Thursday, July 31, 2014

Prayer: Ignatius of Loyola

Jesus, fill us with your light and life that we may show forth your wonderful glory. Grant that your love may so fill our lives that we may count nothing too small to do for you, nothing too much to give, and nothing too hard to bear.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
August 3, 2014
Isaiah 55:1-3; Psalm 55; Romans 8:35, 37-39; Matthew 14:13-21

The recent events in the Gaza-Israeli conflict stir our hearts. Regardless of political leanings or our need to blame the ones who caused the conflict, we hope our hearts are moved by the death by innocent children who are clearly the victims. We pray for the ‘understanding heart’ that Solomon asked to receive from God in last week’s scriptures and our heart becomes formed by the style of teaching to which we are attracted. This week’s scriptures point highlights the style of Jesus that stands in opposition to the world’s styles.

I think of a conversation with a friend earlier this week on the Gaza conflict. He is certainly an educated man, but if left me wondering if we could be mis-educated. He spoke authoritatively and decisively on the topic, placed the blame for the conflict squarely upon the U.N. and Hamas, and denounced the character of the Gazans as a people whose value in the world was negligible. I am not remarking on his conclusions (though I disagree with him), but focusing upon his style.

My friend spoke and therefore there was nothing more to say. In his thinking, he is right; all other thoughts are wrong. No middle ground is necessary. He denounces the progressive network news, narcissistic academics, and those bleeding hearts that have experience of living in the Middle East. He holds the truth; everyone else is misinformed. If he speaks louder, firmer, and with more force, he silences the other voices therefore assuring his is the only voice heard. He makes himself feel good about his role in the society as he builds walls around himself. He represents a Classicist worldview that tries to conserve ideals without regard for the individual’s struggles. It stands in contrast to the Historical-minded worldview where the individual is supremely important, the search for truth is important, but the journey is more important than reaching conclusions. I noticed his sweeping, aggressive style and thought that this method must turn many people away from his anger (except for other angry people.) I also wondered about what needs to happen in order for him to develop an understanding heart.  

Listen to what happens in Scripture, for this is the God’s way forward. “Come,” all you who are thirsty, you who have no money, drink and eat. Just come. God’s gives us open invitations to freely accept what God intends for us. There are no commands, no force, no bullying, just simple invitations. Listen (in other words, do not speak) and hear, that you may have life. Imitate the Lord who is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness because the Lord has compassion to all. Know that the Lord is close; you need not fear.

Even when Jesus is at his wit’s end, he reaches out and cares for individuals because he has an understanding heart that is filled with compassion. Above all, Jesus needs time away so he can grieve the death of his friend, John the Baptist. (Today, he is grieving for all the dead in the conflicts in Gaza, Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine.) The crowds keep coming to him for healing and his heart is always being moved, being informed, by the suffering around him, and he responds with great compassion. He reaches back for them and feeds them by further educating them about God’s care (and God’s style.) It is an always-giving heart.

While we always have to practice prudential self-care just as Jesus did when he set aside time to grieve, we are to balance it with care for those in need. Jesus empowers his disciples to help him in his mission, asking them to take from their reserves and to give without cost. No one has ever gone poor by giving oneself away. Jesus blessed the activities of his disciples and offered them to God on behalf of the needy people. Notice they did not try to conserve what they had, they gave away what little they had; they looked upon the vast crowds and let their hearts be moved. Jesus may have had to nudge them a little bit, but it was because his ‘understanding heart’ knew that Scripture was being fulfilled, that the Good Shepherd has invited everyone to the table – without regard for nationality, blame, character. All are welcome to the table and all will be welcomed and fed by God. We simply have to lead people to the table, not shun them from it. We cannot let ourselves be obstacles to another person’s salvation because in the end, no created thing will ever keep us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Is your heart moved by the tragedy in Gaza, Ukraine, or Syria? Our actions may not have great effect on the national or international scene, but it has many repercussions at the local level. Help the person, whether a bully or victim, admire the style of Jesus through you. Model your style after the ways of God because your small, gentle actions may be just enough to transform the heart of one who can influence larger decisions. That grace may be just enough. Our task is to lead people to the table of the Lord, who will take care of the rest. We are free because we know that not everything depends upon us, but we have to be responsible enough to do our part. Come. Invite. Receive new life. Bring someone who needs life to come to the table. Eat, drink, and be satisfied.

 Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Jeremiah, the prophet Hananiah spoke before the priests and King Zedekiah declaring that God will break the yoke of the king of Babylon but he was a rival to Jeremiah who claimed Hananiah raised the false confidence of the people. While Hananiah broke a wooden yoke, Jeremiah will carry a iron yoke to put on the necks of all Nebuchadnezzar’s supporters. Then the Lord tells Jeremiah to write down words that say, “See, your bruise is grievous; all your lovers have forgotten you,” but then, “I will restore the tents of Jacob and make them numerous. They shall be my people and I will be your God.” ~ On the Transfiguration of the Lord, Daniel has a vision of the heavenly liturgy where the Ancient One takes up his throne and receives glory. ~ The days are coming, says the Lord, when a new covenant will be made with the houses of Judah and Israel in which the law will be written on their hearts and they will be my people. In Nahum, the prophet decries the follies of Nineveh and gives hope to Judah to fulfill her vows for Babylon will be forever vanquished. In Habakkuk, the just man is asked to wait in vigilance because the just one, because of his faith, shall live.

Gospel: Jesus made the disciples get into a boat to precede him to the other side. A few miles offshore, waves tossed the boat back and forth, and the concerned disciples saw Jesus walking towards them on the water. Jesus called Peter forth, but then Peter started to sink so he called forth to Jesus to save him. After disembarking, Pharisees ask Jesus why his disciples do not wash their hands when they eat a meal. He points out that what is outside is clean, but what goes out from the inside is often defiled. ~ On the Transfiguration of the Lord, Jesus takes James, Peter, and John up the mountain where he was transfigured within his presence. They heard a voice, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” ~ After Peter declares that Jesus is the Christ when asked, “Who do people say that I am?,” Jesus begins to preach that he must go to Jerusalem and suffers greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes and be killed only to be raised on the third day. Jesus points out that his disciples must deny themselves, take up one’s cross, and follow him, which means to imitate his lifestyle. After the Transfiguration, a man brought his boy to Jesus for healing because the disciples could not drive out his potent demons. Only faith will heal the boy.

Saints of the Week

August 4: John Vianney, priest (1786-1859) became the parish priest in Ars-en-Dombes where he spent the rest of his life preaching and hearing confessions. Hundreds of visitors and pilgrims visited him daily. He would hear confessions 12-16 hours per day.

August 5: Dedication of the Basilica of Mary Major in Rome is celebrated because it is the largest and oldest of the churches in honor of Mary. The veneration began in 435 when the church was repaired after the Council of Ephesus in 431 when Mary was proclaimed the Mother of God. This is the church where Ignatius of Loyola said his first Mass and where Francis of Assisi assembled the first crèche.

August 6: The Transfiguration of the Lord is an historical event captured by the Gospels when Jesus is singled out as God's Son - ranking higher than Moses or Elijah. In front of his disciples, Jesus becomes transfigured, thus revealing his true nature. Ironically, the anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb occurred at Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

August 7: Sixtus, II, pope and martyr with companions (d. 258), died during the Valerian persecutions in 258. They were killed in the catacombs where they celebrated Mass. Sixtus was beheaded while speaking in his presidential chair and six deacons were killed as well. Lawrence, the Deacon, is honored on August 10th. Sixtus is remembered during the 1st Eucharistic prayer at Mass.

August 7: Cajetan, priest (1480-1547), was a civil and canon lawyer who worked in the papal chancery. He later joined the Roman Order of Divine Love and was ordained a priest. He became aware that the church needed reform and he teamed up with the bishop of Theate (Gian Pietro Carafa) and formed a society of priests called the Theatines who lived in community and took monastic vows. They owned no property.

August 8: Dominic, priest (1170-1221), was a Spaniard who was sent to southern France to counter the heretical teachings of the Albigensians, who held that the material world was evil and only religious asceticism could combat those forces. Dominic begged and preached in an austere fashion and set the foundations for the new Order of Preachers for both men and women.

August 8: Mother Mary MacKillop, religious (1842-1909), who worked in Australia and New Zealand to assist the poor, needy, and immigrants to the country, was canonized on October 17th 2010. August 8th is chosen as the day in which she will be memorialized on the Roman calendar. I offer the following prayer:

Bountiful and loving God,
You have filled the heart of Mary MacKillop
with compassionate love for those
who are in need at the margins of our society.
Deepen that love within us
that we may embrace the mystery of the Cross
which leads us through death to life.
We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus
who having broken the bonds of death
leads us to everlasting life. Amen.

August 9: Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), martyr (1891-1942), became a Catholic convert from Judaism after reading the autobiography of Teresa of Avila. He earned a doctorate in philosophy, but was unemployable because she was a woman. She taught at a high school for eight years before entering the Carmelites in 1933 where she made final vows in 1938. She moved to Holland to escape persecution by the Nazis, but was arrested when the bishops spoke out against the persecution of the Jews.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Aug 3, 1553. Queen Mary Tudor made her solemn entrance into London. As she passed St Paul's School, an address was delivered by Edmund Campion, then a boy of thirteen.
·      Aug 4, 1871. King Victor Emmanuel signed the decree that sanctioned the seizure of all of the properties belonging to the Roman College and to S. Andrea.
·      Aug 5, 1762. The Parliament at Paris condemned the Society's Institute as opposed to natural law. It confiscated all Jesuit property and forbade the Jesuit habit and community life.
·      Aug 6, 1552. The death of Claude Jay, a French priest who was one of Ignatius' original companions at the University of Paris.
·      Aug 7, 1814. The universal restoration of the Society of Jesus.
·      Aug 8, 1604. St Peter Claver takes his first vows at Tarracona.
·      Aug 9, 1762. The moving of the English College from St Omers to Liege.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Prayer: Alcuin of York

O God, here on earth you are constantly seeking to change us. At times we wish to flee into the wilderness to avoid you. But let us learn to love the lasting things of heaven rather than the dying things of earth. We must accept that time always brings change, and we pray that, by your grace, change within our souls will make us worthy of your heavenly kingdom.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Spirituality: The Three Types of Persons

The Three Types of Persons from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola:

The Setting: Consider the three types of persons. Each one of them has taken in quite a few possessions - not always with the best of motives, and in fact sometimes quite selfishly. In general, each one is a good person, and each would serve God, even to the extent that if these possessions were to come in the way of salvation, each would like to be free of them.

The First Type keeps saying that he would like to stop being so dependent on all the things which he possesses and which seem to get in the way of his giving his life unreservedly to God. This type talks about the importance of saving his soul, but when death comes, he is too busy about his possessions to have taken any steps toward serving God.

The Second Type would like to be free of all attachments which get in the way of his relationship with God. But this type would rather work harder or fast or pray more - really do just about anything but face the problem which he feels holds him back in his relationship with God. He acts as if he is negotiating with God, trying to buy God off. So though this type may do many good things, he keeps running from the better and more honest way to face the issue.

The Third Type would like to be free of any attachment which gets in the way of God's call to further life. This one's whole effort is to be in balance, ready to move in any direction that the call from God may take him. Whatever seems better for the service and praise of God our Lord is his whole desire and choice. Meanwhile, this one strives to act in such a way that he seemingly is free of any attachments. He makes efforts neither to want to retain his possessions nor to want to give them away, unless the service and praise of God our Lord is the God-given motivation for his action. As a result, the graced desire to be better able to serve God our Lord is the cause of his accepting or letting go of anything.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Prayer: Augustine

Love, and do what you will; whether you hold your peace, of love hold your peace; whether you cry out, of love cry out; whether you correct, of love correct; whether you spare, through love do you spare; let the root of love be within, of this root nothing can spring but what is good.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Prayer: Southwell Litany (by George Ridding)

O God, we ask you to give us knowledge of ourselves, our powers and weaknesses, our spirit, our sympathy, our imagination, our knowledge, our truth. Teach us by the standard of your Word, by the judgments of others, by examinations of ourselves. Give us earnest desire to strengthen ourselves continually by study, by diligence, by prayer and meditation; and from all fancies, delusions, and prejudices of habit, or temper, or society, save us and help us.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Prayer: Lancelot Andrews

Lord Jesus, I give you my hands to do your work. I give you my feet to go your way. I give you my eyes to see as you do. I give you my tongue to speak your words. I give you my mind that you may think in me. I give you my spirit that you may pray in me. Above all, I give you my heart that you may love in me all that you have created. I give you my whole self that you may grow in me, so that is it you, Lord Jesus, who live and work and pray in me.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Poem: Rumi

love entered me
and became blood in my veins
emptied me of myself
and filled me with the beloved
every single particle of my body
is soaked in the beloved
my name is all that's left of me
he became the rest.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
July 27, 2014
1 Kings 3:5, 7-12; Psalm 119; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52

Consider what it would be like if church leaders in genuine humility simply prayed, “Lord, give me, your servant, an understanding heart for I do not know how to act.” This sentiment certainly has the potential to win over the hearts of many faithful servants who look to the church for hope. Many want to trust the church and the humans in control of it, but they want to see a church that decides to follow in the footsteps of Jesus of Nazareth. They want to know that the compassion and mercy that flows from Christ’s heart will not be blocked by a pulmonary obstruction to the rest of the body. Christ’s blood must flow directly from Christ’s heart, through its members, so that it reaches each part of his body.

These words of seeking wisdom are paraphrased words of Solomon as he prepares to be anointed king of Israel. He realizes that, in his youthfulness, he does not yet possess wisdom and he knows he needs it above many other virtues such as long life, riches, and security from harmful enemies. He knows to place his trust in God and to rely upon his uniformed conscience to govern rightly a vast array of God’s people.

We can concede that it is challenging to govern a worldwide church that has many complex layers, misunderstood societal and cultural adaptations, and wide-ranging class and educational levels, but it could probably lead us to the same conclusion Solomon had: “I don’t have all the answers.” If our confusion were the starting point of theology, we would be in a better position to discern the truth rather than holding onto with certitude theological ground points from previous eras. Of course, many are drawn to the church because it contains certainty dating back to Jesus through the Apostles, while others are drawn to the search for divine truths because they find the truth in the journey’s process, that is, the searching and the striving.

An understanding heart does not lead to the current “wait and see” attitude by some bishops and cardinals that want to see how long this Pope’s health serves the church or if someone will assassinate him. The clericalism culture wants to know, “Do I follow Francis or do I simply wait a short time for this experiment to end?” As you notice, the focus is directed at oneself and not at the vast majority of people to whom this God-given servant is called to govern. Narcissistic? Maybe. Which is the reason we have to help our leaders govern more wisely and compassionately.

How would an understanding heart govern today? It begins by listening, case by case, to the faith experiences of the people. It means putting aside absolute judgments and sweeping teachings when you are dealing with a soul sitting in front you that is seeking guidance to live their faith rightly in a complex and confusing world. An understanding heart governs with mercy and compassion, which does not mean that the rules of faith no longer apply to them, but that we have to figure out how choices and teachings intersect and diverge. Understanding someone does not mean that we agree with the person’s free choice, but that we respect how she or he arrives at the decision. We give the person freedom to choose after helping him or her inform and develop one’s conscience, which is the primary arbiter in making moral choices. The governing principles are “to do no harm,” “to save the person’s soul,” and “that no undue burdens be placed upon the one who seeks a way to come closer in friendship to Jesus Christ.”

Jesus talks about the treasure that we find in a field that we want to sell all we have and buy that plot of land. Of course, Jesus is that treasure and he resides within our conscience. We therefore are to do all that we can to develop this treasure. We do it by informing our conscience, which means we are to do some serious study on our own. We have to educate ourselves and expose ourselves to different ideas, even those that may make us uncomfortable so that we can seek wisdom. If we only accept ideas that are similar to our own, we are not being ethical learners because we are reading only to further our arguments, but if we place ourselves in an environment where we strive to gain wisdom, we will increase our abilities to love and govern wisely.

Whether or not the church leadership provides it, we are called to make decisions with a compassionate heart that seeks to understand. Someone else needs the benefit of your decisions. If you are kind and loving, then all things will work for good for those who love God. The mercy you give today may bring a weary soul straight to the heart of God. I think it is worth the effort.

 Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Jeremiah, the Lord gives an example to the prophet of a rotting loincloth and then making parallels to the people of Judah because they have been a wicked people. Jeremiah cries each night without rest over the great destruction that is coming. He cries out to the Lord, “How can you do this to your own people? Remember your covenant with us.” He cries out to the universe and asks why his pain is continuous and the Lord asks him to repent so he can be restored. The Lord will then deliver and rescue him. ~ On the feast of Ignatius of Loyola, Jeremiah visits the Potter’s house upon the Lord’s command. God can shape and mold the house of Israel in any way he chooses because they are in the palm of God’s hand. ~ The Lord visits the king to tell him and his priests to listen to the words of Jeremiah and to lay no harm upon him, but the priests rose up around him and demanded a death sentence for him. Jeremiah spoke well and forthrightly. Ahikan, one of the princes, protected him because he was indeed a prophet.

Gospel: Jesus gives another parable about the Kingdom of heaven saying it is like a mustard seed – small at first, but blossoming into a huge plant in maturity. ~ On the feast of Martha, the industrious woman runs out to greet Jesus, who comes to pay condolences to her deceased brother, Lazarus. Martha places her trust in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world. ~ In yet another parable, Jesus says the Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field where one should apply all his resources in obtaining the field. ~ On the feast of Ignatius of Loyola, Jesus likens the kingdom to a dragnet thrown into the seas that collects al things that have to be sorted at the end of the day. ~ When Jesus returned to his native place, many were astonished, but most of the people disbelieved. He did not perform any of his great miracles there. Herod, the tetrarch, heard of the reputation of Jesus and wanted to see the signs he could perform. His advisors thought he might be John the Baptist raised from the dead.

Saints of the Week

July 29: Martha (1st century), is the sister of Mary and Lazarus of Bethany near Jerusalem. Martha is considered the busy, activity-attentive sister while Mary is more contemplative. Martha is known for her hospitality and fidelity. She proclaimed her belief that Jesus was the Christ when he appeared after Lazarus had died.

July 30: Peter Chrysologus, bishop and doctor (406-450), was the archbishop of Ravenna, Italy in the 5th century when the faithful became lax and adopted pagan practices. He revived the faith through his preaching. He was titled Chrysologus because of his 'golden words.'

July 31: Ignatius of Loyola, priest (1491-1556), is one of the founders of the Jesuits and the author of the Spiritual Exercises. As a Basque nobleman, he was wounded in a battle at Pamplona in northeastern Spain and convalesced at his castle where he realized he followed a methodology of discernment of spirits. When he recovered, he ministered to the sick and dying and then retreated to a cave at Manresa, Spain where he had experiences that formed the basis of The Spiritual Exercises. In order to preach, he studied Latin, earned a Master’s Degree at the University of Paris, and then gathered other students to serve Jesus. Francis Xavier and Peter Faber were his first friends. After ordination, Ignatius and his nine friends went to Rome where they formally became the Society of Jesus. Most Jesuits were sent on mission, but Ignatius stayed in Rome directing the rapidly growing religious order, composing its constitutions, and perfecting the Spiritual Exercises. He died in 1556 and the Jesuit Order was already 1,000 men strong. 

August 1: Alphonsus Liguori, bishop and doctor(1696-1787), founded a band of mission priests that became the Redemptorists. He wrote a book called "Moral Theology" that linked legal aspects with kindness and compassion for others. He became known for his responsive and thoughtful way of dealing with confessions.

August 2: Peter Faber, S.J., priest and founder (1506-1546), was one of the original companions of the Society of Jesus. He was a French theologian and the first Jesuit priest and was the presider over the first vows of the lay companions. He became known for directing the Spiritual Exercises very well. He was called to the Council of Trent but died as the participants were gathering.

August 2: Eusebius of Vercelli, bishop (d. 371), was ordained bishop after becoming a lector. He attended a council in Milan where he opposed the Arians. The emperor exiled him to Palestine because he contradicted secular influences. He returned to his diocese where the emperor died.

August 2: Peter Julian Eymard, priest (1811-1868) left the Oblates when he became ill. When his father died, he became a priest and soon transferred into the Marists but left them to found the Blessed Sacrament Fathers to promote the significance of the Eucharist.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Jul 27, 1609. Pope Paul V beatifies Ignatius.
·      Jul 28, 1564. In a consistory held before twenty-four Cardinals, Pope Paul IV announced his intention of entrusting the Roman Seminary to the Society.
·      Jul 29, 1865. The death in Cincinnati, Ohio of Fr. Peter Arnoudt, a Belgian. He was the author of The Imitation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
·      Jul 30, 1556. As he lay near death, Ignatius asked Juan de Polanco to go and obtain for him the blessing of the pope.
·      Jul 31, 1556. The death in Rome of Ignatius Loyola.
·      Aug 1, 1938. The Jesuits of the Middle United States, by Gilbert Garrigan was copyrighted. This monumental three-volume work followed the history of the Jesuits in the Midwest from the early 1820s to the 1930s.
·      Aug 2, 1981. The death of Gerald Kelly, moral theologian and author of "Modern Youth and Chastity."

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Prayer: from Norwich Cathedral in England

O God, whose Son Jesus Christ care for the welfare of everyone and went about doing good to all: grant us the imagination and resolution to create in this country and throughout the world a just social order for the human family. Make us agents of your compassion to the suffering, the persecuted, and the oppressed, though the Spirit of your Son, who shared our human sufferings.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Prayer: Thomas Becket

Of course many are needed to plant and many to water now that the faith has spread so far and the population becomes so great. Nevertheless, no matter who plants or waters, God gives no harvest unless what we plant is the faith of Peter and unless we ourselves assent to Peter’s teaching.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Prayer: Jerome

O Lord, show your mercy to me and gladden my heart. I am like the man on the way to Jericho who was overtaken by robbers, wounded, and left for dead. O Good Samaritan, come to my aid. I am like the sheep that went astray. O Good Shepherd, seek me out and bring me home in accord with your will. Let me dwell in your house all the days of my life and praise you forever and ever with those who are there.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Prayer: Augustine of Hippo

God, our true life, to know you is life, to serve you is freedom, to enjoy you is a kingdom, to praise you is the joy and happiness of the soul. I praise and bless and adore and thank and glorify you. I beg you to live with me, to reign in me, to make this heart of mine a holy temple, a fit habitation for your divine majesty.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Prayer: Pope Francis

Sing to the Lord a new song (Psalm 95.1) What is this new song? It does not consist of words, it is not a melody, it is the song of your life, it is allowing our life to be identified with that of Jesus, it is sharing his sentiments, his thoughts, his actions. And the life of Jesus is a life for others. It is a life of service.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Prayer: Eleventh Century Latin Prayer

Save me Lord, king of eternal glory, you who have the power to save us all. Grant that I may long for, do, and perfect those things that are pleasing to you and beneficial for me. Lord, give me counsel in my anxiety, help in time of trial, solace when persecuted, and strength against every temptation. Grant me pardon, Lord, for my past wrongdoings and afflictions, correction of my present ones, and protect me against those in the future.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
July 20, 2014
Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Psalm 86; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13:24-43

Many values in our secular world are filled with the pursuit of power. We celebrate with Germany as they show they are the strongest football (soccer) team in the world, and we appreciate that the best basketball player on the planet, Lebron James, has returned home. We pursue money as safety and security and as a way to influence political and social decisions. We strive for the best and give awards to the top performers and we want to be part of a community that is the most successful at its craft. It is very natural to pursue power, but it is helpful for us to examine the ways real power is used.  

The Book of Wisdom draws our eyes to focus upon the ways God uses power: (1.) the Lord’s mastery over all things makes God lenient to all, (2.) the Lord’s perfection of power is used during those times when people disbelieve it, (3.) God judges and governs with clemency and acts in kindness. God does not use power to force or coerce, but uses it to give freedom to others to act responsibly. Neither force nor violence ever has the last word; true power lies in gentleness and mercy. These are the qualities the sage in Wisdom wants us to see in God so we can replicate this practice on earth.

The Gospel is an example of this use of freedom. In the parable of the seed sown in hostile fields, the Master of the household warns the servants not to pull up the weeds because the plants of the good seed can be destroyed in the process. The first message in ministry and service is ‘to do no harm.’ God’s care extends to the solitary good plant that is struggling to survive in a harmful environment. All must be done to protect that plant from others who eclipse and stunt its growth. All laws in society ought to care for the most vulnerable in society. No person who is striving to live rightly ought to be cut off from God’s grace, but we have responsibility to help the person access it.

Let’s look at ways real power can be used in life. Israel, which certainly has tremendous military power, can show its strength not by obliterating Hamas in Gaza, but by extending an olive branch that leads to peace. Reconciliation and forgiveness are many times more powerful than brute force. Speeding your car along to bulldoze your way onto the exit ramp does not show as much power as realizing your mistake and taking the next exit safely. Repeatedly saying ‘hello’ to someone who refuses to talk with you shows more adaptability than the one who closes in on herself. Building for yourself a culture of the godly virtues of welcome, compassion, understanding, and tolerance will trickle over into the way people start to interact with you. If you show people an accessible, easily-imitated way of living, they will model their lives after yours because they intuitively know it is the right way to act. It is the Golden Rule. It is the way we way God to act towards us, and we have to want to act that ways towards others.

It is easy today to live anonymously because global corporations have become people where underpaid employees are expendable because they are merely numbers and expenses. Internationally, proxy governments wage wars on foreign soils. Locally, we see many cars and big SUV’s on the road and we cannot see the person behind the wheel. People relate to people, not to machines. The online world makes it possible that we send messages to many electronic messaging systems, but we may not have a real conversation with a live person throughout the day. Once familiar neighborhoods are now next to shopping malls where hundreds of consumers pass into large-scale stores without any claim to living in the district. Because of all these factors, our Christian virtuous standards are in more demand than ever before. Bringing our humanity into a technologically powerful world will allow us to see God’s power ironically at work.

In a world where many feel disconnected and disaffected, it is our responsibility to offer them a glimpse of God’s true power. We have to acknowledge the enormous influences in life that dictate many of our decisions, and we can also acknowledge our freedom to create a world around us built upon God’s criteria for right living. The world may smack us down in some ways, but we retain our dignity when we go out of our way to make it a little more humane for others. When we do have might and influence, it remains up to us to use it rightly. We always retain our ability to be kind and compassionate, to heal, and to encourage. Weeds sown by the enemy may be all around us, but we can choose to thrive as best we can. The final judgment, and all the intermediary judgments leading up to it, is not up to us. It frees us up to build a world where we can love well and often and then let God do all the rest. If we trust enough in God, we will be free enough to respond as divinely as we can – and that makes all the difference in the world. We will sleep well every night.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Micah, the prophet instructs them to listen to Lord who has a plea against them. The just person will do right before the Lord, will love goodness, and will walk humbly with God. The just one trusts in the Lord each day for governance for there is no other god quite as compassionate and caring as the God of Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac. In Jeremiah, God destined the prophet since the womb to be faithful and to speak fervently on the Lord’s behalf. The Lord remembers Israel’s devotion since her youth where she loved the Lord as a bride does her groom. She followed him in the desert faithfully, but turned away and defiled the land. ~ On the feast of St. James, 2 Corinthians reminds us that we are earthen vessels that are easily broken, but the surpassing power of God will endure. ~ Jeremiah stands at the gates of the city and proclaims that people must give up Baal and are to reform their ways if they are to follow the Lord.

Gospel: Jesus balks when the scribes and Pharisees ask for a sign that he is from God. No sign will be given because in front of them is something greater than Solomon or Jonah. ~On the feast of Mary Magadene, she is found at the tomb weeping for the deceased Jesus but his body has been taken. She asks the gardener if he knows where the boy lay and Jesus speaks familiarly to Mary. ~ Jesus went down to the shore and began to teach in parables. He taught them about the seed sown in different types of soils. When the disciples asked why he teaches in parables, he tells them that some can hear, but others cannot so it is imperative to speak to those who try to understand while giving the common person a way of understanding basic truths. ~ On the feast of St. James, the mother of the Zebedee boys petition Jesus to hold the places of honor in the kingdom. They ask to drink the cup of suffering and Jesus obliges to give it to them. ~ In another parable, Jesus likens the Kingdom of Heaven to the good seed sown in a field where the enemy has sown cockle. The seed is to grow and flourish amidst the weeds while awaiting the final thrashing.

Saints of the Week

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.

July 24: Sharbel Makhuf, priest (1828-1898), joined a monastery in the Maronite tradition and lived as a hermit for 23 years after living fifteen years in the community. He became known for his wisdom and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

July 25: James, Apostle (1st century), is the son of Zebedee and the brother of John. As fishermen, they left their trade to follow Jesus. They occupied the inner circle as friends of Jesus. James is the patron of Spain as a shrine is dedicated to him at Santiago de Compostela. He is the patron of pilgrims as many walk the Camino en route to this popular pilgrim site.

July 26: Joachim and Anne, Mary's parents (1st century) are names attributed to the grandparents of Jesus through the Proto-Gospel of James. These names appeared in the Christian tradition though we don't know anything with certitude about their lives. Devotion of Anne began in Constantinople in the 6th century while Joachim gained acclaim in the West in the 16th century. He was revered in the Eastern churches since the earliest times.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      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, the Brief for the suppression of the Society was signed by Clement XIV.
·      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.
·      Jul 24, 1805. In Maryland, Fr. Robert Molyneux was appointed the first superior by Father General Gruber.
·      Jul 25, 1581. In the house of the Earl of Leicester in London, an interview occurred between Queen Elizabeth and Edmund Campion. The Queen could scarcely have recognized the worn and broken person before her as the same brilliant scholar who had addressed here at Oxford 15 years before.
·      Jul 26, 1872. At Rome, the greater part of the Professed House of the Gesu was seized and appropriated by the Piedmontese government.