Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze
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The Second Sunday of Ordinary Time
January 15, 2017
Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; Psalm 40; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34

            The first words of the Psalmist resonate strongly me as I have listened to dozens of people tell their stories this winter: “I have waited, waited for the Lord.” For some, the rest of the Psalm came about: “And he stooped toward me and heard my cry.” To know that the Lord will come for you is enough to sustain the faith of many.

            The readings speak about the beginning of a new ministry as Baptism events close. John the Baptist is leaving center stage as he points the way to Jesus, the Lamb of God, from whom salvation comes. John is a necessary figure in salvation history, and he shows us enough grace to leave the scene with dignity. The reading from Isaiah tells us about the importance of each of our distinct roles. Israel is the servant that kept the faith, but has the responsibility to be a light to the nations and bring news of salvation to the ends of the earth. John is the forerunner. Jesus is the chosen one upon whom the Holy Spirit rests. Paul, an apostle, brings the good news to the Gentiles, and we are the ones called to be holy and obedient to the faith. We each have our gifts to offer at the proper time.

            When I hear this reading, I contemplate transitions. Jesus transitions from an unknown carpenter to take center stage in Jewish teachings. He is beginning a new ministry, in which he knows will face his own mortality. John, who once commanded great respect, has to diminish because his role is complete. Isaiah faces many transitions as he leads the people from exile to freedom.

            Here are some transitions I heard during the past few weeks. A middle age man becomes the patriarch of the family after his parents’ deaths. A woman transitions from being a daughter to an orphan after her mother dies. A long-time couple separates and each has to figure out how to live alone while not knowing which relationships belong to each person. A young couple gives birth to their first child and their entire schedule is changed. We often do not appreciate the amount of work that is involved in the stages of life’s transitions. It means re-ordering priorities, schedules, and habits, and it is very upsetting to the way we once defined life. Relationships need to be chosen and nourished. Some will end as new ones will be formed.

            Every time we are in a transition, we touch upon issues of our existence and our eventual mortality. How prepared are we for that? Many of us will die as we live. If we live well and to the fullest, we enter into our mortality with eyes wide-opened. We accept that death is part of life and we do not fear it or have regrets. If we resist death and do anything to avoid it, we live scared and we often resist doing things that will bring us happiness and fulfillment. We know it is not the best way to go throughout life, but we do not want to do the work that is necessary within transitions.

            Transitions show us the way forward. When there are places of ease, then it is a certain direction to follow. Where we meet resistance, we might want to check to see if we are being led in that direction. Resistance does not mean defeat, but we may want to alter our approach or our goals, but it is more graceful to go into areas where there are smoother waters. We have to stretch ourselves and use some initiatives to get out of our comfort zones, which is jarring, but then when the waters are easy, we are sailing in the direction that is most conducive for our souls. Try it out. It means giving over some control, but control is an illusion anyways. We do not control much. Give in a little bit and have some fun along the way. It might be exactly the goals for which your soul is searching.

            Embrace the challenging work of your transitions. Yes, it is a little uncomfortable for now, but your steady perseverance will make sure you are fulfilled. Notice how John embraces his time to leave ministry. Watch how Jesus accepts his new challenges. Ask them to help you with yours. It is much more fun to do it together. When we fully embrace our transitions, we fully embrace the person Christ wants us to become.

Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading: 
Monday: (Hebrews 5) Every high priest is taken from the community and made representatives before God to offer gifts and sacrifices for him.
Tuesday: (Hebrews 6) God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name by having served and continuing to serve the holy ones.
Wednesday: (Hebrews 7) Melchizedek, king of Salem and a priest of God, without beginning of end of days, was made to resemble the Son of God, and remains a priest forever.  
Thursday: (Hebrews 7) Jesus is able to save those who approach God through him since he lives forever to make intercessions for them.      
Friday (Hebrews 8) When the high priest speaks of a new covenant, he declares the first one obsolete. Jesus is the mediator of a new and better covenant.
Saturday (Hebrews 9) Christ became the perfect Tabernacle. He entered the sanctuary with his own blood and obtained for us eternal redemption.

Gospel: 
Monday: (Mark 2) The disciples of John were accustomed to fasting, but those of Jesus did not. When asked about it, Jesus said that wedding guests do not fast in the groom’s presence.    
Tuesday: (Mark 2) The disciples of Jesus picked grains on the Sabbath. Jesus declared, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
Wednesday (Mark 3) A man with a withered hand was brought before Jesus. He healed him in defiance of the authorities to show he had power over the Sabbath.
Thursday (Mark 3) Jesus withdrew toward the sea and a large number of people sought him out. Unclean spirits would approach him and declare, “You are the Son of God.”
Friday (Mark 3) Jesus summoned 12 men and appointed them Apostles that would have authority to preach and drive out demons.
Saturday (Mark 3) Jesus came with his disciples into the house making it impossible for the crowds to get in. When his relatives heard this, they said, “He is out of his mind.”

Saints of the Week

January 17: Anthony, Abbot (251-356), was a wealthy Egyptian who gave away his inheritance to become a hermit. Many people sought him out for his holiness and asceticism. After many years in solitude, he formed the first Christian monastic community. Since he was revered, he went to Alexandria to encourage the persecuted Christians. He met Athanasius and helped him fight Arianism.

January 20: Fabian, pope and martyr (d. 250), was a layman and stranger in Rome during the time of his election as pope. A dove settled on his head, which reminded people of the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove during the baptism. He served for 14 years until his martyrdom.

January 20: Sebastian, martyr (d. 300), was buried in the catacombs in Rome. He hailed from Milan and is often pictured with many arrows piercing his body. Much of what we know about him is legend.

January 21: Agnes, martyr (d. 305), is one of the early Roman martyrs. Little is known about her but she died around age 12 during a persecution. Because of her names connection with a lamb, her iconography depicts her holding a lamb to remind us of her sacrifice and innocence.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Jan 15, 1955. The death of Daniel Lord SJ, popular writer, national director of the Sodality, founder of the Summer School of Catholic Action, and editor of The Queen's Work.
·      Jan 16, 1656. At Meliapore, the death of Fr. Robert de Nobili, nephew of Cardinal Bellarmine. Sent to the Madura mission, he learned to speak three languages and for 45 years labored among the high caste Brahmins.
·      Jan 17, 1890. Benedict Sestini died. He was an astronomer, editor, architect, mathematician, and teacher at Woodstock College.
·      Jan 18, 1615. The French Jesuits began a mission in Danang, Vietnam.
·      Jan 19, 1561. In South Africa, the baptism of the powerful King of Monomotapa, the king's mother, and 300 chiefs by Fr. Goncalvo de Silveira.
·      Jan 20, 1703. At Paris, the death of Fr. Francis de la Chaise, confessor to Louis XIV and a protector of the French Church against the Jansenists.

Jan 21, 1764. Christophe de Beaumont, Archbishop of Paris, wrote a pastoral defending the Jesuits against the attacks of Parliament. It was ordered to be burned by the public executioner.