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This will be the last Post on the old Passion for Justice Blog.

The Passionist office of Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation has a new website:

Passionist JPIC Site

The Passionist JPIC website will have the advocacy issues, resources on Passionist spirituality, and campaigns and services by the JPIC Office. The Lectionary Reflection Blogs and Passion for Justice Blogs will now be housed in this site. The latest Passion for Justice Blog is on the Passionist ministry with Food for the Poor: http://www.passionistjpic.org/2009/10/food-for-the-poor/

The url for the Passion for Justice Blog is: http://www.passionistjpic.org/news/passion/

The latest Lectionary Reflection Post is on the 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time: http://www.passionistjpic.org/2009/10/30th-sunday-in-ordinary-time-b-cycle/

The url for the Lectionary Reflection Blog is: http://www.passionistjpic.org/news/lectionary/

The blogs will be added to facebook, twitter and LinkedIn. Please visit these network pages if you have an account with them.

Thank you for having followed this blog in the past, I look forward to hearing from you in the new Blog and website.

Peace – John

Members of the lectionary reflection blog posts,

This will be last lectionary reflection posted on this blog.  A final post will be offered announcing our new Passionist JPIC website and both the lectionary relection and passion for juistice blogs will be housed under that site. The new lectionary reflection blog site will be: 

http://www.passionistjpic.org/news/lectionary/

I will also be updating this on twitter, facebook and linked in so please look out for these changes in those social networks. Thank you for following this blog site, I look forward to hearing from you on the new site.

Peace,

Readings:

  • Jeremiah 31: 7-9. Jeremiah announces the return of the northern tribes, exiled in their pitiable condition by the Assyrians.
  • Hebrew 5: 1-6. Priests should deal patiently with erring sinners for they themselves are beset by weakness and must make sin offerings for themselves.
  • Mark 10:2-16. Jesus cures the blind man Bartimaeus, declaring “Your faith has healed you.”

Thoughts for your consideration: By John Gonzalez

The readings this week call us to be humble and compassionate. In the first reading Jeremiah is reminding Israel that the Northern tribes will eventually return. God’s people have been humbled after the Assyrian exile of the northern tribes of Israel and Jeremiah prophesizes that in the end the God of mercy will “bring them back from the land of the north.” Jeremiah goes on to describe the great compassion that God will have for his exiled people. Famed Passionist scripture scholar Fr. Carroll Stuhlmueller’s suggests that this prophesy is specifically informing the southern tribes of Judah that the northern tribes of Ephraim will return since the Assyrian empire is collapsing at the hands of the Babylonians. But what happens historically is the northern tribes of Israel never returned and they are lost to history.

The old Kingdom of Israel in not restored in its original form. The Jewish people have two choices; they can either dismiss their faith in God altogether, or they can allow themselves to be open to a new way of understanding God’s promise to them. Perhaps God desire to “gather them from the ends of the world with the blind and the lame in their midst” meant something greater than the return of the Northern tribe. Here is where the Gospel reading comes in. Now, through Jesus Christ, Jeremiah’s prophesy can be fulfilled. The compassion that Jesus has on Bartimaeus is reflective of God’s compassion to the lost tribes of Israel.

With humility comes compassion. The message in the second reading is that if we are truly humble then we will be aware of our own limitations and weaknesses. When we do that then we can appreciate the weaknesses and limitations of others. That is when we will be serving our own human community in a way that is compassionate and pastoral versus indifferent and judgmental.   

Humility is a valuable virtue that seems lost in our own society. Opinionated pundits are governing our own way of life and the message seems to be that nothing else should matter, not even the truth, outside of your own opinion. Facts and data are only useful insofar as they can back up your opinion. Principles and morality are also generally irrelevant unless they are the basis for your own opinion. It is fed to us by the media where the opinionated pundits are taking over all forms of journalism. But then it is played out in social networks and blogs. Now it is finding its way in social places like café’s and bars. There is no respect for dialogue and any kind of objective approach. This does not only hold true for politics but also for aspects of the faith. It does not matter what theologians, bishops or popes say or think. So long it fits our own opinion and it represents our own self interest then it may have some value. I have heard this type of public talk for some time now, especially with regards to immigration and the environment. Because there is no humility there is no compassion. Those of us who charge in with our own opinions are indifferent to the opinions and experiences of the other. Our own self-interest becomes our only good. Self-interest is not a value of our faith. We must humble ourselves before our God and before each other so that we can be open to God presence and wisdom within each one of us.

If we don’t learn to be humble make no mistake God will humble us, After all, He’s done it before.

Readings:

  • Wisdom 7:7-11. I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me and in her company all good things.
  • Hebrew 4:12-13. God’s word is sharper than any two-edged sword. It judges the heart. Nothing is concealed. For everything we must render an account.
  • Mark 10:17-30. One thing more you must do. Go and sell what you have and give to the poor. Whatever we have given up to follow Jesus, will return to us a hundred more in this life, plus persecution, and in the age to come, everlasting life.

Thoughts for your consideration: By John Gonzalez

God’s gift of Wisdom is at the heart of this week’s lectionary readings. We understand that Grace happens when God freely bestows his gifts upon us. Catholic tradition tells us that there are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit that aid us in our struggle to follow Christ and redeem our humanity: broken by sin and the great temptations of self-indulgence. We require these gifts of God in order to achieve our ultimate purpose and calling which is to be one with God and all of creation. This week’s readings will help us comprehend the prominent role of the gift of Wisdom in the midst of this struggle.

This first reading reminds us of the great value placed on Wisdom by Solomon. If you had one wish in the world what would you wish for? According to this reading the answer would have to be Wisdom. The goodness that comes from Wisdom is not measurable by common social standards. The only appropriate way to consider the value of this gift is if you accept that under the guidance of Wisdom the ultimate sense of goodness flows from it. But having said this we must ask ourselves, “What is goodness”?

In our Christian spirituality and ethics, goodness is not defined as something that is self-gratifying or that simply produces our own personal happiness. Goodness is better understood under what Catholic social teaching calls, “the common good.” Mystics like St. Paul of the Cross would use the term, “the Divine Good” to describe the same concept. Good is a subjective term. What is good for me may not be good for another. So the concept of Divine or Common Good denotes another form of goodness that is not subjective. We would consider this to be a Goodness that is universal or an ultimate form of goodness from which everything that happens to ourselves and all humanity and indeed all creation can have the deepest meaning. So that even in our suffering people like St. Paul of the Cross can say that even in our suffering we may be serving the “Divine Will that can will only the greatest good.”

The Gospel account has a rich young man approach Jesus in pursuit of this greater good. Jesus offers him the Ten Commandments, but the young man has made it that far and now he wants to take the plunge into ultimate goodness no doubt believing that he is ready for the challenge. What Jesus does when he tells him to give all his belongings to the poor is to humble him into realizing the mystical challenge that is the common good. To serve God and the great good that comes from God is to be at the service of all creation, thus “many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” For our part we must intentionally make that choice, to constantly see ourselves in relationship to God and to be at the service of all. As we can tell from the Gospel passage this radical call to goodness unnerves even the Apostles who begin to wonder if there is any hope in achieving this relationship with God. At that point Jesus will remind them that “for mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” So on our own we cannot hope to achieve this greater good. That is why we must have the grace of God’s wisdom to help guide us in this journey.  

This may be unnerving and quite daunting but the second reading reminds us of how powerful and ever present the wisdom of God is. By faith we are told to accept that ultimately all things will be held accountable to the Divine Will. So we must not be afraid to ask for this great gift and to humble ourselves by allowing ourselves to be forged by this gift from God.

It is worth mentioning that just preceding this second reading, if we read the rest of Chapter 4 from this letter, we are told about the context from which God’s Divine Will is offered to us. The context is within the solitude of God’s rest. Sometimes, especially in our culture, we feel that we are beyond this ultimate wisdom. God does not seem to be speaking to us anymore. According to this chapter God is ever present and ever alive in our world, but we need to Pittsburgh 006make time to first hear God’s wisdom in order to actually comprehend it. Solitude has been a prominent Christian value. For that reason the Passionists and other Catholic religious communities have upheld the importance for Christians to have an opportunity to engage in retreats periodically and to have spiritual direction in order to spend some intentional time in developing one’s relationship towards God. Many Catholic Religious communities have retreat centers that offer a variety of spiritual themes including silent retreats specifically designed to give each person the opportunity to hear God’s voice. Consider this spiritual option from our tradition as you reflect on the lectionary readings and contemplate how God’s wisdom is speaking to you.       

Questions for your Reflection:

  • Place yourself in the position of the rich young man. Consider your own hopes and expectations of your faith and imagine that Jesus is asking you to stretch those expectations further. How would you respond to call by God that makes you uncomfortable?
  • How do you understand the “Common Good?” Take a moment to reflect on the concept of goodness from the perspective of the other. Consider something good for someone you know and love that may make demands on you. Now consider the good for people on the other side of the world that may make demands on your own society. How does this make you feel?       
  • What is your experience of spiritual exercises like Retreats or Spiritual Direction? Have you ever taken advantage of these services that our Church and the Religious community have to offer? If you would like to visit resources on these services visit either www.passionist.org if you live in the western part of the United States or www.thepassionists.org if you live in the eastern part to find these resources close to you.

27 Sunday of Ordinary Time

Readings:

  • Genesis 2:18-24. The creation of man and woman, their vocation to become two in one flesh and to be suitable partners for each other.
  • Hebrew 2:9-11. Jesus is perfected through suffering and tastes death for all. So, he is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.
  • Mark 10:2-16. Jesus prohibits divorce and remarriage and compares the kingdom of God to those who are like little children.

Thoughts for your consideration: By John Gonzalez

As we consider this week’s reading we are invited to reflect on the concept of relationship. In many ways the heart of the Gospel message is relationship: the relationship between Jesus and the Father, the relationship between God and humanity, the relationship between us and the rest of humanity. This week we are reminded of the most intimate level of this dynamic through the image of husband and wife. In the Gospel Jesus protects this radical moment of relationship where two “become one flesh,” a relationship we understand as marriage.

When people generally consider this aspect of relationship it is usually envisioned with weddings, a united and happy family, a man and wife happily aging together. Marriage evokes attitudes of happiness and joy. It is usually affiliated with the concept of love. As one reads the first reading or the Gospel passage all these images, attitudes and values will probably surface. And yet, in the second reading a very different image of suffering is sandwiched between the other two readings. This is not an accidental insert.

The Christian spirituality of the cross always reminds us that the deepest level of relationship is often born out of the fire of self sacrifice. To love God, to love your neighbor as yourself, to love your spouse and your family these are all powerful moments of relationship, but ultimately they call us to sacrifice our own selfish passions for the good of others. Christian mystics like St. Paul of the Cross have understood this within the concept they called the Mystical Union. Jesus’ mission is to cement the damaged relationship between God and humanity through the ultimate self sacrificing covenant when he suffered and died for our sake. Like Jesus we are called into a deep and meaningful relationship with God the Father and all humanity. But also like Jesus we are called to sacrifice ourselves to lift up our own brothers and sisters.

In comprehending this Mystical Union it is important for us to place His Passion within the context of society. To be in an intimate relationship with the Father meant to be at the service of all humanity. This uncompromising lifestyle was not consistent with the social structures of the Roman era and I will argue that it is not consistent with the socialdeath of Jesus structures of our day. Society did to Jesus then as it did to the prophets before him and as it continues to do the saints of our own day. But as God vindicated Jesus within the social “culture of death” God continues to vindicate those of us who live to sacrifice ourselves for the common good. And thus the second reading tells us that “Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters.”    

Marriage and family is the foundational unit of our society. In the eyes of our church society is build around this unit. This is the principle unit within which we are called to live a life of self sacrifice. In marriage we have the opportunity to express a form of this mystical union that we are called to have with God. Like marriage, mystical union is ultimately where one can and does experience happiness and joy. The mystics like St. Theresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, Mother Theresa and St. Paul of the Cross found their ultimate enlightenment by pursuing the Divine Will. But in pursuing this Divine Will they slowly had to shed away their own personal will, their own ideals and goals, their own wants and needs, all this was sacrificed for the ultimate good. Within our own family dynamic we experience this mystical moment. Many times we face moments where we have to sacrifice our own wants and desires. Once children are on the scene this mystical moment becomes elevated. But as the family grows together there will be moments when the ultimate meaning of one’s own purpose becomes clearly understood within the context of this family.

Our own experience within this unit should help inform us of our personal relationship with God. Our own relationship with God may not be as tangible as marriage. But if we allow ourselves to be sacrificed in faith (keeping in mind the great sacrifice that Jesus made for us, in faith) then we will begin to find the same great and powerful meaning that the mystics found. In faith we must learn to soften our own passions, expectation, and ideals for what we want from our own society. We must learn to sacrifice this on the altar of the Divine Will and receive from God’s own concept of what is Good and Just.

Questions for your Reflection:

  • What set of attitudes and expectation do we have as we consider our own marriage or community unit? Are these attitudes self serving or are they serving the family dynamic?   
  • How can we come to understand the image of Christ suffering for us within our own role within our own family or community? How can we understand this image in our own role within society?
  • Take the time to evaluate your own social values and ideals. How are these values formed and whom do they serve? Do they promote your own good in the midst of the social reality, or do they promote a good that is other than your own?

Readings:

  • Wis. 2:12, 17-20. The just person, characterized by gentleness and patience, is tested, persecuted and even killed by the self-confident wicked.
  • James 3:16-4:3. Jealousy and strife beget inconstancy, conflicts and vile behavior. Wisdom is innocent, peaceable, impartial and sincere.
  • Mark 9:30-37. Jesus’ announcement of his passion and death leaves the disciples speechless. In the meanwhile they argue who was the most important among themselves. Jesus’ reply: whoever welcomes a child for my sake, welcomes me.

Thoughts for your consideration: By Fr. Sebastian MacDonald, CP

There is a saying to the effect that, should a butterfly flap its wings in one part of the world, there will be repercussions of that infinitesimally small action elsewhere in the world.  This assertion is based on the principle that everything is connected, so that nothing happens in isolation.

There are concerns of Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC) associated with this assertion.  And today’s biblical readings lend themselves to an illustration of this principle, and this example.

For instance, the gospel depicts Jesus in a teaching mode regarding His disciples.  Having just warned them about what lay ahead for Him (sufferings, death and Resurrection) He discovers, surely to His chagrin, that there was absolutely no linkage whatsoever between His remark and the disciples’ receptive capacity, as they focused on their advancement in His company.  So He decided to do some linkage of His own, advocating a sense of  lowliness on their part, by esteeming the value of an insignificant child whom He embraces, for  achieving status with Him and His Father by their doing likewise.  He suggests an interconnection here between their external behavior and an interior mindset.

St. James, likewise, focuses on relationships in the behavior patterns of his correspondents.  He notes the foul practices and disorders erupting in their midst, escalating into wars and conflicts.  In his opinion, they derive from within: their passions, their ambitions, and their jealousy.  Like Jesus before him, he appeals to a matter of the heart (the wisdom of prayer) as a solution for these external troubles.

The author of the book of Wisdom gives his own witness to the interconnections prevailing between the inner and the outer phases of our lives, by posing the case of a just person who criticizes others for their transgressions and violations of their training, thereby rousing their anger.  So they decide to try his/her gentleness and patience by violations and torture, to see whether such a one’s interior trust in God will suffice to sustain abuse from without.

Each of these scenarios is an instance of a butterfly flapping its wings, impacting another phase of life.  Such was the case when Jesus embraced a child so as to change the disciples’ conduct; and when James proposed to his correspondents that they secure a bit of wisdom so as to improve the way they acted; and when the Wise Man praised the example of the just person’s patient, trusting relationship with God before the persecution undergone for upholding righteousness.

There are JPIC issues at stake here: interpersonal rivalries threatening comradeship, disorders escalating into wars and conflicts, social disruptions deserving criticism.  None of these exist in isolated fashion, separated from the rest of life.  They emerge out of ambition, passion, and hatred.  They too resemble the flapping of a butterfly’s wings, but instead of initiating values of harmony, peace and order residing within they are initiating a negative set of values which will also have powerful repercussions. What we do here and how we behave in the moment is crucial. Immediate actions and attitudes may seem insignificant but whether we realize it or not, they are impacting our internal mindset and external surroundings.

Questions for your Reflection:

  • What set of values dictate our behavior and attitude toward ourselves, each other and the world? Can we name these values? How do we maintain consistency in applying these values?
  • None of us can claim to be impervious to negative attitudes. Prayer, solitude, meditation and retreats are organized ways to process these moments. How do we integrate these methods to specifically address our own negative attitudes? Should we consider promoting these methods within our own family and local community?  
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