Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Second Sunday of Lent

 Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

The Second Sunday of Lent
March 12, 2017
Genesis 12:1-4; Psalm 33; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; Matthew 17:1-9

            Two weeks ago, I stood on the East Bank of the Jordan River where Jesus, Moses, and Elijah walked. Moses stood on Mount Nebo and watched his beloved people cross into the Promised Land; I prayed at the spot where Elijah’s fiery chariot took off to heaven, one day to return before the Day of the Lord. The spiritual power of standing at the intersection of these three great figures of our faith was breath taking. Jesus unites the Law and the Prophets and the entire human history comes together at this meeting of spiritual icons.

            The point of the Transfiguration is to know that God wants us to trust and believe in Jesus, who is God’s beloved Son. He supersedes both the Law and the Prophets and the words he speaks are the words of God. The most important thing we can do is to listen to him, but God knows us well. We simply do not listen well. Look again at the actions of Jesus as he sees the disciples prostrated in fear. While they are on the ground, Jesus reaches down to them and touches them. Only then can they listen to Jesus. On their own, they cannot easily get out of their fear, but it is through the physical touch of Jesus that they can be lifted up. Fear restricts our senses so that we see only ourselves. Anger does the same thing. When we are mired in our own problems, sometimes the only thing that reassures us is a healing touch.

            Our faith is physical. We give blessings, make the sign of the cross, slip rosary beads rhythmically through fingers, and our sacraments are physical realities of God’s presence among us. We have to deliberately incorporate the use of touch into our faith interactions because we are called to carry on the life of Jesus including his healing ministry. We acknowledge the riskiness of touching without consent and the power dynamics that come with it, but it must not deter us from raising the souls of the people around us. Jesus touched Peter, James, and John in their fear, which allowed them to raise their eyes to see him. Our task is to raise the spirits of those who cannot see Christ. Our loving, gentle interventions must raise the proverbial dead to new life. We have to revive spirits as many forces will work to pull them down.

            From the start of life, parents soothe crying children with a caress on the back or a gentle stomach rub. Early life is about hugging for consolation, acceptance, comfort, to express pride and joy. Even eating and dining are physical realities, one of life’s memorable joys. Adults need physicality as well. Committed couples are able to share the intimacy that comes with touch, but many adults are devoid of it, which alienates them. Think of: the elderly person whose spouse has died and has no one to hold his or her hand, the single person who works hard for the church but does not enjoy a partner that can massage her feet after a long day, they physically or mentally disabled, the homeless person, the unmarried veteran, or even the young person who is enduring the breakup of a meaningful relationship. A quick simple respectful gesture, that is not intrusive, may reconnect a soul that is slipping away.

            Even if necessary physical boundaries and church precautions prevent us from reaching out, our soul must reach out to the one in pain. Our caring has to have such an effect that we miraculously cure others and give them back their lives. Our actions arise from a heart formed and informed by the soul of Christ, and it is his caring that seeks to reach deep into the soul of a hurting person. We have to settle down our emotions and thoughts so that Christ’s broken heart can channel his concern through ours. Through our opened hearts, we can comfort the lonely, grieve with those who mourn, console those with heartaches, sit calmly amid the rage of the unsettled, and free those bound by psychological and chemical addictions. The posture of a Christian is one whose palms are open and upturned. They represent an open-souled interior life.

            We live in a physical world that has a lot of suffering and hardships, and as Christians we do not stay mired in this chaos because we know Christ provides us with meaning and purpose.  Therefore, our job is to take people where they are, even if it is the depths of the Jordan River, the lowest place on earth, and climb with them to the top of that mountain where Christ is ready to embrace them and hold them in his arms and simply show them the beauty of their very own transfigured souls. The Prophets and the Law no longer bind us; we have Christ alive in our souls and that ought to give us some relief and great joy. He is going to embrace every person with the healing, life-raising love that sends away all fears and concerns. Why should we fear when we have such a promise? Let’s take friend and foe by the hand and bring them to Christ. He keeps saying to me, “I want more. Bring me more people to hold and I will transfigure them.”

Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading:
Monday: (Daniel 9) We have rebelled against you God and sinned, but you have remained faithful to us in the covenant. You, O Lord, have justice on your side.
Tuesday: (Isaiah 1) Wash yourselves clean and make justice your aim. Obey the commandments and take care of your neighbor.
Wednesday: (Jeremiah 18) The people of Judah contrived against Jeremiah to destroy him by his own words.
Thursday: (Jeremiah 17) Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings. More tortuous than all else is the human heart. The Lord alone probes the mind and tests the heart. 
Friday: (Genesis 37) Israel loved Joseph best of all, which created resentment among his brothers, who later sold him into slavery for twenty pieces of silver.
Saturday: (Micah 7) God removes guilt and pardons sins and does not persist in anger.

Monday: (Luke 6) Jesus said, “Be merciful,” and “Stop judging because you will be judged by the way you judge.”
Tuesday: (Matthew 23) The scribes and Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Be wary of someone’s teaching if they have no integrity between their words and actions.
Wednesday: (Matthew 20) As Jesus went up to Jerusalem, he told his disciples, “Behold. The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests, condemned to death, handed over to Gentiles, an crucified, and will be raised on the third day.”
Thursday: (Luke 16) A rich man dressed in purple garments died shortly after Lazarus, a beggar. In heaven, Lazarus was rewarded and the rich man was tormented in hell. He appealed to God to spare his family, but was told that they would not listen to Moses or to anyone who was raised from the dead.
Friday: (Matthew 21) Jesus told the parable of a vineyard owner, who entrusted the land to servants, but these men seized the land and possessed it. They killed the servants and the heir. When the owner returned, he cast the wretched men into a tormented death.
Saturday: (Luke 15) Jesus is accused of welcoming sinners and eats with them. He then tells the story of the prodigal one who was well received by his father upon his return. The one who was lost has been found.

Saints of the Week

March 17: Patrick, bishop (389-461), is the revered Apostle of Ireland and patron saint of many U.S. dioceses. He is credited for bringing the faith to all of Ireland. He was abducted and enslaved at age 16 by pirates and taken to Ireland where he worked as a cattle herded and shepherd in the mountains. He escaped after six years and eventually returned to his native Britain where he became a priest. Pope Celestine sent Patrick as a missionary to Ireland to evangelize them. Though he was under constant risk from hostile pagans, he converted many of them and developed a native clergy by the time of his death.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Mar 12, 1622. Pope Gregory XV canonized Sts Ignatius, Francis Xavier, Teresa of Avila, and Philip Neri.
·      Mar 13, 1568. John Segura and five companions set sail from Spain for Florida, a fertile field of martyrs. (Nine Jesuits were killed there between 1566 and 1571.)
·      Mar 14, 1535. Ignatius received his degree from the University of Paris.
·      Mar 15, 1632. The death of Diego Ruiz, a great theologian, who studied on his knees.
·      Mar 16, 1649. The martyrdom in Canada of St John de Brebeuf, apostle to the Huron Indians. Captured by the Iroquois along with some Christian Hurons, he endured horrible tortures.
·      Mar 17, 1964. The death of Joseph O’Callaghan. He was awarded the US Medal of Honor for heroism as chaplain on the USS Franklin, off Japan on March 19, 1945.

·      Mar 18, 1541. Two letters arrived from Lisbon from Francis Xavier. One was addressed to Ignatius, the other to Frs. LeJay and Laynez. They were written just before his departure to India.