Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Second Sunday in Lent

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

Second Sunday in Lent
February 21, 2016
Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-41; Luke 9:28-36

            Last week in Scripture, the Holy Spirit blessed Jesus before his trials in the desert; this week, God’s voice, heard from a cloud, affirms him as “my chosen Son.” The transfiguration confirms Jesus and fortifies him for what is to come, that is, the Cross that looms on the horizon. The presence of Moses and Elijah attest that the road Jesus is on is in accord with the Law and the Prophets. As the inner circle of the disciples is brought to the holy mountain to witness this event, the mission of Jesus quickens and becomes more solemn. He can now set his face towards the fulfillment of his mission in Jerusalem.

            This whole scene hinges upon the first act of Jesus: he is at prayer. Prayer is real and it changes us. The disciples note that the face of Jesus was changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. Now, when we pray, our clothing might not brighten, but our face, our soul may. Thomas Merton once spoke that great line, “There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” He wrote this during an epiphany as he was standing on a commercial district street corner in Louisville, Kentucky. He continues, “I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all of the time.”

            We could be happier, contented, more trusting people if we could experiment with our prayer to find our individual style of relating to God. It might mean breaking out of the box and coloring outside the lines, but our creativity will help us discover a relaxed way of being with God. As Jesus shows us in the Baptism and the Transfiguration, prayer begins when God is able to affirm us as individuals. Without a doubt, God wants to honor us and praise us. We simply ask God to behold us and to know us intimately because we all want to be seen and heard and known. God, who created us, wants to call the very best out of us, and from my experience working with people in spiritual direction and retreat direction, we cause God to gasp in amazement at who we are and what we have become. God gazes upon us in wonder and is very pleased and God wants to tell us very often of his immense pride and delight in us. God wants us to know how much God enjoys us.  If nothing else in prayer happens, then all is good.

            However, our life of discipleship has to be rooted in prayer because hard work is on our horizons. Pope Francis shows us that he is not afraid of doing the difficult tasks of discipleship, namely, reconciliation and healing. The most difficult work to be done occurs in families where members are estranged from one another causing profound heartache. Last Friday, the Pope met with his estranged brother, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch, and set the path for reconciliation; two years ago, he reached out to Bartholomew, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch to commit to dialogue for reunification. As Pope Francis gives us an example, we must commit to our local efforts at forgiving, reconciling, and uniting. Our task might not be as grand as our Pope’s, but it is just as important to God, and to us. The way of the cross is difficult, we cannot escape it, so we might as well confront it with as much vigor, courage, and resolve as Jesus did. Just make sure that God affirms you first and fortifies you for the journey.

            Let God love you. Please! Let yourself be filled with God’s personal, intimate love of you as the basis for your prayer. Let God take you outside on a clear night, just as the Lord did with Abraham, so you can gaze upwards together and see the immensity of the stars and feel the magnanimous love God has for you. Allow God to bless you – with great joy and give you great fortune. Allow God to be gentle to you and to tell you that you are a beautiful soul with a beautiful face and that God wants nothing more from you than your continued friendship and just to waste time together. Let God glorify and transfigure you to be the person you both want you to be. Let God’s blessings be transparent so that others say of you, “Look at that radiant person, walking around, shining like the sun.”

First Reading:
Monday: (Daniel 9) We have rebelled against you God and sinned, but you have remained faithful to us in the covenant. You, O Lord, have justice on your side.
Tuesday: (Isaiah 1) Wash yourselves clean and make justice your aim. Obey the commandments and take care of your neighbor.
Wednesday: (Jeremiah 18) The people of Judah contrived against Jeremiah to destroy him by his own words.
Thursday: (Jeremiah 17) Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings. More tortuous than all else is the human heart. The Lord alone probes the mind and tests the heart. 
Friday: (Genesis 37) Israel loved Joseph best of all, which created resentment among his brothers, who later sold him into slavery for twenty pieces of silver.
Saturday: (Micah 7) God removes guilt and pardons sins and does not persist in anger.

Monday: (Luke 6) Jesus said, “Be merciful,” and “Stop judging because you will be judged by the way you judge.”
Tuesday: (Matthew 23) The scribes and Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Be wary of someone’s teaching if they have no integrity between their words and actions.
Wednesday: (Matthew 20) As Jesus went up to Jerusalem, he told his disciples, “Behold. The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests, condemned to death, handed over to Gentiles, an crucified, and will be raised on the third day.”
Thursday: (Luke 16) A rich man dressed in purple garments died shortly after Lazarus, a beggar. In heaven, Lazarus was rewarded and the rich man was tormented in hell. He appealed to God to spare his family, but was told that they would not listen to Moses or to anyone who was raised from the dead.
Friday: (Matthew 21) Jesus told the parable of a vineyard owner, who entrusted the land to servants, but these men seized the land and possessed it. They killed the servants and the heir. When the owner returned, he cast the wretched men into a tormented death.
Saturday: (Luke 15) Jesus is accused of welcoming sinners and eats with them. He then tells the story of the prodigal one who was well received by his father upon his return. The one who was lost has been found.

Saints of the Week

February 21: Peter Damian, bishop and Doctor (1007-1072), was orphaned and raised by his brother, Damian, a priest in Ravenna. He began as a hermit monk and was then made abbot and cardinal. He became a reformer in the church often speaking out against clerical laxness.

February 22: The Chair of Peter is celebrated on this day. Previously, both Peter and Paul were remembered until their feast was transferred to June 29th. As the custom was ingrained in practice, Christians continued to honor the contributions Peter made to the church as the first of the apostles in continuous succession.

February 23: Polycarp, bishop and martyr (69-155), was made bishop of Smyrna and was the leader of the second generation Christians. He was a disciple of the apostle John and a friend of Ignatius of Antioch. He wrote catechesis and rites for initiation into the Christian community. He was martyred in 155 and is a Father of the early church.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      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."
·      Feb 22, 1599. By order of Pope Clement VIII, the superiors general of the Jesuits and the Dominicans, assisted by others, met to settle, if possible, the controversies about grace. Nothing came of the meeting, since the Dominicans insisted on the condemnation of the writings of Fr. Molina.
·      Feb 23, 1551. The Roman College, the major school of the Society later to become the Gregorian University, began its first scholastic year with 15 teachers and 60 students.
·      Feb 24, 1637. The death of Francis Pavone. Inflamed by his words and holy example, sixty members of a class of philosophy that he taught and the entire class of poetry embraced the religious state.
·      Feb 25, 1558. St Aloysius Gonzaga received tonsure at the Lateran basilica. Within the next month he would receive the minor orders.
·      Feb 26, 1611. The death of Antonio Possevino, sent by Pope Gregory XIII on many important embassies to Sweden, Russia, Poland, and Germany. In addition to founding colleges and seminaries in Cracow, Olmutz, Prague, Braunsberg, and Vilna, he found time to write 24 books.

·      Feb 27, 1767. Charles III banished the Society from Spain and seized its property.