Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze
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Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 6, 2016
Joshua 5:9-12; Psalm 34; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

            The Prodigal Son parable is one of the best-known Gospel stories and one of the most complex stories to dissect. For years, people of prayer have aligned themselves with one of the brothers and they have recognized their shortcomings. Sometimes we can feel like the younger brother who needs forgiveness and welcome; other times we felt justified in being obedient to the rules and the spirit of the house only to get shortchanged on the good fortune. When we look at these brothers, we see our faults. What if we looked at the sameness of these siblings?           

            The parable is about rejoicing, and yet we have a tendency to block others and ourselves from experiencing that joy. The backdrop to the story is that the Pharisees and scribes criticize Jesus because he welcomes sinners and eats with them. Instead of rejoicing, the religious leaders are nitpicking and are bothered that someone they deem unworthy is able to share in salvation. We have a strange tendency to hold joy at bay and to make ourselves miserable. We simply cannot positively share in the good fortune of others. Think of your reaction when a colleague gets a job promotion, an exciting opportunity, a new material gift, or a reward. We wonder why we did not get it instead.

            Look at the positives about the younger brother: he made mistakes and learned from them. He came home. Home is the place where you will always be taken in. He felt healthy guilt and sough repentance from his father who he knew would be glad to see him even though he was covered in debilitating shame. He was willing to start anew because of the valuable lessons he learned. Let’s examine the older brother: he respects this father so much that he never presses the boundaries of the household rules. He has been dutiful and has shouldered his responsibilities in maintaining the household. He applied himself well to his life of hard work and excellence. Surely, with enough combined goodwill, some sort of reconciliation can take place between these brothers.

            The reading from Second Corinthians in insightful because it says that, “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation.” The old things have passed away and new things have come. God has reconciled us to himself and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. God does not count the trespasses against us and God still entrusts us with this weighty ministry of reconciliation because God knows we can rise above our petty selves and become noble people that embrace each other’s successes.

            If we identify with one of the brothers, then we are operating in the old way that has passed away. We are Christians and we have to see ourselves as brothers and sisters who help each other advance their path to salvation. We have to be the type of sibling that rejoices when good fortune comes, when someone makes a mistake and picks herself up again, when someone recognizes his ways need amendment and makes critical choices to become morally better. Being a friend of the Lord means that we become equal where no individual distinction matters anymore. We are new creations, which means we have to learn new ways of elevating our behavior so that we care for each other with great honesty and authenticity. Change is not natural and we need great motivation to do so, but we have to rise each day and resolve to be a person who seeks the unconditional love of God and lives joyfully.

            In the first reading, the Israelites celebrated the Passover as they moved into the Promised Land. The manna ceased and they had to provide food for one another from their own resources. Likewise, our petty rivalries and jealousies that fed us in the past have to cease. We need to feed one another from our own resources. We are brother and sister with more in common than we acknowledge. Let us look to each other’s goodness and affirm our positive qualities. We are free. We are reconciled to God. We are people of the resurrection. All of this has to mean something. Let’s learn how to give one another life and build walls and ladders that connect, and let us use this great gift of reconciliation because it is the strongest connector we could ever want. And, of course, live in joy.

First Reading:
Monday: (Isaiah 65) The Lord is about to create new heavens and a new earth; the things of the past shall not be remembered; there will always be rejoicing and happiness.
Tuesday: (Ezekiel 47) The angel brought the prophet to the entrance of the temple where life-giving water flowed forth and bringing life to all.
Wednesday: (Isaiah 49) The Lord finds favor with Israel and promises help on the day of salvation. The Lord will help Israel keep the commandments because He cannot forget her beauty.
Thursday: (2 Samuel 7) The Lord said to David: Your house shall endure forever; your throne shall stand firm forever. 
Friday: (Wisdom 2) The wicked said, “Let us beset the just one because he is obnoxious to us. Let us revile him and condemn him to a shameful death.”
Saturday: (Jeremiah 11) Jeremiah knew their plot, but like a trusting lamb led to slaughter, had not realized they were hatching plots against him.  

Gospel: 
Monday: (John 4) Jesus returned to Galilee where he performed his first miracle. Some believed in him. A royal official approached him as his child lay dying, but at the hour Jesus spoke to him, his son recovered.
Tuesday: (John 5) Jesus encountered an ill man lying next to a healing pool, but when the water is stirred up, no one is around to put him in. Jesus heals him and he walks away. The Jews protest that Jesus cured on the Sabbath. The Jews began to persecute Jesus.
Wednesday: (John 5) Jesus explains that he is the unique revealer of God and cannot do anything on his own. He judges as he hears and his judgment is just because he does not seek his own will.
Thursday: (Matthew 1) The birth of Jesus came about through Mary, betrothed to Joseph. In his dream, the angel tells Joseph to take the pregnant Mary as his wife.
Friday: (John 7) Jesus did not wish to travel around Judea because the Jews were trying to kill him, but he went up during the feast of Tabernacles where he was spotted. He cried up in the streets, “You know me and you know where I am from.”
Saturday: (John 7) Some in the crowd said, “This is the prophet.” Some said, “This is the Christ.” A division occurred because of him because they could not settled how he fit into Scripture. Nicodemus interjected, “Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?” The crowd dispersed to their homes.

Saints of the Week

March 7: Perpetua and Felicity (d. 203), were two catechumens arrest and killed during a persecution in North Africa. Perpetua was a young noblewoman who was killed alongside her husband, their young son, and their pregnant slave, Felicity. They were baptized while under arrest and would not renounce their faith. Felicity was excused from death because it was unlawful to kill a pregnant woman, but she gave birth prematurely three days before the planned execution. They were flogged, taunted by wild beasts, and then beheaded. They appear in the First Eucharistic Prayer.

March 8: John of God (1495-1550), was a Portuguese soldier of fortune who was brought to Spain as a child. He was a slave master, shepherd, crusader, bodyguard and peddler. As he realized that he frittered away his life, he sought counsel from John of Avila. He then dedicated his life to care for the sick and the poor. He formed the Order of Brothers Hospitallers and is the patron saint of hospitals and the sick.

March 9: Frances of Rome (1384-1440), was born into a wealthy Roman family and was married at age 13. She bore six children and when two died in infancy, she worked to bring the needs of the less fortunate to others. She took food to the poor, visited the sick, cared for the needy in their homes. When other women joined in her mission, they became Benedictine oblates. She founded a monastery for them after her husband's death.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Mar 6, 1643. Arnauld, the Jansenist, published his famous tract against Frequent Communion. Fifteen French bishops gave it their approval, whereas the Jesuit fathers at once exposed the dangers in it.
·      Mar 7, 1581. The Fifth General Congregation of the Society bound the professors of the Society to adhere to the doctrine of St Thomas Aquinas.
·      Mar 8, 1773. At Centi, in the diocese of Bologna, Cardinal Malvezzi paid a surprise visit to the Jesuit house, demanding to inspect their accounting books.
·      Mar 9, 1764. In France, all Jesuits who refused to abjure the Society were ordered by Parliament to leave the realm within a month. Out of 4,000 members only five priests, two scholastics, and eight brothers took the required oath; the others were driven into exile.
·      Mar 10, 1615. The martyrdom in Glasgow, Scotland, of St John Ogilvie.
·      Mar 11, 1848. In Naples, Italy, during the 1848 revolution, 114 Jesuits, after much suffering, were put into carts and driven ignominiously out of the city and the kingdom.

·      Mar 12, 1622. Pope Gregory XV canonized Sts Ignatius, Francis Xavier, Teresa of Avila, and Philip Neri.