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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Compassionately telling the Truth: The Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Compassionately telling the Truth
The Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
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August 18, 2019
Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10; Psalm 40; Hebrews 12:1-4; Luke 12:49-53

These bleak readings teach us about the importance of our speech and telling the truth. Poor Jeremiah is thrown down into a well to die, he is humiliated, and he is persecuted for speaking God’s truth. Nobody likes it when a prophet speaks gloom and doom and chastens people to reform their ways. At least in Jeremiah’s story, a court official hears the words beyond Jeremiah’s style, and he tells the king that others have done wrong to the innocent prophet, and Jeremiah is released.

The Gospel is also disturbing. Jesus wants his believers to be passionate about their life with God and to remain committed to God’s will. It is important to remember that Jesus is the one who will judge and separate; it is not our job to do it for him. In fact, our work is to be in communion with each other and to bring others to the person of Jesus in our words and actions.

I am reminded of what is often said around dinner tables, “There shall be no talk about religion or politics.” Why is that? Both topics turn people away from each other. They accomplish the division that Jesus mentions in the Gospel, but this division is not the type about which Jesus speaks. It reveals that we are not sufficiently skilled to converse about difficult subjects. With regards to religion, we speak to others in a pious or otherworldly language that turns off people because it doesn’t engage the person’s experiences. It may be falsely optimistic, filled with platitudes and trite sayings, dismissive, or elitist, and then we teach the uninformed when they did not ask for it. With regards to politics, we become people other than who we are. We speak authoritatively, we impose, we repeat and speak louder, and we never allow for the slightest possibility that we might have a misperception. We are experts with clear vision and absolute clarity, we set up for a battle, and we will vanquish the other with clever words or streams of fact. No wonder no one wants to talk with you about religion or politics. The manner of our speaking alienates. We need another way forward.

Be mindful that the words we speak either cause violence and are toxic or they can nourish and form connections. We are also supposed to tell the truth. Perhaps Jeremiah told the truth in a way that most people could not hear, while Jesus ignited the devotion of his friends to his mission. Do we ever assess our conversational goals and methodology? Before we have a conversation, we can set the ground rules for each person’s protection. The great hurts in life are caused by words spoken to us, whether deliberate or accidental. We have to be cautious, slow to speech, and concerned about the way the other person may hear our words. As Christian conversationalists, we want to make sure our language connects and unites because this is the communion we seek.

When we strive to understand the other person more fully, love is nourished. The foundation of love is understanding, which means to understand someone’s suffering. If you really want to love someone and make the person happy, you have to understand the other person’s chaos. Ask that person, “Do I understand you enough?” Most times, we are afraid of telling the truth and of speaking because we fear we will be misunderstood. Suffering continues because suffering increases when we stuff it, keep it hidden from view, and let it fester underground. Increasing our understanding eases the suffering of another person. Imagine yourself saying this in a conversation, “I want to understand you more. I want to understand your difficulties. I want to listen to you because I want to love you.” If real communication exists, harmony abounds. We become happy because we understand one another better – and safely.

Learning to speak in this way increases our happiness and brings us into communion with one another. It preserves the truth and we can speak with authority once we have repeatedly created an environment of safety and trust when the other person knows that we are trying to understand by listening thoroughly and compassionately. Treat your words as sacred objects that reveal your faith in God. Or delicate approach to right speaking and compassionate listening will bring about the unity we seek. Christ seeks it too. Our words can give life to others and can save souls.

Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading: 
Monday: (Judges 2) The children of Israel offended the LORD by serving the Baals. Abandoning the LORD, the God of their fathers, who led them out of the land of Egypt, they followed the other gods of the various nations around them, and by their worship of these gods provoked the LORD.

Tuesday: (Judges 6) For now the LORD has abandoned us and has delivered us into the power of Midian." The LORD turned to him and said, "Go with the strength you have and save Israel from the power of Midian. It is I who send you."

Wednesday: (Judges 9) All the citizens of Shechem and all Beth-millo came together and proceeded to make Abimelech king by the terebinth at the memorial pillar in Shechem.

Thursday: (Judges 11) The Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah. He passed through Gilead and Manasseh, and through Mizpah-Gilead as well, and from there he went on to the Ammonites. Jephthah made a vow to the LORD.

Friday (Ruth 1) Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons, who married Moabite women, one named Orpah, the other Ruth. When they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion died also, and the woman was left with neither her two sons nor her husband.

Saturday (Revelation 21) I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." He took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem
coming down out of heaven from God. It gleamed with the splendor of God. Its radiance was like that of a precious stone, like jasper, clear as crystal.
Monday: (Matthew 19) "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Tuesday: (Matthew 19) Then Peter said to him in reply, "We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?" Jesus said to them, "Amen, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Wednesday (Matthew 20) So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, 'These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day's burden and the heat.'

Thursday (Matthew 22) The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come.

Friday (Matthew 22) "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"
He said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Saturday (John 1) "We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law,
and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth." But Nathanael said to him,
"Can anything good come from Nazareth?"
Philip said to him, "Come and see."

Saints of the Week

August 18: Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, S.J., priest (1901-1952), was a Chilean Jesuit priest, lawyer, writer and social worker who was born in the Basque region in Spain. He established Hogar de Cristo, that housed at-risk children, whether orphaned or not, and provided them food and shelter. Hurtado also supported the rise of labor union and labor rights in Chile.

August 19: John Eudes, priest (1601-1680) preached missions, heard confessions, and assisted the sick and dying. He founded a new religious order for women, which includes Our Lady of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters. He eventually left the Oratorians to found the Congregation of Jesus and Mary. 

August 20: Bernard, Abbot and Doctor (1090-1153) became a Benedictine abbey in Citeaux because of its strict observance. He was sent to set up a new monastery in Clairvaux with 12 other monks. He wrote theological treatises, sermons, letters, and commentaries that dominated the thought of Europe. His writings had a tremendous influence of Catholic spirituality.

August 21: Pius X, pope (1835-1914), was an Italian parish priest for 17 years before he became bishop of Mantua, the cardinal patriarch of Venice, and eventually pope. He urged frequent communion for adults, sacramental catechesis for children, and continued education for everyone. He is known for rigid political policies that put him at odds with a dynamically changing world that led to World War I.

August 22: The Queenship of Mary concludes the octave of the principal feast of Mary as she celebrates her installation as queen and mother of all creation. This feast was placed on our calendar in 1954 following the dogmatic proclamation of the Assumption.

August 23: Rose of Lima (1586-1617) was the first canonized saint of the New World. She had Spanish immigrant parents in Lima. Rose joined the Dominicans and lived in her parents' garden to support them while she took care of the sick and the poor. As a girl, she had many mystical experiences as she practiced an austere life. She also had many periods of darkness and desolation.

August 24: Bartholomew (First Century), according to the Acts of the Apostles, is listed as one of the Twelve Disciples though no one for sure knows who he is. Some associate him with Philip, though other Gospel accounts contradict this point. John's Gospel refers to him as Nathaniel - a Israelite without guile.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Aug. 18, 1952: The death of Alberto Hurtado, writer, retreat director, trade unionist and founder of "El Hogar de Christo," a movement to help the homeless in Chile.
·      Aug. 19, 1846: At Melgar, near Burgos, the birth of Fr. Luis Martin, 24th General of the Society.
·      Aug. 20, 1891: At Santiago, Chile, the government of Balmaceda ordered the Jesuit College to be closed.
·      Aug. 21, 1616: At Pont a Mousson in Lorraine died Fr. William Murdoch, a Scotchman, who when only 10 years of age was imprisoned seven months for the faith and cruelly beaten by the order of a Protestant bishop. St. Ignatius is said to have appeared to him and encouraged him to bear the cross bravely.
·      Aug. 22, 1872: Jesuits were expelled from Germany during the Bismarckian Kulturkampf.
·      Aug. 23, 1558: In the First General Congregation, the question was discussed about the General's office being triennial, and the introduction of Choir, as proposed by Pope Paul IV, and it was decreed that the Constitutions ought to remain unaltered.
·      Aug. 24, 1544: Peter Faber arrived in Lisbon.

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