Wednesday, February 10, 2016

First Sunday of Lent

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze
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First Sunday in Lent
February 14, 2016
Deuteronomy 26:4-10; Psalm 91; Romans 10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13

            Lent begins as Jesus is led into the desert to be tempted by the devil. His first trial is very physical. Having refrained from nourishment for a long time, he is obviously famished and vulnerable to the devil’s temptation, but Jesus trusts that his Father will sustain him during all conflicts and trials. Exploiting his hunger, the devil attacks Jesus again through his fasting, but Jesus tells him that God is the sole sustainer of true life, therefore Jesus and his future disciples are asked to forego political power as a way of being servant. The instant power is a lure because the knowledge Jesus could gain would make him a better servant of God. Finally, Jesus is led to Jerusalem, the location where his final exodus takes place, where God’s peace is secured. Jerusalem, however, is where the powers of darkness are mightily at work.

            Jesus withdraws to a quiet place in order to get fortified because he knows temptations will assault him tremendously. He wants to be clear from the start that God sanctions his mission and that God’s support is necessary for his total mission. From the very beginning until the very end, Jesus trusts God’s unwavering support even when it is not obvious.

            Many of the Christian faithful today see Lent as a time when they have to give up something that is somewhat meaningful to them, like chocolate, coffee, alcohol, red meat, or desserts. The idea is to sacrifice something attractive that may not be too beneficial to our overall good health. The period is used for self-improvement or better-living resolutions. It is true that the minor self-sacrifice we make helps us be mindful of the larger sacrifice made by Jesus, but we typically decide for ourselves how we will spend our Lent. If the whole idea of the desert experience was to trust in God, then we are best served by letting God tell us how we are to trust more fully during this period. Too often, we make our decisions without consulting Christ. The purpose of Lent for Jesus was to be supported by many spiritual resources to withstand trials and conflicts as the first test of his obedience of faith.

            I suggest that we combine our Year of Mercy with our Lenten practices. First, it is best to ask Christ in prayer how we are to live out this period. It may not involve making any sacrifices at all, because we have that oft repeated but quickly forgotten line: It is mercy I require, not sacrifice. Instead, it may be far better to seek spiritual guidance within a context of spiritual direction. It may be far better to get some professional assistance to begin a process of reconciling yourself to a broken relationship. It may be far better to learn new techniques of navigating conflict if your current way of dealing with problems does not lead to satisfactory results. It may be far better to increase our personal silence so that we can hear the unexpressed meaning of what one in need is saying. It may be far better to give positive regard to someone we mistrust so that the best intentions may emerge.

            We have very many ways to increase our capacity to extend mercy to others, and the people around us need it. Let us use our Lenten offerings to consider the welfare of others and to make positive contributes to society. It is imperative that we spend more time using our spiritual resources to deepen our friendship with Jesus. Let mercy be your guiding principle this Lent. We do not understand what it costs us yet, but it does involve entering into the chaos of others’ lives. The life of Jesus was one of mercy, and we are called to imitate Jesus. Let’s put aside our self-designed sacrifices and pick up the cross of mercy that naturally extends towards others as we journey alongside Jesus as he teaches us trust in God.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading:
Monday: (Leviticus 19) The Lord gives Moses ten commandments that he inscribes on stone tablets.
Tuesday: (Isaiah 55) God’s word will issue forth from his mouth and shall not return until it has fulfilled his will.
Wednesday: (Jonah 3) Jonah set out to Nineveh asking them to proclaim a fast and then repent. The king does repent and the Lord dropped his threat because they turned from evil.
Thursday: (Esther 3) Queen Esther appeals to God for help in converting the king’s heart for hatred of the enemy that threatens them.
Friday: (Ezekiel 18) If the wicked turns from sinfulness and keeps the Lord’s statutes, he will surely live. Likewise, if a virtuous man becomes wicked, he shall die.
Saturday: (Deuteronomy 26) Moses tells the people to observe the Lord’s statutes and decrees with their whole heart and soul. The Lord will stand by you.

Gospel: 
Monday: (Matthew 25) Jesus tells his disciples about the last judgment when the goats and sheep will be separated. The measuring stick is the mercy shown to the most vulnerable.
Tuesday: (Matthew 6) The disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. He tells them not to pray like the pagans, who seek honor and glory, and then gives them the Lord’s prayer.
Wednesday: (Luke 11) Jesus chastises the crowd that seeks a sign, but none will be given to them. Because of Jonah’s preaching, the king and people repented.
Thursday: (Matthew 7) Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened. The Father is generous, especially to those who love him.
Friday: (Matthew 5) Your righteousness must surpass the levels of the scribes and Pharisees in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Show righteousness by quickly settling disputes.
Saturday: (Matthew 5) Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Heavenly Father. Be perfect as the Father is perfect.

Saints of the Week

February 14: Cyril, monk, and Methodius, bishop (Ninth Century), were brothers who were born in Thessalonica, Greece. They became missionaries after they ended careers in teaching and government work. They moved to Ukraine and Moravia, a place between the Byzantium and Germanic peoples. Cyril (Constantine) created Slavonic alphabet so the liturgy and scriptures could be available to them. Cyril died during a visit to Rome and Methodius became a bishop and returned to Moravia.

February 15: Claude La Colombiere, S.J., religious (1641-1682), was a Jesuit missionary, ascetical writer, and confessor to Margaret Mary Alocoque at the Visitation Convent at Paray La Monial. As a Jesuit, he vowed to live strictly according to the Jesuit Constitutions to achieve utmost perfection. Together, they began a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

February 17: The Seven Founders of the Servites (Thirteenth Century) were from Florence and they joined the Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin, who were also known as Praisers. They devoted their apostolate to prayer and service and withdrew to a deserted mountain to build a church and hermitage. After adopting a rule and gaining recruits, they changed their name to the Servants of Mary.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Feb 14, 1769. At Cadiz, 241 Jesuits from Chile were put on board a Swedish vessel to be deported to Italy as exiles.
·      Feb 15, 1732. Fr. Chamillard SJ, who had been reported by the Jansenists as having died a Jansenist and working miracles, suddenly appeared alive and well!
·      Feb 16, 1776. At Rome, the Jesuit prisoners in Castel S Angelo were restored to liberty. Fr. Romberg, the German assistant, aged 80, expressed a wish to remain in prison.
·      Feb 17, 1775. The French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Neapolitan Ambassadors in Rome intimate to the newly elected Pope Pius VI the will of their respective sovereigns that the Jesuits imprisoned in Castel S Angelo should not be released.
·      Feb 18, 1595. St Robert Southwell, after two and a half years imprisonment in the tower, was removed to Newgate and there thrust into a dungeon known as "Limbo."
·      Feb 19, 1581. The election of Fr. Claude Acquaviva as fifth general in the Fourth General Congregation. He was only 37 years of age and a Jesuit for only 14 years. He was general under eight popes. He had been a fellow novice with St Stanislaus.
·      Feb 20, 1860. Pope Pius IX visits the rooms of St Ignatius.

·      Feb 21, 1595. At Tyburn, the martyrdom of Robert Southwell after he had suffered brutal tortures in Topcliffe's house and in prison. He embraced the jailer who brought him word that he was to be executed. As he breathed his last, Lord Mountjoy, who presided over the execution, exclaimed: "May my soul be one day with that of this man."