Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 17, 2016
Acts 13:14, 43-52; Psalm 100; Revelation 7:9, 14-17; John 1:27-30

            As the Good Shepherd entrusts himself to care for the flock, he knows what is right for their growth and nourishment because of their strong relationship. A system of trust and affection has developed between Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and the People of God, the sheep. Pope Francis is our Good Shepherd and is providing for a world that is in need of renewal and mercy. He inaugurated this Year of Mercy and is doing his part to put mercy into action. The latest statement from the Synod on Marriage and Family Life is one more example of his care for the church.

            Not everyone who reads this Synod document will be pleased with the challenges presented within. We hope everyone is able to see the joyful invitations that are intended to lift the spirits and the hopes of many suffering people. As we know from the Acts of the Apostles, Paul and Barnabas preached well and won over many converts, but they had their detractors. The whole city of Antioch came out to listen to these Apostles, but “when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said.”

            Neither Paul nor Barnabas was dissuaded from their teaching. They noted that it was important that the Jews hear the word of God spoken to them first, but since they reject it and condemn themselves, they Apostles turned to the Gentiles who were eager to receive the news of salvation. However, people of prominence stirred up persecutions so fierce that Paul and Barnabas had to move on to Iconium. We can expect today to have great opposition to the Synod document, but the challenge for everyone is to listen and receive the word of God and incorporate it into their hearts.

            The “Joy of Love” provides an in-depth reflection on Christian marriage, the intricacies of relationships, and the struggles people face in modern society. He demonstrates exquisite sensitivity to the way that poverty, housing problems, violence, drugs, migration, arranged marriages, abandonment and persecution affect the family. The Synod shows pastoral sensitivity toward the divorced and remarried in the recognition that financial pressures often lead some to remarry. Mostly, the tone and the style of this document matters a great deal. Hope is offered for a church that is moving away from general and strict doctrinal rules to one of growth and grace. It is a revolution of tone and style in which the Synod recognizes that marriage and family are strengthened by frequent displays of tenderness and affection. Tenderness is the pastoral approach that Catholics are to take with people who are in difficult situations.

             Pope Francis exhorts the People of God to refrain from judging one another, talking down to each other, and using rules as a way to make people feel bad about themselves, or to coerce social control. He calls for us to change our language so that we can embrace the pain of those who are marginalized or excluded, rather than neglecting their experiences and dismissing their pain. Those in the pews have to go out of their way to be welcoming, hospitable souls; the clergy has its own work to do in being kinder in tone and judgments.

             Discernment and dialogue are key ingredients for church members to develop an adult spirituality in which the primacy of conscience is respected. The formation of one’s conscience is an essential task of every Christian and the clergy are asked to use the internal forum when dealing with parishioners and individuals. Pope Francis asks people to evaluate their prayer and to challenge long-held assumptions of one’s beliefs.

            Throughout this document, we can see that Francis is trying to open many long-closed doors. Right now, it is stuck shut. It needs a little grease to pry it open. He is leading people to deeper grace in their own lives by trying to understand where they are in their relationship with God and what God is calling forth from them. Pope Francis remains the Good Shepherd. He is a pope in touch with real people and their complicated life situations. He has the smell of the sheep all over him. I, for one, trust where he is leading us. Are you yet ready for this journey?
Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading: 
Monday: (Acts 11) The Apostles include the Gentiles into the community after solemn deliberation. Peter lifts the Jewish dietary laws for them declaring that, “God granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles too.”
Tuesday: (Acts 11) Those who had been dispersed since the persecution that followed Stephen’s stoning began proclaiming the story of Jesus Christ to their new communities. The number of converts increased dramatically. 
Wednesday: (Acts 12) The word of God continued to spread and the number of disciples grew. At Antioch during prayer, the Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
Thursday: (Acts 13) In Perga in Pamphylia, Paul stood up and told the story of God’s deliverance of the chosen people from bondage and slavery. God’s work continued in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
Friday (Acts 13) The whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord, but strict Jews opposed Paul and Barnabas and claimed they told the wrong story.
Saturday (Acts 13) The Gentiles were delighted when Paul and Barnabas opened scripture for them and those them of their inclusion as God’s elect. Salvation was accessible to them too.

Monday: (John 10) The Good Shepherd tales continues as Jesus describes to his friends the characteristics of a self-interested person who pretends to be a shepherd. The sheep know and trust the voice of the good shepherd.
Tuesday: (John 10) During the feast of the Dedication, Jesus declares he is the good shepherd and that he and the Father are one.
Wednesday (John 10) Jesus cries out, “Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me.” Jesus speaks and acts of behalf of the Father.
Thursday (John 13) Jesus makes “I am” statements and he shows he does the work of the Father when after he washes the feet of the disciples, he says, “I am.”
Friday (John 14) In his farewell discourse, Jesus consoles his friends. He tells them that the is going away but will soon return to take away their fear.
Saturday (John 14) He reassures that that since they know the mind and heart of Jesus, they also know the mind and heart of the Father.  

Saints of the Week

April 21: Anselm, bishop and doctor (1033-1109), was a monastic abbot in Normandy who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1093 after the Norman conquest of England in 1066 when the English hierarchy was displaced. Church-state relations peppered his term, but he became known to the church because of his theological and philosophical treatises, mostly for his assertion about the existence of God – an idea greater than that which no other idea can be thought. His method of theology is summed up in “faith seeking understanding.”

April 22: Jesuits honor Mary as the Mother of the Society of Jesus. In the Gesu church in Rome, a painting of Our Lady of the Way (Maria della Strada) is portrayed to represent Jesuit spirituality. Mary had been a central figure to Ignatius’s spirituality. In 1541, seven months after papal approval of the Jesuit Order and two weeks after his election as the first general, Ignatius celebrated Mass at Our Lady’s altar in the basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls in Rome.

April 23: George, martyr (d. 303), was killed in Lydda, Palestine. He may have been a Roman soldier who organized a Christian community in what is now Iran (Urmiah). He became part of the Middle Ages imagination for his ideal of Christian chivalry and is thought to have slain a dragon. He was sent to Britain on an imperial expedition. He became the patron of England (and of Crusaders) and the nation adopted George’s Arms, a red cross on a white background, which is still part of the British flag.

April 23: Adalbert, bishop and martyr (956-997), was Bohemian-born who was consecrated bishop of Prague amidst fierce political opposition. He was exiled and became a Benedictine monk in Rome that he used as a base to preach missions in Poland, Prussia, Hungary, and Russia. He is named the "Apostle to the Slavs." He was killed in Gdansk, Poland.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Apr 10, 1585. At Rome, the death of Pope Gregory XIII, founder of the Gregorian University and the German College, whose memory will ever be cherished as that of one of the Society's greatest benefactors.
·      Apr 11, 1573. Pope Gregory XIII suggested to the Fathers who were assembling for the Third General Congregation that it might be well for them to choose a General of some nationality other than Spanish. Later he expressed his satisfaction that they had elected Everard Mercurian, a Belgian.
·      Apr 12, 1671. Pope Clement X canonized Francis Borgia, the 3rd general of the Society.
·      Apr 13, 1541. Ignatius was elected general in a second election, after having declined the results of the first election several days earlier.
·      Apr 14, 1618. The father of John Berchmans is ordained a priest. John himself was still a Novice.
·      Apr 15, 1610. The death of Fr. Robert Parsons, the most active and indefatigable of all the leaders of the English Catholics during the reign of Elizabeth I.

·      Apr 16, 1767. Pope Clement XIII wrote to Charles III of Spain imploring him to cancel the decree of expulsion of the Society from Spain, issued on April 2nd. The Pope's letter nobly defends the innocence of the Society.