Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze
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Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
August 9, 2015
1 Kings 19:4-8; Psalm 34; Ephesians 4:30-5:2; John 6:41-51

            The feeding narratives continue in the readings this week, but we notice a few twists occurring in the stories. Elijah is weary because he began a campaign into the desert and he gets tired on the first day. He falls asleep under a broom tree and asks the Lord to take his life rather than to suffer further. However, he was nudged from his sleep to find a hearth cake and a jug of water. He ate and slept some more, but an angel prodded him to rise, eat, and begin the journey. He walked fortified for forty days and nights to Mount Horeb.

            Jesus instructs the people about the distinction between the God-given manna and the life-giving bread he gives to the people. They grumble because they cannot understand how God through Jesus gives it to them. They reduce Jesus to the child of Joseph and Mary and put him in his place because they know his parents are ordinary village folk. Jesus directs them back to the actions of God, which they are reluctant to examine. He tells them, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him up on the last day.” He explains, “They shall all be taught by God. Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.”

            Listening to God is not a skill that many have mastered well and we cannot be taught unless we first learn to listen. Many times in personal prayer, we are the ones talking, which means we cannot be listening. Some people find listening boring because there are many more words they would still like to speak. Just as in school we did well when we listened to our teachers, we have to employ the same discipline in prayer. Listening is passive when we are not engaged; listening is active when we enter into the relationship as a more active partner.

            Listening is active when we engage our senses and let data from the sensory world fill our imagination. We notice movements within our unconscious world that we often repress or neglect. Letting these thoughts move to the surface of our consciousness means that we give them the attention they beg from us. They become, not distractions, but the real substance of our prayer because we cannot control their need for attention. This is the realm in which God speaks. When we pay attention to God in this arena, we can listen and be taught by God. This is where the real instruction takes place.

            I have always been curious about the experience of Ignatius of Loyola as he sat on the banks on the Cardoner River and had his most illuminative mystical experience. He reports that God taught him as if he was a schoolboy. God revealed to Ignatius the breadth and depth of his salvation plan. Ignatius said that he learned most of what he knew about God in that experience. However, I want to know what Ignatius learned. I can glean many aspects of this experience in his letters and from the Spiritual Exercises, but I wish I could hear Ignatius speak directly about this experience.

            It might be similar to a time when I was on my very first silent retreat at a Trappist Monastery. Christ gave me distinct images and sensory experiences to savor. The fruits of the retreat, which are that I must always go beyond my self-imposed limitations and reach out to another person to convey the love of God to them, cannot be expressed in words because they do not capture the richness of the experience. I savored that moment for days and I felt complete in my knowledge of the message Christ gave me, but I could never adequately explain how I felt to another person.

            Being taught by God means that his Bread and Blood must nourish us so we can sit with him and listen. Once we sit as a companion, we can learn from God about the matters of our life and then we feel as if we are squarely on the path to everlasting life. Saint Paul tells us to be imitators of God. Therefore, we must sense, ponder, observe, and notice how God is active in our life, whether it is directly through God or through the agency of another person. Your true self has to emerge because it is compatible with the manner that God wants you to be. Paul says, “Live in love,” and be kind to one another, be compassionate, and be forgiving as we have been forgiven. An increase of charity reveals to us that God is active within us.

Notice. Actively listen. Engage with God. You then find you are becoming like God.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: 
·      Monday: (2 Corinthians 9) Whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly; whoever sows bountifully will reap bountifully. God loves a cheerful giver.  
·      Tuesday: (Deuteronomy 31) Moses told the people he was 120 and no longer able to move about freely. He shall not cross the Jordan. The Lord will cross the river before your and Joshua will lead you. “Be brave and steadfast.” Joshua will put people in possession of their heritage.
·      Wednesday: (Deuteronomy 34) Moses went up to Nebo, which faces Jericho, and the Lord showed him the land the people were to claim as their own. Moses died in the land of Moab and was buried in the ravine, but no one knows his burial place. The people gave Joshua their obedience.
·      Thursday: (Joshua 3) The ark of the covenant will precede Joshua and Israel into the Promised Land and they will dispossess the Canaanites. The ark will cease the flow of water enough to let the people pass on dry land.  
·      Friday (Joshua 24) Joshua recounted the history of God’s chosen people as they assembled at Shechem. God has been victorious up until now when Jericho fought against Israel and lost. God defeated many tribes through Israel. God gave them a land they did not till and cities they did not build.
·      Saturday (Revelation 11) A great sign appeared in the sky: a woman clothed with the sun and a crown of 12 stars appeared. She was with child and wailed aloud to give birth. A huge red dragon approached. As she gave birth, her son was caught up to God and his throne and she fled to the desert to a place prepared by God.

Gospel: 
·      Monday: (John 12) “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it produces much fruit.   
·      Tuesday: (Matthew 18) “Who is the greatest in the kingdom?” Jesus called a child over to himself and said, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones.”
·      Wednesday (Matthew 18) “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he refuses, tell the Church. If he still refuses, treat me as you would a Gentile or tax collector. What you bind on earth remains bound; what you loose is loosened.”
·      Thursday (Matthew 18) Peter asked, “How many times am I to forgive?” Jesus replied, “no seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Jesus told a parable of a king who settled accounts with his servants.
·      Friday (Matthew 19) The Pharisees asked, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause whatsoever?” Jesus told them that laws were written for humans, but what God has united must never be separated.  
·      Saturday (Luke 1) Mary visited Elizabeth who greeted Mary by recognizing she was pregnant with the Lord’s son. When Mary spoke, she sang her song of joy.

Saints of the Week

August 9: Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), martyr (1891-1942), became a Catholic convert from Judaism after reading the autobiography of Teresa of Avila. He earned a doctorate in philosophy, but was unemployable because she was a woman. She taught at a high school for eight years before entering the Carmelites in 1933 where she made final vows in 1938. She moved to Holland to escape persecution by the Nazis, but was arrested when the bishops spoke out against the persecution of the Jews.

August 10: Lawrence, deacon and martyr (d. 258) was martyred four days after Pope Sixtus II and six other deacons during the Valerian persecution. A beautiful story is told about Lawrence's words. When asked to surrender the church's treasure, Lawrence gathered the poor and presented them to the civil authorities. For this affront, he was martyred. He is the patron of Rome.

August 11: Clare, founder (1193-1253), was inspired by Francis of Assist so much that she fled her home for his community to receive the Franciscan habit on Passion Sunday 1212. She lived in a nearby Benedictine convent until she was made superior of a new community in San Damiano. She practiced radical poverty by wearing no shoes, sleeping on the ground, and giving up meat.

August 12: Jane Frances de Chantal, religious (1572-1641), founded the Congregation of the Visitation with her spiritual advisor, Francis de Sales. This congregation was for women who wanted to live in religious life, but without the austerity of the other orders. Jane was married to a Baron with whom she had six children and she sought religious answers to her suffering. Her order established eighty-five convents dedicated to serving the poor before she died.

August 13: Pontian, pope and martyr and Hippolytus, priest and martyr (d.236). Pontian's papacy was interrupted by a persecution when the Roman Emperor Maximinus arrested him and his rival, Hippolytus, and banished them to Sardinia. Pontian resigned so another pope could succeed him. Hippolytus, who formed a schismatic group and claimed to be the real pope, reconciled with the church before he and Pontian were martyred.

August 14: Maximilian Kolbe, priest and martyr (1894-1941), was born in Russian-occupied Poland. He entered the Franciscans in 1910 and preached the gospel with his devotion to Mary in Poland and Japan. When the Nazis conquered Poland in 1939, he ministered to thousands of refugees. He was arrested, sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. When a prisoner escaped and retaliation was sought, Kolbe offered himself to replace one of the ten randomly chosen men to be executed.

August 15: The Assumption of Mary is the principal feast of Mary with her Queenship celebrated at the end of the octave. This feast celebrates that she was taken up to heaven, body and soul, at the end of her earthly life. The Council of Ephesus in 431 proclaimed her Mother of God and devotion of her dormition followed afterwards.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Aug 9, 1762. The moving of the English College from St Omers to Liege.
·      Aug 10, 1622. Blessed Augustine Ota, a Japanese brother, was beheaded for the faith. He had been baptized by Blessed Camillus Costanzi on the eve of the latter's martyrdom.
·      Aug 11, 1846. The death of Benedict Joseph Fenwick. He was the second bishop of Boston, twice the president of Georgetown, and the founder of the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts.
·      Aug 12, 1877. The death of Fr. Maurice Gailland. He was an expert in languages and spent many years at St Mary's Mission in Kansas. He wrote a 450.page dictionary and grammar of the Potawatomi language.
·      Aug 13, 1621. The death in Rome of St John Berchmans. He died while still in studies, preparing for a public disputation.
·      Aug 14, 1812. Napoleon I and his army arrived at Polosk, in White Russia. They plunder the property of the Society and violate the tombs of the Generals.

·      Aug 15, 1821. Fr. Peter DeSmet sailed from Amsterdam to America. He hoped to work among the Native Americans. He became the best known missionary of the northwest portion of the United States.