Sunday, July 27, 2014

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Solomon is a young man who has just been given a great responsibility: he has been made king.  In the first reading today from 1 Kings we see Solomon true self.  He is truly seeking to be a king who loves and cares for his people.  When asked what we would like from God, he doesn’t ask for anything for his own gain. He asks for an understanding heart. As a result, God praises him for seeking wisdom and not power or riches. His request is the fruit of a heart focused outside of himself. It comes from a place of great humility.

Think of what our world would be like if more people sought to understand than to gain things for themselves. To seek to understand is a humble act because it puts one in the position of admitting that they may not have the answer to a particular situation.  An understanding heart leads one to listen to another and then respond.  An understanding heart is very important for the life of a Christian because while we are in the process of conversion, we are also missionaries of the gospel.  To most effectively share the gospel, we need to listen to others.  What are their concerns, their fears, their source of happiness? What is it that they desire? What is there understanding of the way things are?  This allows the gospel to be shared in a way that is best understood by them.  We don’t change the gospel message, we adapt how it is delivered. 

Throughout the gospels we hear Jesus doing just that.  He uses parables, stories and real life occurrences as a means to introduce a teaching to his followers.  It then encouraged those hearing the teacher to think, to realize the relevance of God’s message to them in their lived experience and helped them to strive for something greater than what they could attain on their own or what the world could offer them.

The parables in today’s Gospel also challenge us to realize just how important what God has to offer us is.  Do we desire the kingdom of heaven? Do we desire God?

Faith tells us that Truth in its fullness is found in God.  It tells us that Love is found in its perfection with God. It tells us that lasting hope and joy come when we live in union with Him.

St. Paul understands that love is a critical characteristic of the Christian.  The one who claims to be a follower of Christ desires and loves God above all else which results in an ever growing love of neighbor.  In addition, the one who loves God is meant not just to be a person that reminds others about Jesus, but is to be “conformed” to Christ, that is to be Christ to others.

A few weeks ago we celebrated that Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.  We celebrated God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a community of Persons in union as one being, united in a perfect bond of love.  We, made in the image and likeness of God, are meant to live in participation of this divine life.  How do we do that? Love.

Love leads us to look outside of ourselves. It opens our hearts and minds to something greater than ourselves.  Love unites us to God himself and allows us to look upon the world with the eyes of faith, to see how we can put love in service to others.  Through such service, we invite others to experience the same love, to come to know God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit and join us on the journey to that God.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

15th Sunday of Ordinary Time

 Isaiah 55:10-11
Romans 8:18-23
Matthew 13:1-9

In the first reading from Isaiah, the theology of Thomas Aquinas kept coming to mind.  Aquinas held that our origin was from God, but that our destiny is also from God.  Our lives are spent learning who we are as beings made in the image and likeness of God so that we may be authentic to who we are and be able to achieve our end, God.  The life of the Christian is spent seeking to unite mind and heart to God so that we recognize His call in our lives and seek to respond to the one who loves us and created us.  

The Lord says through the prophet “…so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”  Isn’t this how the life of conversion goes?  Certainly, it is easy to see the foreshadowing for Christ in these verses.  The “Word made flesh” was sent by God, lived out the task given to Him by the Father and returned to Him at the Ascension.  Those who have been baptized are called to be “other Christ’s” in the world.  We too are entrusted by a task by the Father (our vocation) and are called to return to Him.

This week Paul takes on the issue of suffering.  While the second reading doesn’t always connect itself to the first reading, there is a connection here.  The process of conversion referred to in the first reading isn’t always a walk in the park.  There is some trial and suffering as we refocus our hearts and minds from ourselves and seek to look outside ourselves for God.  The “groaning” referenced in these verses from Romans reminds us that the entire creation is in the process of “becoming”.  It’s funny, that in reflecting on this I thought of the physics.  I remember watching a show on PBS and the point was made that an aspect of the Big Bang theory is that everything, including time, is moving away from the moment of the big bang.  Again, Aquinas also comes to mind. He speaks of the “First Mover”, the one that started everything.  Perhaps it isn’t a coincidence that the scientist credited with formulating the Big Bang Theory was Fr. George Lamaitre. 

The New Jerome Biblical Commentary noted that for St. Paul, suffering as the transition to the glory that has been promised by God.  This transition only moves us towards an outcome with God when we open ourselves to His graces.  Paul is calling us to keep the Lord’s promise alive in our hearts and not to lose faith for what the Lord has in store for us is beyond what we can know.  Origen stated: “There is nothing which is worthy of comparison with the future glory. For how can what is mortal be compared to what is immortal, what is visible to what is invisible, what is temporal to what is eternal or what is perishable to what is everlasting?”

The Gospel this week has a short form, which is the one we will focus on.  Jesus used parables as means of encouraging his listeners not just to hear what he had to way, but to think, to take responsibility for the faith that he was sharing with them.  Daniel Harrington,SJ compares the sower to God.  In the parable He is simply giving the knowledge and the call.  It is up to those who receive it to nurture it and to live it to the reality of their lives and time.