Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

The Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
July 16, 2017
Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalm 65; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23

The simplicity of this Gospel passage can make us complacent. Everyone gets the message that the seed planted in rich soil has the best chance of surviving and in getting the best advantage in life, and we know that the one who hears the word of God and understands it is the seed planted in rich soil. We get that, but few people get to live in rich soil and optimal conditions. I understand the exhortation to bring tirelessly the Word of God to others, but let us not make this Gospel make us feel too good because then it undermines the messy, ungratifying work to which we are called.

The fact is we are not called only to care for the seeds that are in this rich, nutritious soil, meaning that we cannot neglect the seeds that are strewn on the rocky path or among the weeds and thorns. These less fortunate seeds deserve not just the same amount of care, but perhaps more tending because their existence in more precarious. Isaiah reminds us that our God sends the rain and snow down upon the earth as the Word of Life making it fertile and fruitful. This God shows no partiality. Well, wait a minute. God shows partiality. God favors those who are most disadvantaged, those who suffer, those who are lowly and forgotten and at the margin of existence, and those whose hearts are responsive in mercy to the misfortune of others. Yes, the Word of God has to be brought to the rocks and thorns and weeds and to those whose souls are groaning in distress in hopes that God will hear them.

We then have to be people who listen to the groans and not the words. In Romans, Paul reminds us the creation eagerly awaits the revelation of God as it groans in labor pains. The goal is to live in the glorious freedom of God’s redeeming actions. The Spirit groans within us as creation’s work still takes place. Listen for the groans.

Many people do not articulate their painful experiences or speak of the hurt they carry. We have to see beyond words and listen to the cry for redemption that comes from our brother or sister. If there are weeds and thorns around them, then help the plant get the needed sunlight and rain that feeds them. Help it grow as strong and tall and as straight as it can in its upward ascent. We cannot control the weeds and thorns, but we can be resources of comfort and encouragement to those who need to persevere. We can share our hope and joy because we have learned to trust in God’s faithfulness to us.

As faithful churchgoers, we are very aware that most of the work we do it to plant seeds and then we leave the mystery of the growth up to God. We try our best to shape and to form souls that are in our care, and we know we have little control over the choices people make. It bothers us when our children and family members no longer trust in the church, but we have to be content knowing that we have given our best to them by teaching them the faith. It just hurts because it is so personal.

The greater work we have to do is to examine the walls around us that keep our world fairly small. The fact is that we often do not go out of our way to encounter people who are out of our immediate sphere of relationships. We cannot know the challenges others face if we do not step into their weeds and thorns. We cannot choke the livelihood of others because of our complacency.

Our faith is risky. Bringing the Word of God to others can be dangerous for us because we may get pricked by thorns and tangled in weeds. We still have to go to those places because it is a place where the vulnerable need the rain of hope and rays of Christ’s light. We are ministers, not master problem-solvers, and Christ is among those weeds. Does your faith allow you to follow him wherever he is?

Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading: 
Monday: (Exodus 1) A new king, who knew nothing of Joseph, came to power in Egypt. Fearing the numerous people, he set taskmasters over them so they would not increase.
Tuesday: (Exodus 2) A Levite woman bore a son and hid him in the reeds where Pharaoh’s daughter picked him up and raised him in her household.
Wednesday: (Exodus 3) Moses, while tending his flock in Midian, approached a burning bush that was not consumed on Mount Horeb. He received his mission to go to Egypt to set the captives free.
Thursday: (Exodus 3) Moses heard, “Say to the children of Israel: The God of your fathers sent me to you. Tell them “I am who am” sent me to you.”
Friday (Exodus 11) Moses and Aaron performed various wonders in Pharaoh’s presence, but Pharaoh was obstinate and he would not let the children of Israel leave his land.
Saturday (Song of Songs 3) On my bed at night I sought him whom my heart loves.

Monday: (Matthew 10) I have not come to bring peace, but the sword. Whoever cannot take up the cross and follow me, cannot be a disciple. 
Tuesday: (Matthew 11) Jesus reproached the towns of Chorazin and Bethsaida because they did not repent and turn to the Lord.
Wednesday (Matthew 11) I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for though you have  hidden these things from the wise, you revealed them to the simple.
Thursday (Matthew 11) Come to me, all you who labor and whose load is heavy, and I will give you rest. Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will have rest.
Friday (Matthew 12) Going through a field of grain of the Sabbath, Jesus began to eat. He challenged the dietary law of the Jews because it did not serve the people’s needs.
Saturday (John 20) At the tomb, the gardener asked, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Woman. Mary. Do not cling to me because I have not yet ascended to my Father.

Saints of the Week

July 16: Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the patronal feast of the Carmelites. The day commemorates the day Simon Stock was given a brown scapular by Mary in 1251. In the 12th century, Western hermits settled on Mount Carmel overlooking the plain of Galilee just as Elijah did. These hermits built a chapel to Mary in the 13th century and began a life of solitary prayer.

July 18: Camillus de Lellis (1550-1614), began his youthful life as a soldier where he squandered away his father's inheritance through gambling. He was cared for by Capuchins, but was unable to join them because of a leg ailment. He cared for the sick in hospitals that were deplorable. He founded an order that would care for the sick and dying and for soldiers injured in combat.

July 20: Apollinaris, bishop and martyr (1st century) was chosen directly by Peter to take care of souls in Ravenna. He lived through the two emperors whose administrations exiled and tortured him, though he was faithful to his evangelizing work to his death.

July 21: Lawrence of Brindisi, priest and doctor (1559-1619) was a Capuchin Franciscan who was proficient in many languages and well-versed in the Bible. He was selected by the pope to work for the conversion of the Jews and to fight the spread of Protestantism. He held many positions in the top administration of the Franciscans.

July 22: Mary Magdalene, apostle (1st century), became the "apostle to the apostles" as the first witness of the resurrection. Scriptures point to her great love of Jesus and she stood by him at the cross and brought spices to anoint his body after death. We know little about Mary though tradition conflates her with other biblical woman. Luke portrays her as a woman exorcised of seven demons.

July 23: Bridget of Sweden, religious (1303-1373), founded the Bridgettine Order for men and women in 1370, though today only the women’s portion has survived. She desired to live in a lifestyle defined by prayer and penance. Her husband of 28 years died after producing eight children with Bridget. She then moved to Rome to begin the new order.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Jul 16, 1766. The death of Giusuppe Castiglione, painter and missionary to China. They paid him a tribute and gave him a state funeral in Peking (Beijing).
·      Jul 17, 1581. Edmund Campion was arrested in England.
·      Jul 18, 1973. The death of Fr. Eugene P Murphy. Under his direction the Sacred Heart Hour, which was introduced by Saint Louis University in 1939 on its radio station [WEW], became a nationwide favorite.
·      Jul 19, 1767. At Naples, Prime Minister Tannic, deprived the Jesuits of the spiritual care of the prisoners, a ministry that they had nobly discharged for 158 years.
·      Jul 20, 1944. An abortive plot against Adolf Hitler by Claus von Stauffenberg and his allies resulted in the arrest of Fr. Alfred Delp.
·      Jul 21, 1773. In the Quirinal Palace, Rome, Clement XIV signed the Brief for the suppression of the Society.
·      Jul 22, 1679. The martyrdom at Cardiff, Wales, of St Phillip Evans.
·      Jul 23, 1553. At Palermo, the parish priests expressed to Fr. Paul Achilles, rector of the college, indignation that more than 400 persons had received Holy Communion in the Society's church, rather than in their parish churches.