Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze
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Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 7, 2016
Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19; Psalm 71; 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13; Luke 4:21-30

            Last week, Jesus was intensely rejected by his townspeople when he announced that he is the fulfillment of the Lord’s promises. Their rage led them to the hilltop where they wanted to throw Jesus down to destroy him. Today, we hear positive responses about the way Jesus was received by the people of Capernaum and, more specifically, of the first disciples. Jesus enlists Peter as a helper in his kingdom activity and calls Peter, James, and John to follow his kingdom life-style. Their response is total as they abandon everything to join him, but it is important for us to notice Peter’s self-awareness when he first realizes that he is in the presence of the Lord. Peter is portrayed positively as he recognizes his rightful unworthiness to stand before this astonishing man Jesus, who really is the fulfillment of God’s promises.

            Isaiah goes through a similar dynamic. By divine favor, he is given a vision into the heavenly liturgy where the King of the World is presiding. When he realizes his privilege, he recognizes his lowliness and calls to mind the ways he has not spoken well. One of the seraphim comes to him and cleanses his tongue by a searing ember. Because this mark is laid upon him, he responds affirmatively to the King’s mission for him. His prophetic role is made credible because he is one who glimpsed the Lord and lived. Paul, too, speaks of his unworthy character, as one who, by all rights, ought not to be a disciple, but through the grace of God has been called into his service. Because the Lord appeared to him, Paul is able to build up the church he once set out to destroy.

            Many people often envy the immediate, wholehearted responses of the disciples to the call of Jesus, but these illustrations of the evangelists are often not helpful to our process of discerning our call. For instance, a study of Saul’s conversion reveals that it took him fourteen years to become Paul, the missionary. We are not called into service; rather, we are called into a deepening friendship with Jesus. At first, our response to this relationship may seem like an easy choice: Who wouldn’t choose Christ? But as St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, tells us: the strategies of the enemy are subtle, and riches, honors, and the esteem of others seduce us. It is important for us to know the strategy of Christ, who is gentle, inviting, and desires only to liberate people to love God and others. He espouses the counter-cultural values of poverty, self-giving, and a dignified humility. The poverty of Christ is spiritual as he relies upon God’s love and support; the poverty of Christ is material as he chooses to live with few possessions, which allows him to more easily live for others.

            Examine Peter for a moment because he shows us Christ-like pride and Christ-like humility.  False pride puts oneself at the center of the universe; hence, a disqualification for a life of service; False humility is beating oneself up; another aspect of too much self-involvement. As Peter witnesses the miraculous catch before him, he displays Christ-like humility that acknowledges his self-worth and human limitations. It leads him to Christ-like pride that recognizes the truth that each person is created in the image of God and enjoys inherent dignity. Peter’s missionary success, like his catch of fish, is not his own doing, but the Lord’s.

            Now is the time to reflect upon our own call, especially as we prepare for the onset of Lent. Each of us is called in particular ways and needs to be honored and respected by Christ and the church. We will sometimes be proud of what we have done and we will have those moments when we do not value ourselves too highly and we will want to say: Depart from me, Lord, I’m not worth your time. Thankfully, he will not obey us because he cares about us too much. He does not focus upon our failings as much as we do. He will affirm our self-worth and understand our limitations because he is more interested in our soul than any act we may do or not do. Be good and gentle to yourself and lift your eyes to see the Lord who stands in front of you. Let his gentle invitation to deeper trust liberate you from what holds you back to a fuller life in Christ.

            This is the time of fulfillment, a jubilee year, the Year of Mercy. Jesus enters into our chaos to heal us and be with us in friendship. Our immediate call is to greet one another with mercy – by entering into another’s turbulence. Like Peter, the power of the work is not our own. The best we can do is to reach out to one in need, extend compassion, and give them a glimpse of our limited humanity. That’s all we’ve got. Like Isaiah, Paul, and Peter, the one sitting by our side just might catch a glimpse of the divine.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: 
·      Monday: (1 Kings 8) Solomon and all of Israel processed to the Ark of the Covenant with their sacrifices. The cloud filled the temple and the Lord decided to dwell in the dark cloud. Solomon built a princely house, a dwelling place where the Lord may abide.
·      Tuesday: (1 Kings 8) Solomon stood before the temple and praised God for keeping the covenant with the people. He appealed that the Lord hear the people’s pleas.
·      Wednesday: (Joel 2) Return to the Lord with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning. Proclaim a fast and make offerings to the Lord.
·      Thursday: (Deuteronomy 30) Today I set before you life and prosperity, death and doom. If you obey the commandments, you will life. Choose life.
·      Friday (Isaiah 58) This is the fast the Lord wants: set free the oppressed, share bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and homeless, clothe the naked, and don’t turn your back on your own.
·      Saturday (Isaiah 58) Honor the commandments of the Lord, then the Lord shall delight in you. He will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father.

Gospel: 
·      Monday: (Mark 6) Jesus crossed the sea. Upon leaving the boat, people from villages and towns begged him that they might only touch the tassel of his cloak for healing.
·      Tuesday: (Mark 7) The Pharisees scolded Jesus for eating meals with unwashed hands and they appealed to him to honor the laws. Jesus retorted: You disregard God’s commandments, but cling to human tradition.
·      Wednesday (Matthew 6) Do not be like the hypocrites, but pray and fast in silence and out of sight so that God in heaven is the only one who sees your sacrifice.
·      Thursday (Luke 9) The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.
·      Friday (Matthew 9) The Pharisees asked about the practices of the disciples’ fasting. Jesus retorted that the wedding guests do not fast when the bridegroom is with them.
·      Saturday (Luke 5) Jesus saw Levi the tax collector sitting at his custom’s post when he called him to discipleship. Many were stunned, but Jesus said those who are healthy do not need a physician. I have come to not to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.

Saints of the Week

February 8: Jerome Emiliani (1481-1537), was a Venetian soldier who experienced a call to be a priest during this imprisonment as a captor. He devoted his work to the education of orphans, abandoned children, the poor and hungry. He founded an order to help in his work, but he died during a plague while caring for the sick.

February 8: Josephine Bakhita (1869-1947) was a Sudanese who was sold as a slave to the Italian Consul, who treated her with kindness. She was baptized in Italy and took the name Josephine. Bakhita means fortunate. She was granted freedom according to Italian law and joined the Canossian Daughters of Charity where she lived simply as a cook, seamstress, and doorkeeper. She was known for her gentleness and compassion.

February 10: Scholastica (480-543) was the twin sister of Benedict, founder of Western monasticism. She is the patroness of Benedictine nuns. She was buried in her brother's tomb; they died relatively close to one another.

February 11: Our Lady of Lourdes is remembered because between February 11 and July 16, 1858, Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in a cave near Lourdes, France eighteen times. The site remains one of the largest pilgrim destinations. Many find healing in the waters of the grotto during the spring.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Feb 7, 1878. At Rome, Pius IX died. He was sincerely devoted to the Society; when one of the cardinals expressed surprise that he could be so attached to an order against which even high ecclesiastics brought serious charges, his reply was: "You have to be pope to know the worth of the Society."
·      Feb 8, 1885. In Chicago, Fr. Isidore Bourdreaux, master of novices at Florissant, Missouri, from 1857 to 1870, died. He was the first scholastic novice to enter the Society from any of the colleges in Missouri.
·      Feb 9, 1621. Cardinal Ludovisi was elected Pope Gregory XV. He was responsible for the canonization of St. Ignatius and St. Francis Xavier.
·      Feb 10, 1773. The rector of Florence informed the general, Fr. Ricci, that a copy of the proposed Brief of Suppression had been sent to the Emperor of Austria. The general refused to believe that the Society would be suppressed.
·      Feb 11, 1563. At the Council of Trent, Fr. James Laynez, the Pope's theologian, made such an impression on the cardinal president by his learning and eloquence, that cardinal decided at once to open a Jesuit College in Mantua, his Episcopal see.
·      Feb 12, 1564. Francis Borgia was appointed assistant for Spain and Portugal.

·      Feb 13, 1787. In Milan, Fr. Rudjer Boskovic, an illustrious mathematician, scientist, and astronomer, died. At Paris he was appointed "Directeur de la Marine."