediators between God and the people can “gradually become intermediaries and managers.”  When a priest “does not put his own skin and own heart on the line, he never hears a warm, heartfelt word of thanks from those he has helped.” The Pope emphasized that he wants people to sense that the priest is not just concerned with his own congregation, but always seeks to bring others into the fold.

            The type of priesthood the Pope wants is one where the priest goes to the outskirts where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters. He is not to grow weary of people’s requests despite how banal, inconvenient, or purely material they may seem because he needs to look deeper at what is driving the encounter – the person’s underlying hope and desire for divine comfort, for being anointed with fragrant oil, since they know the church has it. When the priest has a vibrant life with God and the people, grace passes through him and he becomes a mediator of God to them. The power of grace comes alive and flourishes to the extent that priests go out and gives of himself and the Gospel to others – giving what little they have to those who have nothing. People are to leave mass “looking as if they have heard good news.”

            While it is true that many priests today have complex responsibilities thrust upon them, the people need to see that he is credible. Many priests are saddled with running two or three parishes at a time and have little real time to give to the real needs of the people. Not all priests are equally gifted in music, liturgy, giving homilies, or balancing the parish’s checkbooks, but the people want to see his humanity, not his excellence. People do not necessarily care if a priest is dressed in cufflinks and Roman collars because they want to know if they mean something to the priest, that their real concerns are heard and honored. People want to see if the priest is a man of prayer and happy in his vocation. For too many people, their priest does not smile. He does not light up when he sees parishioners. The smile conveys if he really cares for them. Words matter little, except when they are offensive, but a genuine smile and spending some time with the person communicates all that is needed.

            The priest is not the only one under scrutiny as a Good Shepherd. As pastoral ministers and lay associates have taken on greater leadership of the churches, their style of ministering must also be one that calls to mind shepherds who live with the smell of the sheep. Often a priest spends time trying to calm down the culture of the parish because people are often upset with the way someone spoke to them. He cannot simply be a manager because his job is outside the parish just as much as it is inside.

            Many parishioners are uncomfortable being referred to as sheep. Good. It was once adequate analogy, but our maturity makes us too complex today. Some parishioners have greater academic and theological training than priests and bishops. As fully alive members of the church, we need to increase our maturity levels and use our learned resources and skills to mediate conflicts and figure out ways to bring the church forward. We have all the resources we need; we simply need to realize our power and authority with greater confidence. We cannot change church structure, but we can make our lives felt within the church community. This leads to a primary point of Pope Francis: we need to act joyfully as if we have heard the good news.

            The Gospel keeps everything in perspective. When we really appreciate the power of the Gospel, life becomes simplified because we act trustingly towards God and others. We radiate the joy that the Gospel has touched our hearts and that we know the Good Shepherd will keep us from all harm and will lead us to even greener pastures. We will trust ourselves more because we trust God in prayer. The petty divisions of the world are easily solvable and we focus our time on what makes us happy because it makes God happy. This happiness that we want to see in priests, we need to get it for ourselves. This happiness makes us credible because God’s joy is evident in our smiles. If you really believe in the good news, you will show the world a confident, assured smile. You will be a Good Shepherd to others.
             
Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: 
Monday: (Acts 11) The Apostles include the Gentiles into the community after solemn deliberation. Peter lifts the Jewish dietary laws for them declaring that, “God granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles too.”
Tuesday: (Acts 11) Those who had been dispersed since the persecution that followed Stephen’s stoning began proclaiming the story of Jesus Christ to their new communities. The number of converts increased dramatically.  
Wednesday: (Acts 12) The word of God continued to spread and the number of disciples grew. At Antioch during prayer, the Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
Thursday: (Acts 13) In Perga in Pamphylia, Paul stood up and told the story of God’s deliverance of the chosen people from bondage and slavery. God’s work continued in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
Friday (Acts 13) The whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord, but strict Jews opposed Paul and Barnabas and claimed they told the wrong story.
Saturday (Acts 13) The Gentiles were delighted when Paul and Barnabas opened scripture for them and those them of their inclusion as God’s elect. Salvation was accessible to them too.

Gospel: 
Monday: (John 10) The Good Shepherd tales continues as Jesus describes to his friends the characteristics of a self-interested person who pretends to be a shepherd. The sheep know and trust the voice of the good shepherd.
Tuesday: (John 10) During the feast of the Dedication, Jesus declares he is the good shepherd and that he and the Father are one.
Wednesday (John 10) Jesus cries out, “Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me.” Jesus speaks and acts of behalf of the Father.
Thursday (John 13) Jesus makes “I am” statements and he shows he does the work of the Father when after he washes the feet of the disciples, he says, “I am.”
Friday (John 14) In his farewell discourse, Jesus consoles his friends. He tells them that the is going away but will soon return to take away their fear.
Saturday (John 14) He reassures that that since they know the mind and heart of Jesus, they also know the mind and heart of the Father.   

Saints of the Week

April 28: Peter Chanel, priest, missionary, martyr (1803-1841), is the first martyr of the Pacific South Seas. Originally a parish priest in rural eastern France, he joined the Society of Mary (Marists) to become a missionary in 1831 after a five-year stint teaching in the seminary. At first the missionaries were well received in the New Hebrides and other Pacific island nations as they recently outlawed cannibalism. The growth of white influence placed Chanel under suspicion, which led to an attack on the missionaries. When the king’s son wanted to be baptized, his anger erupted and Peter was clubbed to death in protest. 

April 28: Louis of Montfort, priest (1673-1716), dedicated his life to the care of the poor and the sick as a hospital chaplain in Poitiers, France. He angered the public and the administration when he tried to organize the hospital women's workers into a religious organization. He was let go. He went to Rome where the pope gave him the title "missionary apostolic" so he could preach missions that promoted a Marian and Rosary-based spirituality. He formed the "Priests of the Company of Mary" and the "Daughters of Wisdom."

April 29: Catherine of Siena, mystic and doctor of the Church (1347-1380), was the 24th of 25th children. At an early age, she had visions of guardian angels and the saints. She became a Third-Order Dominican and persuaded the Pope to return to Rome from Avignon in 1377. She died at age 33 after receiving the stigmata.

April 30: Pope Pius V, Pope (1504-1572), is noted for his work in the Counter-Reformation, the Council of Trent, and the standardization of the Roman Rite for mass. He was a fierce conservative who prosecuted eight French bishops for heterodoxy and Elizabeth I for schism. The Holy League he founded defeated the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto whose success was attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

May 1: Joseph the Worker was honored by Pope Pius XII in 1955 in an effort to counteract May Day, a union, worker, and socialist holiday. Many Catholics believe him to be the patron of workers because he is known for his patience, persistence, and hard work as admirable qualities that believers should adopt.

May 2: Athanasius, bishop and doctor (295-373), was an Egyptian who attended the Nicene Council in 325. He wrote about Christ's divinity but this caused his exile by non-Christian emperors. He wrote a treatise on the Incarnation and brought monasticism to the West.

This Week in Jesuit History

·       Apr 26, 1935. Lumen Vitae, center for catechetics and religious formation was founded in Brussels.
·      Apr 27, 1880. On the occasion of the visit of Jules Ferry, French minister of education, to Amiens, France, shouts were raised under the Jesuit College windows: "Les Jesuites a la guillotine."
·      Apr 28, 1542. St Ignatius sent Pedro Ribadeneira, aged fifteen, from Rome to Paris for his studies. Pedro had been admitted into the Society in l539 or l540.
·      Apr 29, 1933. Thomas Ewing Sherman died in New Orleans. An orator on the mission band, he was the son of Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman. He suffered a breakdown, and wanted to leave the Society, but was refused because of his ill health. Before his death he renewed his vows in the Society.
·      Apr 30, 1585. The landing at Osaka of Fr. Gaspar Coelho. At first the Emperor was favorably disposed towards Christianity. This changed later because of Christianity's attitude toward polygamy.
·      May 1, 1572. At Rome, Pope St. Pius V dies. His decree imposing Choir on the Society was cancelled by his successor, Gregory XIII.
·      May 2, 1706. The death of Jesuit brother G J Kamel. The camellia flower is named after him.