Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze
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Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 10, 2015
Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17

            Cornelius was a Roman Centurion who lived in the Roman city, Caesarea. Though he was a God-fearing man and an upright citizen who was held in special regard by the Jews, the community considered him a Gentile although he donated large sums of money to the Jews and prayed to God. In Caesarea, he had a vision that he should summon Peter who was staying at a tanner’s house in Joppa. A few days after Cornelius had his vision, Peter had a vision that three times told him to eat what God provided him, even though it was outlawed in the Mosaic dietary restrictions. Peter initially objected, but then reflected upon what this vision might mean. Just then, Peter heard a knock at the door. Cornelius’ men showed up and said, “Cornelius has summoned you. Come, be his guest.”

            When Cornelius met Peter, he fell at his feet, but Peter begged him to stand up. He related his vision to Peter and Peter shared his angelic message with Cornelius. It was against the Jewish law for Peter to enter the house of a Gentile, but the vision told him it was proper that he should enter the house. Peter told the story of Jesus to Cornelius and his entourage and the Holy Spirit fell upon every member within the house. Peter declared, “I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” Peter ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. It is the first known instance of a Gentile being welcomed into the faith.

             Peter was challenged to go to a new frontier in his religious consciousness. As a rule, he was probably kind to Jew and Gentile alike, but it was quite different for him to abandon his lifelong teaching and welcome someone into the faith who did not belong. None of his religious education would lead him to this moment; he needed a direct revelation from God to change his mind and heart. He was not being prejudicial, but he was trying to love the laws of his faith to the fullest extent. Thankfully, God changed all that.
            All faiths need laws and they have to figure out who belongs and who does not. While our churches ascribe to inclusion and welcome on the top level, we must work to permeate this at all levels. Our larger culture battles social forces and discrimination at many levels: racism, classism, gender bias and sexual identity, educational levels, and causes of poverty. On a surface level, we accept that everyone has the right to be with us at church, but do we do any more than notice the foreigner within our midst? It is helpful if we overcome our need to give each other space so that we can reach across the aisle and say to the other person, “Hello, this is my name. What is yours? It is a pleasure to meet you.” Such a simple gesture, quite a dramatic effect. We are in church as a community of faith, not as individuals. God shows no partiality, but we do. We are not going to correct everything overnight, but we can honor and respect the person who is sitting in the row in front of us.

            As the weekly church service ends, everyone lines up to say something to the priest. He is happy to see you but he wants you to greet one another. We build up our community of faith one greeting at a time. Racism is diminished when we get to know someone from a different culture; sexism is lessened when we say something that honors the opposite gender; acceptance is felt by a person whose sexual orientation is same-sex when you look them in the eye, smile, and ask, “How are you today?,” educational levels are improved when we become tutors for others; poverty is reduced when we help others access the many available resources to them. When we do this, we all feel better because we are contributing to the greater good. We allow others to challenge our assumptions.

When we see and hear and know the other person, God honors us. This is what happened between Cornelius and Peter. It can happen with us too if we reach towards new frontiers. We only have modest control over our little corner of the world, so let us live well. It begins with an encounter, a handshake, a greeting, a smile – and then the Holy Spirit descends upon us and takes over. We are baptized into the Body of Christ. Let us no longer be strangers to one another. Come say hello.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: 
Monday: (Acts 16) Paul and Barnabas set sail for Philippi, a leading city of Macedonia, and a Romany colony. Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, listens to their preaching and opens her heart to them. She is baptized and invites them to stay with her.   
Tuesday: (Acts 16) Paul is brought to the Areopagus in Athens and tells them of the Unknown God he and Barnabas worship.
Wednesday: (Acts 17) At the Areopagus, Paul declares that this unknown God is the same one Christians worship and has brought about salvation, including the resurrection of the dead. This concept unsettles some who find it a difficult teaching to accept.
Thursday: (Acts 15) Paul travels to Corinth and meets the Jews, Aquila and Priscilla, who were forced to leave Rome because of Cladius’ dispersion edict. He learns the tent-making trade and preaches to Jews who reject him. He encounters Titus Justus and Crispus, a synagogue leader, who comes to believe. The entire congregation believes the news of Jesus Christ.
Friday (Acts 18) While in Corinth, Paul receives a vision from the Lord urging him to go on speaking as no harm will come to him. Others are harmed, but Paul escapes injury.
Saturday (Acts 18) Paul travels to Antioch in Syria. Priscilla and Aquila meet Apollos, a Jewish Christian, who is preaching the way of Jesus, but of the baptism by the Holy Spirit he is not informed. They take him aside and teach him the correct doctrine. He then vigorously refutes the Jews in public, establishing from the Scriptures that the Christ is Jesus.

Gospel: 
Monday: (John 15) Jesus tells his friends that the Advocate will come and testify to him. Meanwhile, they will be expelled from the synagogues and harmed – even unto death.  
Tuesday: (John 16) The Advocate, the Spirit of truth, will guide his friends to all truth. Jesus confuses them by saying, “a little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me.”
Wednesday (John 16) The Spirit of truth will guide you and will declare to you the things that are coming. The Spirit will glorify. Everything the Father has is mine.
Thursday (John 15) Remaining close to Jesus will allow us to share complete joy with one another.
Friday (John 16) As they debate, he tells them their mourning will become joy – just like a woman who is groaning in labor pains.
Saturday (John 16) As Jesus tells them again that he is part of the Father, he instructs them to ask for anything in his name and God will grant it because Jesus is leaving the world and is going back to the Father. The Father loves them because they have loved him. The Father will reward them for their generosity.

Saints of the Week

May 10: Damien de Veuster of Moloka'i, priest (1840-1889), was a Belgian who entered the Congregation of the Fathers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. He was sent on mission to the Hawaiian Islands and was a parish priest for nine years. He then volunteered as a chaplain to the remote leper colony of Moloka'i. He contracted leprosy and died at the colony. He is remembered for his brave choice to accept the mission and to bring respect and dignity to the lepers. He was canonized in 2009. A statue of him stands in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.

May 12: Nereus and Achilleus, martyrs (early second century), were Roman Imperial soldiers who converted to Christianity. They left the army and were martyred when they refused to sacrifice to idols during Emperor Trajan's reign.

May 12: Pancras, martyr, (d. 304)was a Syrian orphan who was brought to Rome by his uncle. Both soon after converted to Christianity. Pancras was beheaded at age 14 during the Diocletian persecution and buried on the Via Aurelia. A cemetery was named after him, but his remains were sent to Northumbria in England where six churches are dedicated to him.

May 13: Our Lady of Fatima is a name given to Mary after she appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal between May 13 and October 13, 1917. During her appearances, Mary stressed the importance of repentance, ongoing conversion, and dedicated to the heart of Mary through praying the Rosary.

May 14: Matthias, Apostle (first century) was chosen after the resurrection to replace Judas who committed suicide. In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter, quoting a psalm, told 120 people who gathered that they were to choose a new apostle - someone who had been with them from the baptism of Jesus until the resurrection. Two names were put forward and the assembly cast lots. Matthias was chosen.

***Please note that the Ascension is celebrated in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Newark, Hartford, and Omaha on Thursday. Most of the world celebrates the feast on  Sunday.

May 14: Ascension Thursday is a holy day of obligation. It marks the event in the life of the Resurrected Christ who departed from this temporal earth to return to God. It celebrates Jesus’ visible absence while recognizing his invisible presence to the world. It is the event in the life of Christ when his physical appearances came to an end so he could resume his place at the right hand of the Father in heaven. St. Ignatius was so desirous of learning about the historical Jesus that he traveled to the places in the Holy Lands where Jesus walked and lived. As he was getting kicked out of the Holy Lands, he desired to return to the place of the Ascension to see the direction of Jesus’ feet as he ascended to God. A novena is prayed beginning on this day as we await the arrival of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

May 15: Isidore (1070-1130), was born in Madrid to a family of farm laborers. With his wife, he worked on an estate and became known for his piety and generosity. His remains are the cause of several miracles most notably the cure of King Philip III who became his sponsor for canonization.

May 16: Andrew Bobola, S.J., priest martyr (1591-1657), is called the Martyr of Poland because of his excruciatingly painful death. He worked during a plague to care for the sick, but he became "wanted" by the Cossacks during a time when anti-Catholic and anti-Jesuit sentiment was high. His preaching converted whole villages back to Catholicism and he was hunted down because he was termed a "soul-hunter."

This Week in Jesuit History

·      May 10, 1773. Empress Maria Teresa of Austria changed her friendship for the Society into hatred, because she had been led to believe that a written confession of hers (found and printed by Protestants) had been divulged by the Jesuits.
·      May 11, 1824. St Regis Seminary opens in Florissant, Missouri, by Fr. Van Quickenborne. It was the first Roman Catholic school in USA for the higher education of Native American Indians
·      May 12,1981. A letter of this date, from Secretary of State, Cardinal Casaroli, speaks positively of Teilhard de Chardin in celebration of the centenary of his birth (May 1,1881).
·      May 13, 1572. Election of Gregory XIII to succeed St Pius V. To him the Society owes the foundation of the Roman and German Colleges.
·      May 14, 1978. Letter of Pedro Arrupe to the whole Society on Inculturation.
·      May 15, 1815. Readmission of the Society into Spain by Ferdinand VII. The members of the Society were again exiled on July 31, 1820.

·      May 16, 1988. In Paraguay, Pope John Paul II canonizes Roque Gonzalez, Alfonso Rodriguez, and Juan del Castillo.