Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze
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Fifth Sunday in Lent
March 13, 2016
Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126; Philippians 3:8-14; John 8:1-11

            These readings are consistent in one point: God is doing something new, but an important question follows: can you perceive it? In Isaiah, God’s saving action is recounted in the Exodus and also the return of the Israelites from their exile in Babylon. God has a long history of delivering us from death into life. Paul speaks about the surpassing value of knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection. Everything else is meaningless to him. The resurrection of Christ has turned the world upside down and now he has to forget what lies in the past because he must strain forward to what lies ahead. What is his goal? It is the prize of God’s call to raise us upward, in Christ Jesus.

            The Gospel teaches us the same thing: God is doing something new. The disgraced woman accused of adultery by the elders of the community is made to stand before Jesus for judgment. The Mediterranean culture found nothing wrong in their community’s action against her; the woman is culturally and socially dead to them even though a man had to participate in the immoral behavior. Today, even though we are more tolerant of a person’s individuality, we still have instances where women are shamed and men are applauded. Women’s lives are very much endangered by society’s negative and harmful judgments upon them. We have to watch how God makes things new. It is a great model for us because while the behavior is still regarded as wrong, the person’s worth and value is salvaged. Whenever we challenge a person, we have to discuss the behavior that transgresses our boundaries, and uphold the person’s central and essential dignity. As Jesus the new lawgiver does not condemn her, she must now learn how not to condemn herself. Jesus gives her the opportunity to become whole, pure, and righteous. She has to snatch this moment from him and amend her life.

            What happens to this woman from this point on is up to her. Presumably she is in this scripture because she used her opportunity well. If we can imagine what she made of her later life, we could be well surprised. Perhaps she ran a shelter for migrants or a soup kitchen for orphans. Maybe she started a battered woman’s program or provided a house of hospitality for unmarried pregnant women. Perhaps she apologized to the man’s wife and became a leading civic figure in the town. For this woman, the sky is the limit. She accepts the mercy of God and because she received it, she can now give it freely to others. That is the way mercy works. We hand onto others what we have received.

            Positive shame helps us shape our lives to become better; toxic paralyzing shame has no place in the life of a Christian. God’s mercy helps us move beyond toxic shame, but we have to leave it behind. Once God forgives us, it is imperative that we forgive ourselves. Believe me, nearly every person I know feels as if they do not measure up, that they are not good enough, that they are unworthy in comparison to others. When we do this, shame has a grip on us. We have to raise our eyes and look to others to find out where they need mercy. St. Paul says, “God calls us upward.” When we look to the needs of others, we are not looking at ourselves. This is an accomplishment. When we no longer look at the ways that we are far from perfect, we can then live our dreams. Nothing can hold us back because God keeps calling us upward and onward.

Let God love you so you can love yourself. You are worthy of it. We see in our history that God is going to deliver us, lead us from exile, compose a song back into our hearts, call us upward to great rejoicing. God will always restore us to ourselves so we can be given as gifts to others. With backdrop of God’s saving action, we head into Holy Week. As we pray our scripture, let us look for those who need God’s mercy. Keep your heads and minds raised. God wants to use you in particular ways. Let go of anything that makes you feel incomplete. It has absolutely no place in your life. Throw it away. Let’s go to Jerusalem with Jesus where we can watch how God creates new life out of death. Please give God a chance to create something new within you as well.   

First Reading:
Monday: (Daniel 13) Daniel’s sharp advocacy skills spare the life of Susannah who has been unjustly accused of immoral sexual relationships.
Tuesday: (Numbers 21) As the wandering Israelites passed through the desert near the Red Sea, many are bitten by seraph serpents, but Moses erected a bronze serpent that he lifted up for those bitten to gaze upon the image and be cured.
Wednesday: (Isaiah 7) Annunciation: Ahaz is tempted by the Lord to ask for a sign but he will not. The Lord gives it anyways: the virgin shall conceive and bear a son named Emmanuel.
Thursday: (Genesis 17) The Lord said to Abraham: You are to become the father of a host of nations. You will become fertile; kings will stem from you.  
Friday: (Jeremiah 20) Terror on every side. Let us denounce him. The Lord is with me like a mighty champion.
Saturday: (Ezekiel 37) My dwelling shall be with my people. I will be their God and they shall be my people.  

Gospel: 
Monday: (John 8) A woman caught in adultery is brought to Jesus for a verdict, but he does not answer as he calls upon those who are without sin to cast the first stone.
Tuesday: (John 8) Jesus tells the Pharisees that they will lift up the Son of Man and will then realized that I AM.
Wednesday: (Luke 1) Gabriel was sent to Mary of Nazareth to inform her that she has been chosen by the Lord to bear a son who will be called holy, the Son of God.
Thursday: (John 8) Whoever keeps my words will never see death. Abraham rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.
Friday: (John 10) The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus, but he wanted to know for which of the works he was condemned. He went back across the Jordan and remained there.
Saturday: (John 11) Many came to believe in Jesus. Caiaphas asked, “do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people?”

Saints of the Week

March 17: Patrick, bishop (389-461), is the revered Apostle of Ireland and patron saint of many U.S. dioceses. He is credited for bringing the faith to all of Ireland. He was abducted and enslaved at age 16 by pirates and taken to Ireland where he worked as a cattle herded and shepherd in the mountains. He escaped after six years and eventually returned to his native Britain where he became a priest. Pope Celestine sent Patrick as a missionary to Ireland to evangelize them. Though he was under constant risk from hostile pagans, he converted many of them and developed a native clergy by the time of his death.

March 19: Joseph, husband of Mary is honored today for his support of Mary in their marriage. He is portrayed as a righteous man who obeys the will of God. Therefore, his ancestry is upheld as a virtuous stock through which God’s promises come true. We seldom contemplate his marital relationship to Mary and his responsibility to love and raise Jesus as his son. He was a descendent of King David and a carpenter or builder by trade. In Matthew's dream sequence, Joseph was embarrassed by Mary's pregnancy before their marriage, but went through with the wedding because he was a righteous man. He considered dissolving their marriage because of Mosaic Law, but is told in a dream to take Mary as his wife and to raise Jesus as his own. He is honored as the earthly father of Jesus.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Mar 13, 1568. John Segura and five companions set sail from Spain for Florida, a fertile field of martyrs. (Nine Jesuits were killed there between 1566 and 1571.)
·      Mar 14, 1535. Ignatius received his degree from the University of Paris.
·      Mar 15, 1632. The death of Diego Ruiz, a great theologian, who studied on his knees.
·      Mar 16, 1649. The martyrdom in Canada of St John de Brebeuf, apostle to the Huron Indians. Captured by the Iroquois along with some Christian Hurons, he endured horrible tortures.
·      Mar 17, 1964. The death of Joseph O’Callaghan. He was awarded the US Medal of Honor for heroism as chaplain on the USS Franklin, off Japan on March 19, 1945.
·      Mar 18, 1541. Two letters arrived from Lisbon from Francis Xavier. One was addressed to Ignatius, the other to Frs. LeJay and Laynez. They were written just before his departure to India.

·      Mar 19, 1836. By imperial decree, the Society was allowed to re-enter the Austrian dominions.