Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze
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The Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time
January 29, 2017
Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13; Psalm 146; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Matthew 5:1-12

            The Sermon on the Mount outlines the philosophy of life for Jesus and his followers, and it is helpful for us as conversations these days are fraught with challenges and pitfalls. People in our church, just like our government, have positions on topics that fall on polar extremes and we cannot be polite to one another. If someone posts a message on Facebook with an opinion different from our own, we “unfriend” that person. If the discussion happens in real life, we become silent and we do not talk with the person on that subject anymore. We find ourselves in situations where we barely tolerate those who hold differing opinions. When the situations around us are tense, we have to pause to ask ourselves, “What type of person do I want to be?” Today’s readings give us the answers.

            The prophet Zephaniah asks the people to be humble and to enact God’s merciful justice when dealing with others, especially difficult people. Paul tells us that our ways will appear counter-cultural to people of influence, and our challenge is that most of us want to please others. Jesus then gives us the Beatitudes that reassure us that living for God and loving our neighbors are the best ways to conduct our affairs, even when disagreeable people will try to exert their power over us.  

            We can start by looking at our personalities. What values do we have that we might need to discard? For instance, if you are a person that tries to accommodate the requests of others to the exclusion of your own plans, then stop trying. Represent your own interests first. This is all about negotiating. Listen to how many times you may say, “I’m sorry” throughout the day, especially when it is not warranted and you do not mean it. You give away your personal authority. Stop that. It doesn’t help anyone, and it harms you. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel small without your consent.” Do not buy into someone else’s mistaken judgment of you. Remember Michelle Obama’s advice, “When they go low, we go high.”

            Going high does not mean tolerating the bad manners and foul language of others. It does not mean we have to stay silent when someone else is verbally insulting. In fact, it is most helpful if we educate the person through charity. It is up to us to raise the standard of decorum. We can still call people to civility and dignity, and if we can give this dignity to others, they will return it if they are people of goodwill. Every time an aggravating person pops into you head, think “God bless you, so and so.” Wish that person well and pray for yourself too, that you may grow in patience, understanding, and compassion. Ask yourself: Will this conflict matter in five years? How much energy do I want to invest in it? Watch what happens if you just let it go.

            If someone’s behavior is chronically bothersome, it is time to work matters out directly with the person. The person is not a demon, but it is easier to judge, badmouth, and believe in your own moral superiority than it is to confront the person constructively. Pray for courage and stay on the high road. Focus on the problem and avoid judging or analyzing the character or motivations of the other person. You’ll not get it right. Do not assume malice is a motivation; you might simply have a misunderstanding. Remain aware that you can lovingly assert your rights so do not be afraid of someone else’s anger because it gives that person power over you. You are only responsible for your own anger. Speak gently from your heart, saying only what you know to be true, and express your feelings articulately. Remain calm and ask, “What can we do about this?” It is important, not that we prove ourselves right, but that we can act rightly. We do not want to dominate or defeat but to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution. Really listen to the other person’s point of view. We are more receptive to change if we feel we are heard and understood.

            In these difficult times of dialogue and connection, we have to know who we are before God. Humility does not mean suppressing who we are in favor of someone else’s viewpoint; it means becoming exactly whom God meant us to be – people of goodwill with lots of gifts to offer one another in freedom. It means letting our true self emerge and to engage with the challenges of the world – full of vitality and resplendent with Christ’s resurrected victory. Together, with his cadre of supporters, we will remake the world more closely to the way he dreams it will be. Blessed are you. Happy are you, brothers and sisters.

Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading: 
Monday: (Hebrews 11) Prophets have struggled. God had foreseen something better for us, so that without us they should not be made perfect.
Tuesday: (Hebrews 12) Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race.
Wednesday: (Hebrews 12) In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. Endure your trials as discipline, which a father does in love to his son.
Thursday: (Malachi 3) I send my messenger to prepare the way before me. The sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem will please the Lord, as in the days of old, as in years gone by.
Friday (Hebrews 13) Let fraternal love continue. Do not neglect hospitality, be mindful of prisoners and the ill-treated, let your life be free from the love of money. 
Saturday (Hebrews 13) Let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have. God is pleased by this type of sacrifice.

Gospel: 
Monday: (Mark 3) Jesus cured the Gerasene demoniac and showed he had power over legions of unclean spirits. People became afraid and sent Jesus away from the town.  
Tuesday: (Mark 5) Jesus cured the 12 year old daughter of Jairus; then he cured the woman suffering from hemorrhages for 12 years.  
Wednesday (Mark 6) Where did this man get such wisdom? Isn’t he the brother of James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? A prophet can gain no honor in his hometown.
Thursday (Luke 2) Mary and Joseph presented Jesus at the temple. They encountered Simeon and Anna, who marked the close of the Old covenant.
Friday (Mark 6) King Herod was curious about Jesus. He wondered if her was John the Baptist reincarnated because Herod gave the orders to do away with the Baptist
Saturday (Mark 6) The Apostles gathered with Jesus who said, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”

Saints of the Week

January 31: John Bosco, priest (1815-1888), formed his Society to aid children who were imprisoned. He used Francis de Sales as his inspiration. He taught poor and working class boys in the evenings wherever it was possible to meet them - in fields, factories, or homes. A sister community was set up to assist young girls who were sent to work.

February 2: The Presentation of the Lord is the rite by which the firstborn male is presented in the Temple as an offering to God. It occurs 40 days after the birth while the new mother is considered ritually unclean. Two church elders, Simeon and Anna, who represent the old covenant, praise Jesus and warn his mother that her heart will be pierced as her son will bring the salvation of many.

February 3: Blase, bishop and martyr (d. 316), was an Armenian martyr of the persecution of Licinius. Legends hold that a boy, choking to death on a fishbone, was miraculously cured. Blase's intercession has been invoked for cures for throat afflictions. The candles presented at Candlemas the day earlier are used in the rite of the blessings of throats.

February 3: Angsar, bishop (815-865), became a monk to preach to pagans. He lived at the French Benedictine monastery of New Corbie and was sent to preach in Denmark and Sweden. He was made abbot and then became archbishop of Hamburg. He is known as the Apostle of the North because he restored Denmark to the faith and helped bolster the faith of other Scandinavians.

February 4: John de Brito, S.J., priest, religious, and martyr (1647-1693), was a Portuguese Jesuit missionary who served in India and was named “The Portuguese Francis Xavier” to the Indians. De Brito was martyred because he counseled a Maravan prince during his conversion to give up all but one of his wives. One of the wives was a niece to the neighboring king, who set up a round of persecutions against priests and catechists.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Jan 29, 1923. Woodstock scholastics kept a fire vigil for several months to prevent the Ku Klux Klan from setting the college on fire.
·      Jan 30, 1633. At Avignon, Fr. John Pujol, a famous master of novices, died. He ordered one of them to water a dry stick, which miraculously sprouted.
·      Jan 31, 1774. Fr. General Laurence Ricci, a prisoner in Castel S Angelo, claimed his liberty, since his innocence had been fully vindicated. He received from the Papal Congregation the reply that they would think about it. Pope Clement XIV was said at this time to be mentally afflicted.
·      Feb 1, 1549. The first Jesuit missionaries to go to Brazil set sail from Lisbon, Portugal, under Fr. Emmanuel de Nobrega.
·      Feb 2, 1528. Ignatius arrived in Paris to begin his program of studies at the University of Paris.
·      Feb 3, 1571. In Florida, the martyrdom of Fr. Louis Quiros and two novices, shot with arrows by an apostate Indian.

·      Feb 4, 1617. An imperial edict banished all missionaries from China.