Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time
August 16, 2015
Proverbs 9:1-6; Psalm 34; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-5

            Lady Wisdom stands on the street corner imploring any soul to take advantage of her meal because she offers counter-cultural wisdom. The food she offers is simple and will fill the souls with simplicity and purity that is radical in light of the world’s complexities. From this food, one will discern the wisdom of God. Jesus is often called the Word and Wisdom of God and there are remarkable comparisons between him and Lady Wisdom. He offers a meal as well, but the stakes are raised. This food comes directly from his body and blood and only those who live in God’s wisdom can partake of it.

            Jesus speaks of real, cannibalistic, “crunch and munch” food, which the Jews are obviously slow to grasp. They shudder at the barbarity of his statement. Even the followers of Jesus have a difficult time comprehending this concept, but it speaks of the intimacy Jesus wants with his followers. We become what we eat, and in this case, the followers are feeding off of the one who comes from God. Equally important, his followers can have this meal wherever they are. They do not have to be in a certain synagogue or church; they can ritually remember the saving actions of Jesus and offer to God the work of their hands. God promises to transform it into this saving bread. Only those who seek God’s wisdom can understand what Jesus is doing.

            How does one obtain this counter-cultural wisdom? By withholding immediate judgments, we can make more informed, prudential judgments. We can say to ourselves, “Not everyone has to know what I’m thinking at all times. I can be silent enough to observe so that I do not rashly react so that I may more calmly respond.” Wisdom reveals that we are not the center of everyone’s universe, but that we actually occupy a small place in the world. This is not to diminish each person’s importance, but just to root squarely our belonging to a larger reality. When we speak after sufficient reflection and the passage of time our words hold greater gravitas.

            We reveal divine wisdom when we appropriately self-represent and place more attention on the real needs of others. Showing that we are concerned with eliciting the best of others will cause others to seek the counsel we are reluctant to give. In today’s culture, far too many people are concerned with their personal rights without regard to their personal responsibilities. Yes, the woman who cuts in line in front of me at Macy’s may feel she has the personal right to do this because her wealth and status make her more important than me, but she is not exercising her responsibility to the principles of order, fairness, and social justice. She may feel like she upholds her responsibilities in other ways, but her disregard for the principles and virtues of others are unseemly. She degrades the smooth flowing of society when she is only concerned with asserting her rights. No one feels good about her interactions.

            Holding to counter-cultural values contribute to the proper functioning of society. When we value safety over the need to race our car into the rotary to beat out our possible competitors shows the right value. We value social coherence over self-expression when we choose to walk to the right hand side of the subway stairwell. We value respect for the dignity of the individual when we listen attentively to the family member who rants and raves at family gatherings, but we choose not to rebut everything he says. Sooner or later he runs out of steam and is left holding his own vitriol. We hold none of it because his details do not matter to us, but our affection for him remains strong.

            We need to cultivate our Christian virtues so we can always see the out-pouring love of Jesus. Prudential self-care and love for others will keep us on the right path because they reveal our love of God. Finding creative ways to build a community of faith and to permit greater freedom of others will attest to our genuine honoring of others. Taking the time to nourish ourselves – body, soul, and spirit – shows that we need restorative alone time with Christ. Pondering the significance of God’s continual feeding of us through the Eucharist will bind us closer together. It is all about where we want to allocate our time and where we grow in strength. Then, we can look upon the world with all its foolishness and not be deterred by the strange actions of many, but we look on the world with affection to see the ways people are striving to be closer to God. In every major city, if we look with perceptible eyes, Lady Wisdom still beckons and offers, and Jesus stands there ready to give of himself until it hurts. We have to be ready to take, break, bless, and eat. This “crunch and munch” food will surely satisfy.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: 
·      Monday: (Judges 2) Israel offended God by serving the Baals. They abandoned God, who turned them over to plunderers that despoiled them. The distressed people raised up judges for them so they would be saved from the power of their enemies.
·      Tuesday: (Judges 6) The Lord appeared to Gideon and said, “Go with the strength you have and save Israel from the power of Midian.” Gideon said they were from the lowliest of families and he is the lowliest in the house. Gideon made an offering to the Lord by laying meat and cakes on a rock. A fired came up to consume the meat and cakes. Gideon was sure the Lord was speaking to him and he accepted his mission.
·      Wednesday: (Judges 9) People came together to make Abimelech king, but Jotham told a parable of the olive and fig trees. The vine wanted to be king, but it would choke the two trees.
·      Thursday: (Judges 11) Jephthah vowed to the Lord that whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in triumph over the Ammonites will belong to the Lord.
·      Friday (Ruth 1) During a famine, a man from Bethlehem departed with his wife and two sons to reside in Moab, but he died leaving Naomi with the sons. After more deaths, Ruth went to live in Moab, but Ruth swore she would stay by Naomi. She said, “Wherever you go, I will go. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” They returned to Bethlehem at the time of the barley harvest.
·      Saturday (Ruth 2) Boaz welcomed Ruth as family and not as foreigner. He heard about how she attended to Naomi and left her parents and the land of her birth. Boaz took Ruth as his wife and they conceived a son. They called him Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David.

·      Monday: (Matthew 19) A man approached Jesus and asked what is necessary to gain eternal life. The man kept the commandments, but could not sell his possessions to follow Jesus.
·      Tuesday: (Matthew 19) Jesus explained that it was difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. The disciples wondered if they were included and Jesus told them that those who give up everything for his sake will enter the kingdom.
·      Wednesday (Matthew 20) The kingdom is heaven is like a landowner that hires laborers to care for his vineyard. He paid all his laborers the same wage even though some were hired later in the day.
·      Thursday (Matthew 22) The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He went out into the streets to invite many. Some said no, but the king wanted to fill the hall. Finally, some accepted, but they were improperly dressed. The king was not pleased.
·      Friday (Matthew 22) The Pharisees tested Jesus by asking which commandment is the greatest. He answered, “Love the Lord with your whole soul and your neighbor as yourself.”  
·      Saturday (Matthew 23) Jesus denounced the scribes and Pharisees: They have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Do as they say but do not follow their example. They love places of honor and their works are performed to be seen. You have one master and he is the Christ!

Saints of the Week

August 16: Stephen of Hungary (975-1038) tried to unite the Magyar families and was able to establish the church in Hungary through Pope Sylvester II's support. Rome crowed Stephen as the first king in 1001 and he instituted many reforms in religious and civil practices. He built churches and trained local clergy.

August 18: Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, S.J., priest (1901-1952), was a Chilean Jesuit priest, lawyer, writer and social worker who was born in the Basque region in Spain. He established Hogar de Cristo, that housed at-risk children, whether orphaned or not, and provided them food and shelter. Hurtado also supported the rise of labor union and labor rights in Chile.

August 19: John Eudes, priest (1601-1680) preached missions, heard confessions, and assisted the sick and dying. He founded a new religious order for women, which includes Our Lady of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters. He eventually left the Oratorians to found the Congregation of Jesus and Mary. 

August 20: Bernard, Abbot and Doctor (1090-1153) became a Benedictine abbey in Citeaux because of its strict observance. He was sent to set up a new monastery in Clairvaux with 12 other monks. He wrote theological treatises, sermons, letters, and commentaries that dominated the thought of Europe. His writings had a tremendous influence of Catholic spirituality.

August 21: Pius X, pope (1835-1914), was an Italian parish priest for 17 years before he became bishop of Mantua, the cardinal patriarch of Venice, and eventually pope. He urged frequent communion for adults, sacramental catechesis for children, and continued education for everyone. He is known for rigid political policies that put him at odds with a dynamically changing world that led to World War I.

August 22: The Queenship of Mary concludes the octave of the principal feast of Mary as she celebrates her installation as queen and mother of all creation. This feast was placed on our calendar in 1954 following the dogmatic proclamation of the Assumption.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Aug. 16, 1649: At Drogheda, Fr. John Bath and his brother, a secular priest, were shot in the marketplace by Cromwell's soldiers.
·      Aug. 17, 1823: Fr. Van Quickenborne and a small band of missionaries descended the Missouri River to evangelize the Indians at the request of the bishop of St. Louis. On this date in 1829, the College of St. Louis opened.
·      Aug. 18, 1952: The death of Alberto Hurtado, writer, retreat director, trade unionist and founder of "El Hogar de Christo," a movement to help the homeless in Chile.
·      Aug. 19, 1846: At Melgar, near Burgos, the birth of Fr. Luis Martin, 24th General of the Society.
·      Aug. 20, 1891: At Santiago, Chile, the government of Balmaceda ordered the Jesuit College to be closed.
·      Aug. 21, 1616: At Pont a Mousson in Lorraine died Fr. William Murdoch, a Scotchman, who when only 10 years of age was imprisoned seven months for the faith and cruelly beaten by the order of a Protestant bishop. St. Ignatius is said to have appeared to him and encouraged him to bear the cross bravely.
·      Aug. 22, 1872: Jesuits were expelled from Germany during the Bismarckian Kulturkampf.