Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The First Sunday of Lent

 Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

The First Sunday of Lent
March 5, 2017
Isaiah 49:14-15; Psalm 62; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34

            A week ago I stood on the banks of the Jordan River and looked to the east where Jesus spent his days in the desert. I realized he needed some time to reflect upon the significance of his baptism and needed fortification to commit himself to an exhausting ministry. I breathed deeply amidst the swirling sand from the archeological dig and I remembered the line from Scripture where God blew the breathe of life into the first human. I stood in the approximate region where the Garden of Eden was said to be located and I contemplated God’s acts of creation. I looked around and saw that it was good.

            As we stand at the start of Lent, our thoughts automatically go towards the ways we can do penance and carry out our personal devotions. While we want to align our lives with the sufferings of Jesus and the world, it is equally important to see Lent as a set of positive actions in which we can create positive energy in the world. Life has too much suffering. Let’s not live in the suffering, but help others see the most beautiful parts of our souls.

            I feel privileged in life because I get to hear the great sufferings of many people. I see their pain as they put together some meaning into their chaos and I watch their good actions unfold as they seek reconciliation and harmony. At the root of every conversation, a person wants to feel loved, valued, and honored, and often they do the many actions that keep them from feeling that way. As I finish a conversation with these people, I simply feel that my love for them has increased. I want them to know that God loves them even though their self-worth is tarnished and their self-esteem is low, but I also realize I cannot do anything to help them feel justified on my own. They need to turn to God to experience God’s merciful care. I want to bridge the gap as best I can, but God can only help those who want to be helped.
            Too many people feel isolated and disconnected from someone who can love them. They sometimes make poor decisions because they realize they do not really matter to anyone – at least not sufficiently enough to take care of themselves. Sometimes alcohol, drug, and other dependencies make them feel unlovable, and then they act in a way where they push away loving people. This Lent, I want to bring God’s love to them. It will be uncomfortable and painful at times, but the overall goal is worth it. We need to see the world with the eyes of God, but it means that we first have to spend time looking into God’s eyes. God’s eyes will give us the answers we need.

            It is very fine that we want to start Lent with private devotionals, but that cannot be the extent of our Lenten prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Let’s work with God to create new life in those who need air breathed into them. Let’s give some people hope when are feeling devoid of it. Let us take the time to listen to a person in pain without feeling any need to make a statement. Let us just give them a loving gaze and ask them what they need. It is the best gift we can provide them, and we find our salvation is linked with theirs.

            We have to relearn how to love in difficult situations while maintaining proper boundaries and keeping free from co-dependencies. Love is not easy and it requires our patience and our radical trust in God. There are no blueprints for loving well. Lent is not about focusing on sin as much as it is increasing the extent of God’s love in this world. Take some time to map out the ways you will try to love a difficult person, even though you have already given enough. God does not give up. God risks everything and even gives up the life of his Son for our redemption. Before, however, we try to love others more fully, let’s us go into the desert with God, to let ourselves be fully loved first. Open your soul to the possibilities that God can love you ever more deeply than you are experiencing today. I want you to know that love above all other things.

Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading:
Monday: (Leviticus 19) The Lord gives Moses ten commandments that he inscribes on stone tablets.
Tuesday: (Isaiah 55) God’s word will issue forth from his mouth and shall not return until it has fulfilled his will.
Wednesday: (Jonah 3) Jonah set out to Nineveh asking them to proclaim a fast and then repent. The king does repent and the Lord dropped his threat because they turned from evil.
Thursday: (Esther 3) Queen Esther appeals to God for help in converting the king’s heart for hatred of the enemy that threatens them.
Friday: (Ezekiel 18) If the wicked turns from sinfulness and keeps the Lord’s statutes, he will surely live. Likewise, if a virtuous man becomes wicked, he shall die.
Saturday: (Deuteronomy 26) Moses tells the people to observe the Lord’s statutes and decrees with their whole heart and soul. The Lord will stand by you.

Monday: (Matthew 25) Jesus tells his disciples about the last judgment when the goats and sheep will be separated. The measuring stick is the mercy shown to the most vulnerable.
Tuesday: (Matthew 6) The disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. He tells them not to pray like the pagans, who seek honor and glory, and then gives them the Lord’s prayer.
Wednesday: (Luke 11) Jesus chastises the crowd that seeks a sign, but none will be given to them. Because of Jonah’s preaching, the king and people repented.
Thursday: (Matthew 7) Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened. The Father is generous, especially to those who love him.
Friday: (Matthew 5) Your righteousness must surpass the levels of the scribes and Pharisees in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Show righteousness by quickly settling disputes.
Saturday: (Matthew 5) Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Heavenly Father. Be perfect as the Father is perfect.

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 5, 1887. At Rome, the obsequies of Fr. Beckx who died on the previous day. He was 91 years of age and had governed the Society as General for 34 years. He is buried at San Lorenzo in Campo Verano.
·      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.