Monthly Archives: July 2021

Go Into The Gospel Story

Rembrandt, Crucifixion

The conversion experiences of saints are important. For Ignatius Loyola, whose feast we celebrate today, his conversion came about as he was recuperating from a serious battle wound in his family’s castle.

He was looking for something to read, and the only books his sister-in-law had available were a Life of Christ and Lives of the Saints. The Life of Christ, by Ludolph of Saxony, invited the reader to enter the gospel story, and so Ignatius, the battle hardened soldier who already knew the basics of faith from the time of his Baptism, began to know more fully the Jesus of the gospels. The soldier who showed no mercy, learned mercy. The man trained to be hard and unfeeling, became tender by reflecting on Jesus and the story of his Passion. He became a soldier of another kind.

The saints invited him to be a disciple too. They were from every century, place and social situation. You didn’t have to be a fisherman from Galilee to follow Jesus, they said, but when you follow him you must stay with him day by day, And so Ignatius, the soldier, learned to accept the daily graces he was given.

The Passion of Jesus was the gospel story Ignatius reflected on most . Go in and stand with someone there, see what they see and listen to them, the book he read said. Isn’t it likely that Ignatius the soldier would stand with the soldiers there, familiar as he was with those hard, efficient men finishing the job and anxious to head back to the barracks? Yet the day Jesus was crucified, one of them, the one in charge, suddenly saw Someone Else hanging on the cross with the criminals of the day.”Truly, this man was the Son of God.” 

Everything, everyone else on that dark hill changed then: the leaders shouting for death, the soldiers finishing up, the curious passing by, the women looking on from a distance. The earth quaked and the tombs were opened. Everything, everyone changed. The Son of God saw them all as his Father’s children. 

Too much to take in? Too much for the mind and moreso for the heart. That’s why the mystery of Jesus, especially his Passion, became a never-ending school for Ignatius. “Truly, this man was the Son of God,” who humbled himself to come among us, accepting even death on a cross. God loves us so.

It’s a school for our feelings too.  Feelings of inferiority or superiority, resentment and judgment, futility and denial. The hard soldier and the women looking on learned compassion together. The passion of Jesus is a school of compassion, where we learn to see things and feel things as he did. 

Herod’s Distress

“Herod’s Distress”
Matthew 14:1-12 in a couplet
Saturday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the reputation of Jesus and said to his servants, “This man is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.”

Now Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, for John had said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Although he wanted to kill him, he feared the people, for they regarded him as a prophet. But at a birthday celebration for Herod, the daughter of Herodias performed a dance before the guests and delighted Herod so much that he swore to give her whatever she might ask for. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests who were present, he ordered that it be given, and he had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who took it to her mother. His disciples came and took away the corpse and buried him; and they went and told Jesus.

Matthew 14:1-12

St. Ignatius Loyola (1491–1556)

Born in Spain, Ignatius was a soldier who was severely wounded in battle. During his recuperation he experienced a remarkable conversion, which he relates in the following passages: He is the founder of the Jesuits.

Ignatius was passionately fond of reading worldly books of fiction and tales of knight-errantry. When he felt he was getting better, he asked for some of these books to pass the time. But no book of that sort could be found in the house; instead they gave him a life of Christ and a collection of the lives of saints written in Spanish. 

 By constantly reading these books he began to be attracted to what he found narrated there. Sometimes in the midst of his reading he would reflect on what he had read. Yet at other times he would dwell on many of the things which he had been accustomed to dwell on previously.

But at this point our Lord came to his assistance, insuring that these thoughts were followed by others which arose from his current reading.  While reading the life of Christ our Lord or the lives of the saints, he would reflect and reason with himself: “What if I should do what Saint Francis or Saint Dominic did?” In this way he let his mind dwell on many thoughts; they lasted a while until other things took their place. Then those vain and worldly images would come into his mind and remain a long time. This sequence of thoughts persisted with him for a long time. 

 But there was a difference. When Ignatius reflected on worldly thoughts, he felt intense pleasure; but when he gave them up out of weariness, he felt dry and depressed. Yet when he thought of living the rigorous sort of life he knew the saints had lived, he not only experienced pleasure when he actually thought about it, but even after he dismissed these thoughts, he still experienced great joy. Yet he did not pay attention to this, nor did he appreciate it until one day, in a moment of insight, he began to marvel at the difference.

Then he understood his experience: thoughts of one kind left him sad, the others full of joy. And this was the first time he applied a process of reasoning to his religious experience. Later on, when he began to formulate his spiritual exercises, he used this experience as an illustration to explain the doctrine he taught his disciples on the discernment of spirits.

From Ignatius loyola’s own words, taken down by Luis González

Jesus in His Hometown

“Jesus in his Hometown”
Matthew 13:54-56 (Mark 6:1-3) in a couplet 
Friday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Related post: The Rejection at Nazareth
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

He came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue. They were astonished and said, “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Are not his sisters all with us? Where did this man get all this?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house.” And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith.

Matthew 13:54-58

Don’t Look Down on Yourself?

Today’s the feast of St. Peter Chrysologus, a bishop of Ravenna in Italy, who died around 450 AD. The prayer for his feast describes him as “an outstanding preacher of your Incarnate Word.”  You can see why in this excerpt from one of his sermons:

“Why do you look down on yourself who are so precious to God? Why think so little of yourself when you are so honored by him? Why do you ask how you were created, and don’t want to know why you were made?

“This entire visible universe is yours to dwell in.  It was for you that the light dispelled the overshadowing gloom; for you the night was regulated and the day was measured: for you the heavens were brightened with the brilliance of the sun, the moon and the stars. The earth was adorned with flowers, trees and fruit; lovely living things were created in the air, the fields, and the seas for you, lest you lose the joy of God’s creation in sad loneliness.

“And the Creator is still devising things that can add to your glory. He has made you in his image that you might make the invisible Creator present on earth; he has made you his legate, so that the vast empire of the world might have the Lord’s representative.

“Then in his mercy God assumed what he made in you; he wanted now to be truly manifest in men and women, to be revealed in them as in an image. Now he would be in reality what he was in symbol.”

Saints Martha, Mary, and Lazarus

“Saints Martha, Mary, and Lazarus”
John 11:19-27 in a couplet
Memorial of Saints Martha, Mary, and Lazarus
Related posts: Lent, Day 25 (John 11:25), I AM the Resurrection
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

John 11:19-27

Martha, Mary and Lazarus

This year, July 29th, the feast of St. Martha becomes the feast of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, the family at Bethany who were friends of Jesus and blessed with one of his most important miracles. The church wants us to see them all together.

But Martha still stands out in today’s feast. The  gospel readings from St. John and St. Luke feature her. Martha met Jesus when her brother Lazarus died and spoke those beautiful words of faith when Jesus asked if she believed he could bring life to the dead. “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” ( John 11:  )

Her faith was also the faith of Mary and Lazarus too. Jesus was at home with them.

Yet, there’s another side of Martha I can’t resist. The Martha who does everything and sometimes runs out of steam doing it. No matter how strong our faith, we’re still human. Isn’t Bethany Martha’s house? That’s what the gospels seem to indicate.That’s why this favorite picture of Martha introduces this blog. 

The 13th century Tuscan artist, Giovanni di Milano, brings us to Bethany where Jesus is visiting Martha and Mary. The table’s set for four people. That would be Jesus, Lazarus, Mary and Martha.

All of a sudden a knock on the door, and standing there are some of Jesus’ disciples, led by Peter. One  of them gestures towards Peter, as if saying “he told us to come.”

Poor Martha in her apron holds up her hands, “What am I supposed to do?”

There will be no miracle, except the miracle of Martha’s hospitality. More than four will be fed.

That story’s in the gospel if, like the artist, we let our imagination roam a little bit.

Almighty ever-living God, your Son was welcomed to Bethany, Martha’s house, as a guest. Grant, we pray, that through her intercession and that of her brother and sister we may serve Christ faithfully in our brothers and sisters and finally be received by you into your heavenly home. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure

“The Parable of the Hidden Treasure”
Matthew 13:44 in a couplet
Wednesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Matthew 13:44

The Parable of the Weeds Explained

“The Parable of the Weeds Explained”
Matthew 13:36-43 in a couplet
Tuesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Related post: The Parable of the Weeds
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house. His disciples approached him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.

Matthew 13:36-43