Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

The Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time
February 19, 2017
Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18; Psalm 103; 1 Corinthians 3:16-23; Matthew 5:38-48

            How can we interpret the phrase “turn the other cheek?” What does it mean to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you? Conservative factions within the church are attacking Pope Francis for his “mercy over morals” vision that is needed for church renewal. Pope Francis gives his opponents freedom to raise their voices in opposition because he knows that dissent is an essential part of the faith. It becomes troublesome if malice replaces goodwill, if control replaces striving for an enriched understanding, and if destruction replaces building bridges. As Catholics, our first step in registering dissent is in first recognizing our common humanity and seeking ways to promote each other’s well being. It is unfortunate when the common good is tossed aside for one’s own self-interests.

            Catholics face hostility from people of other faiths who do not understand the theology and its teachings. It faces internal hostility from various factions that seek to impose its interpretation of the teachings upon others. Even today, many seminarians and young priests are taught piety rather than how to be a compassionate priest responsible to the people of God. Verbal insults and infighting beset today’s Church. Our reaction is to fight back, but the question is how to do so when our teaching tells us “to turn the other cheek” and “to love our enemy.”

            Let’s go through the actions of this violent action for a minute. When someone strikes you, it is an injustice and it never should happen. Some people think it is cowardly to let someone strike us again, as if it is a moment of weakness, but in actuality, it is an act of strength. After the first blow, we turn to the person of violence, look him or her in the eye, and we let the person be the master of his or her own destiny. They become fully responsible for their actions. It is no longer a burst of frustration, but a fully conscious attack. The attacking person is left wondering, “What am I doing? Is this the way I define my life? What kind of person am I?” The persons who suffers the attack stands there with dignity intact as they looks at their own humanity and can be proud of the person they have become. Even though they received the slaps on the cheek, they are not demoralized or made to feel “lesser than” her offender. In fact, they emerge as virtuous people of faith. It is the best civil disobedience we can offer.

            (As an aside, let me say that it is never right for anyone our families [parents, children, spouses, romantic partners] to strike another person. If that happens, contact your priest or the police immediately.)

            However, when we are proverbially attacked, know that we do not have to stoop to the same low-level methodologies of our adversaries. We stand with dignity, in defiance, and we let our non-violence speak for itself. Understand that malicious words, slander, libel, insults are all violent. Words do far more damage and last a lot longer than sticks and stones. Stand and face your oppressors. The only way to stop bullies is to stand up and confront him. Our words of charity, while setting appropriate boundaries, can change the course of their actions and can also redeem them. In our personal lives, we have to equal the field and set aright the inequitable boundaries that affect our relationships. As Catholics, we have to say “no” to social, economic, political, and religious injustices. It is our duty to defy and to resist, done in love, done in the consultation with our Lord.

            What is the grace we pray for? Courage and energy. To get over our irrational fears. It is crucially important to love your neighbors and your enemies, but it is perhaps more important to love yourself enough to say, “Stop. I’m not going to take this from you anymore. My self-respect, my self-esteem, my dignity, demands that I stop you from doing terrible things to me.” We have another way going forward and I’m going to take the first steps to reclaim the inherent dignity that is within me, because Christ lives within me.

            Mercy surpasses morals. Compassion rules over hatred and anger. Charity heals the world. The way of Pope Francis is the way of Jesus. Let us continue to walk on this journey of mercy together. It might be a new way forward to us, but it is the way of Jesus Christ, and he wants to meet you on this road.

Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading: 
Monday: (Sirach 1) All wisdom comes from the Lord and it remains with him forever.
Tuesday: (Sirach 2) When you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast; incline your ear and receive the word of understanding.
Wednesday: (1 Peter 5) As presbyters, witness to the sufferings of Christ by overseeing the flock willingly. Be good examples to the flock. Do not lord it over those assigned to you.
Thursday: (Sirach 5) Do not rely upon your own wealth and power or strength. Delay not your conversion to the Lord.  
Friday (Sirach 6) A kind mouth multiplies friends and appeases enemies, and gracious lips prompt friendly greetings.
Saturday (Hebrews 11) Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Noah condemned the world and inherited the righteousness that comes through faith.

Monday: (Mark 9) Everything is possible for the one who has faith. This kind of healing can only come out through prayer.  
Tuesday: (Sirach 17) God created man from the earth and endows him with a strength of his own that they might glory in the wonder of his deeds and praise his holy name.
Wednesday (Wednesday 16) Because you call me the Christ, I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.  
Thursday (Mark 9) Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will surely not lose his reward.  
Friday (Mark 10) Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? Moses permitted it because of the hardness of your hearts.  
Saturday (Mark 10) People brought children to Jesus that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them and said, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them.”

Saints of the Week

February 21: Peter Damian, bishop and Doctor (1007-1072), was orphaned and raised by his brother, Damian, a priest in Ravenna. He began as a hermit monk and was then made abbot and cardinal. He became a reformer in the church often speaking out against clerical laxness.

February 22: The Chair of Peter is celebrated on this day. Previously, both Peter and Paul were remembered until their feast was transferred to June 29th. As the custom was ingrained in practice, Christians continued to honor the contributions Peter made to the church as the first of the apostles in continuous succession.

February 23: Polycarp, bishop and martyr (69-155), was made bishop of Smyrna and was the leader of the second generation Christians. He was a disciple of the apostle John and a friend of Ignatius of Antioch. He wrote catechesis and rites for initiation into the Christian community. He was martyred in 155 and is a Father of the early church.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Feb 19, 1581. The election of Fr. Claude Acquaviva as fifth general in the Fourth General Congregation. He was only 37 years of age and a Jesuit for only 14 years. He was general under eight popes. He had been a fellow novice with St Stanislaus.
·      Feb 20, 1860. Pope Pius IX visits the rooms of St Ignatius.
·      Feb 21, 1595. At Tyburn, the martyrdom of Robert Southwell after he had suffered brutal tortures in Topcliffe's house and in prison. He embraced the jailer who brought him word that he was to be executed. As he breathed his last, Lord Mountjoy, who presided over the execution, exclaimed: "May my soul be one day with that of this man."
·      Feb 22, 1599. By order of Pope Clement VIII, the superiors general of the Jesuits and the Dominicans, assisted by others, met to settle, if possible, the controversies about grace. Nothing came of the meeting, since the Dominicans insisted on the condemnation of the writings of Fr. Molina.
·      Feb 23, 1551. The Roman College, the major school of the Society later to become the Gregorian University, began its first scholastic year with 15 teachers and 60 students.
·      Feb 24, 1637. The death of Francis Pavone. Inflamed by his words and holy example, sixty members of a class of philosophy that he taught and the entire class of poetry embraced the religious state.

·      Feb 25, 1558. St Aloysius Gonzaga received tonsure at the Lateran basilica. Within the next month he would receive the minor orders.