Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze
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Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time
September 6, 2015
Isaiah 35:4-7; Psalm 146; James 2:1-5; Mark 7:31-37

            Isaiah encourages the people to be bold and without fear because God promises to save them in the new age. It is an era in which the blind’s eyes will be opened, the deaf’s ears will be cleared, the lame will leap in joy, and the mute’s mouth will bellow songs of praise. Jesus inaugurates the joyful new age where all of creation’s needs will be abundantly met. The best part of it is that this salvation is open to everyone. Pope Francis emphasizes this in the coming year of mercy, a year in which the church will reconcile with all those who are needy. It will certainly be a joyful year.

            Jesus goes outside of Israel into the Decapolis district where he healed a deaf mute by praying the words, “Ephphatha – that is, be opened.” He fulfills Isaiah’s promise to bring relief and comfort the afflicted. Though he cured the man’s disabilities, this Ephapatha prayer is one that we all need. My prayer for everyone as we enter into this Jubilee Year is that we can be open to the Pope’s message, which simply is: Jesus intimately cares for you and wants to save you.

            Years ago I directed a 30-day silent retreat in which a young religious sister was carrying heavy burdens. During our first meeting, I called her attention to the huge blimp, an industrial balloon that floated by the open window. No one could miss it. It was so obviously visible, but as I tried to point it out to her, she could not see it. I even had her sit in my chair to look out the window, but she still could not see this huge dirigible. I realized I had my work cut out for me. Her blindness was of a different sort and she needed her mind to be opened.

            After nearly four weeks of conversation and prayer, sister broke down and cried when it came time in the retreat for Jesus to die. She sat with him in his tomb and piled her heaviness onto his dead body. Though Jesus had died, she was the one who needed consolation. In her grief, she noticed that the hand of Jesus moved. He placed his hand upon her to comfort her. She held tightly until he sat up to hold her in his arms. She simply wept. In the time that she poured out her heartache, Jesus became resurrected. He reached out for her to let her know that he was alive to her and would always be with her. They stayed together in the tomb for a while until she fell asleep in his arms. When she awoke, she found the tomb empty and realized Jesus was alive. He had gone to his mom to console her and then to meet Mary and the Eleven disciples. This sister found that her heart was suddenly light and it could finally hold joy.

            Sister went to her room to pray. She sat in a chair and looked out the window. She spotted a huge balloon ship, a blimp, hovering over the water. She thought back to the time I tried to show her that balloon and she realized it was so big that no one could miss it. She ran to tell me the news and she exclaimed, “Fr. John, Jesus opened my soul. I’m so happy. He gave me back my true self and all I can do is dance.” She laughed and twirled around and delighted in the saving work of Jesus. This very serious woman who carried heaviness with her was finally freed. Her eyes were opened and she could see the world as God sees it – and she fell in love with her community, friends, and family once again. She saw herself as Jesus sees her – and she loved herself once again.

            This is the work Pope Francis wants us to experience. He wants us to be opened to the new possibilities that Jesus can give us. It means we will have to let go of much of the stuff that blocks us. Much of it is fear, but fear is not faith. We have heard time and time again about the blind seeing and the deaf hearing, but in Isaiah’s words, there is delight. It is not just the lame walking again. It is the lame leaping in joy like a stag, like the sister who danced and twirled around at the end of the retreat. It is not just the tongue being loosened, but that it will sing harmonious rhythms. Imagine what he will see and hear and know when Christ frees us from those experiences that bind us. This is a time of liberation. It is a new year of mercy. This is indeed a time of rejoicing. Give yourself over to the power of Jesus Christ who wants you to “be opened.” Ephaphatha!

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: 
·      Monday: (1 Thessalonians 4) We believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
·      Tuesday: (1 Thessalonians 5) Disaster comes upon the complacent, but not for you who are not in darkness. Let us stay alert and sober.  
·      Wednesday: (Colossians 1) We always give thanks to you for your love of Jesus Christ and for the love that you have for all the holy ones because of the hope reserved for you in heaven.
·      Thursday: (Colossians 1) We do not cease praying for you and asking that you be filled with the knowledge of God’s will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
·      Friday (Colossians 1) Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that is all things he might be preeminent.
·      Saturday (Colossians 1) You were once alienated and hostile in mind because of evil deeds; God has now reconciled you in the fleshly Body of Christ through his death, to present you holy, without blemish, and irreproachable before him.

Gospel: 
·      Monday: (Luke 4) Jesus came to Nazareth and attended synagogue on the Sabbath. He read from the scroll of Isaiah and when finished declared, “This reading has been fulfilled in your hearing.” No prophet receives honor in his hometown.
·      Tuesday: (Luke 4) Jesus came Capernaum in Galilee and taught on the Sabbath with authority. A man’s unclean spirit was silenced and thrown out of him. The demon recognized Jesus as the Holy One of God.
·      Wednesday (Luke 4) Jesus cured Simon’s mother-in-law and at sunset, all who had people with various diseases brought them to him to be curried. At daybreak, everyone was looking for him, but he said he had to leave. “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom.”
·      Thursday (Luke 5) At Lake Gennesaret, Jesus saw two boats with fishermen washing their nets. He signaled to Simon, who was frustrated with the last night’s catch. Jesus told him to put out his net and Simon caught so many that the boats were in danger of sinking. Simon recognizes his sinful nature and asks Jesus to depart. He doesn’t.
·      Friday (Luke 5) The scribes and Pharisees asked why his disciples do not fast while John’s disciples do. One day they will, but now they do not have to while the groom is with them.
·      Saturday (Luke 6) Jesus ate the heads of grain in a field on the Sabbath and some Pharisees protested. Jesus recalled David’s precedent and declared that the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.

Saints of the Week

September 7: Stephen Pongracz (priest), Melchior Grodziecki (priest), and Mark Krizevcanin (canon) of the Society of Jesus were matyred in 1619 when they would not deny their faith in Slovakia. They were chaplains to Hungarian Catholic troops, which raised the ire of Calvinists who opposed the Emperor. They were brutally murdered through a lengthy process that most Calvinists and Protestants opposed.

September 8: The Birth of Mary was originally (like all good feasts) celebrated first in the Eastern Church. The Roman church began its devotion in the fifth century. Her birth celebrates her role as the mother of Jesus. Some traditions have her born in Nazareth while others say she hails from outside of Jerusalem.

September 9: Peter Claver, S.J. (1580-1654) became a Jesuit in 1600 and was sent to the mission in Cartegena, Colombia, a center of slave trade. For forty years, Claver ministered to the newly arrived Africans by giving them food, water, and medical care. Unfortunately, he died ostracized by his Jesuit community because he insisted on continuing the unpopular act of treating the slaves humanely.

September 10: Francis Garate, S.J. (1857-1929) was a Basque who entered the Jesuits and became a doorkeeper at the University of Deusto in Bilbao. He modeled his ministry after Alphonsus Rodriguez and became known for his innate goodness, humility, and prayerfulness.

September 12: The Name of Mary was given to the child in the octave that follow her birth on September 8th. Mary (Miriam) was a popular name for a girl because it means "beloved."

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Sep 6, 1666. The Great Fire of London broke out on this date. There is not much the Jesuits have not been blamed for, and this was no exception. It was said to be the work of Papists and Jesuits. King Charles II banished all the fathers from England.
·      Sep 7, 1773. King Louis XV wrote to Clement XIV, expressing his heartfelt joy at the suppression of the Society.
·      Sep 8, 1600. Fr. Matteo Ricci set out on his journey to Peking (Beijing). He experienced enormous difficulties in reaching the royal city, being stopped on his way by one of the powerful mandarins.
·      Sep 9, 1773. At Lisbon, Carvalho, acting in the king's name, ordered public prayers for the deliverance of the world from the "pestilence of Jesuitism."
·      Sep 10, 1622. The martyrdom at Nagaski, Japan, of Charles Spinola and his companions.
·      Sep 11, 1681. At Antwerp, the death of Fr. Geoffry Henschen (Henschenius). A man of extraordinary learning, he was Fr. Jan von Bolland's assistant in compiling the Acts of the Saints.

·      Sep 12, 1744. Benedict XIV's second Bull, Omnium Sollicitudinum, forbade the Chinese Rites. Persecution followed in China.