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16th Sunday of Ordinary Time
When we look at our world today, sometimes we can't help asking why God seems to allow evil in the world. When we learn about all so much bad news-wars, violence, poverty, injustice, corruption-we can sometimes get the impression that in the battle between good and evil, evil seems to be winning. Even when we look at our families, our neighborhoods or our work environments, we can sometimes find ourselves overwhelmed by seemingly insoluble evils: misunderstandings, divisions, addictions, and so forth.
In our Gospel today, our Lord tells three parables that provide a glimpse of an answer to these questions. First, Jesus tells the parable of the weeds and the wheat. A farmer plants good seed in his field, but his enemy secretly plants harmful weeds. When the workers ask the master of the field whether they should root out the weeds, the master surprisingly says no. The weeds-in Greek, zizania-look too much like the wheat and they are so intertwined that the master fears that his laborers will pull out the good wheat as well. The master counsels patience: the time will come when it will be easier to distinguish between the good wheat and the harmful weeds, and then the bad plants can be uprooted.
This is a first response the Lord gives to the problem of evil in our world. Sometimes good and evil are so deeply intertwined that it needs time and patience to discern which is which. We only need to look at our own hearts to know that this is true. It is often said that our strengths are also our weaknesses; our lights are also our shadows. A man can be passionately concerned about his family: that love can be a strength when it motivates him to work hard to provide for his children; but it can also be a source of evil when he focuses only on his family, forgets the wider community, or even engages in corruption to benefit his family alone. A leader can be really committed to excellence, which is surely a good thing. But this same commitment can make him or her impatient or lacking in compassion for those who are weaker or less capable. I am sure that you can think of many more examples of this intertwining of weeds and wheat, of good and evil in our hearts.
Our first reading tells us that this patience of God towards the mixture of good and evil in our hearts is because of his mercy and kindness, his desire to give us time to change, to grow. "With much lenience you govern us," we read in the Book of Wisdom; "you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins."
The next two parables of Jesus offer a second response to the question of the apparent strength of evil in the world. Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a tiny mustard seed, so small and insignificant at the start. However, when planted it becomes the "largest of plants," providing shelter for the birds of the air. Similarly, the Kingdom of God, Jesus says, is like yeast that is mixed in with flour. The yeast is not only a small amount, it actually disappears, so one can't see it. Nevertheless, because of this seemingly invisible yeast, the whole batch of dough rises.
In other words, Jesus is inviting us to a deep faith that leads to hope. Even though the forces of good and of love might seem to be weaker, smaller, or even invisible compared to the forces of evil and hate in the world, Jesus is reminding us that God is still in control of this world. God, with his loving purposes, is working quietly, secretly, but powerfully and invincibly, like the tiny mustard seed or the hidden yeast.
A wise Jesuit spiritual director once said that the most powerful weapon of the devil is not pride or greed or lust, but discouragement. I think there is much spiritual wisdom in that. Often, what prevents us from doing good is discouragement. We feel there are too many weeds in our hearts or our lives. We lose heart seeing how powerful the forces of evil are. We feel too weak, too few, too insignificant.
Our readings today invite us to not be overwhelmed by discouragement but to continue loving and serving with hope and joy, because God remains the Lord of history. He will separate the weeds and the wheat; he will make the mustard seed and the yeast of the Kingdom grow. Our part is to share in some small way in God's great work of bringing healing, hope, and joy to our world.
St. Ignatius, the patron of your parish, once wrote to a woman who was overcome by feelings of discouragement about herself and her weakness. St. Ignatius wrote: "When the enemy of human nature . . . wants to deprive you of the strength the Lord gives you, and to make you weak and fearful . . . then we must raise ourselves up in true faith and hope in the Lord." (Letter to Teresa Rejadell, 1536). In another letter, St. Ignatius ends with a beautiful prayer to our Lady, asking that she might intercede for us with her Son, so that "our weak and sad spirits may be transformed and become strong and joyful in his praise." (Letter to Ines Pascual, 1524)
Today, then, let us pray for one another, that the Lord may touch whatever discouragement there is in our hearts with his hope. There is so much to do for the Lord, for his people, especially for the poor and suffering of this world. We may be small like mustard seeds or seemingly invisible like the yeast, but we can be the Lord's instruments, and let him work through us, even in our weakness and littleness. We pray with St. Ignatius to our Lady, so that through her prayers, the Lord might transform "our weak and sad spirits" so that we become "strong and joyful" in his praise and service!
Singapore, St. Ignatius Parish Church, 22 July 2017
We are united in our desire to promote peace and reconciliation, says Fr Sosa after first dialogue with Buddhists
Landing in Siem Seap on the second leg of his first trip to Asia Pacific, Fr General Arturo Sosa quickly found himself in completely different setting. From Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim country with about 350 Jesuits and many institutions and collaborators, he was now in a largely Buddhist country, with a small cohort of 26 Jesuits working with a modest number of collaborators.
It was his first time in a Buddhist country, and to visit Jesuits and partners in mission working together in such a context, he shared in his homily on July 15 in the chapel of the Metta Karuna Reflection Centre in Siem Reap where stayed for most of his visit.
He pointed out that the readings of the day were reminiscent of General Congregation 36, saying "In a world of so much violence, divisions and intolerance, we are called to build bridges, to create a ‘culture of hospitality' and welcome. In a world where there is so much ‘fear and anger,' and where ‘hope is threatened,' we are called to bring the hope of the risen Lord in all our apostolates and ministries."
Later that morning, Fr In-don Oh SJ, Superior of the Jesuits in Cambodia, presented the history of the Jesuit mission in the country, from its beginnings in the refugee camps of Thai-Cambodia border in the early 1980s to its present commitments in social service, education, ecology, interreligious dialogue and pastoral work. Msgr Enrique Figaredo SJ, the Apostolic Prefect of Battambang, introduced Fr General to the creative ministries of the Prefecture.
In his talk after the presentations, Fr Sosa underscored the importance of collaboration and reminded them that they are, themselves, collaborators too. "We like to talk about Jesuit mission with our collaborators. But, we have to remember that our mission is not our own, but Christ's mission, and we Jesuits are also collaborators in that mission," he said.
In the afternoon, Fr General met with a group of Buddhist monks to learn about Buddhism and Buddhist work on peace and reconciliation in Asia including the story of the Buddhist peace walk, begun by the great Buddhist sage Maha Ghosananda during the bloody days of the civil war in Cambodia.
The 80 Jesuits, collaborators and volunteers gathered were touched by the simplicity, depth and spiritual wisdom shared by Buddhist monk Ven Sovechea and peace activist Bob Mat. Fr Sosa found it "deeply consoling to see how we are united in our desire to promote peace and reconciliation in our world". He added, "It is also consoling to see how we share a belief that the path to peace begins from within, from the deep transformation of the inner person, from growing in detachment and in loving kindness".
The interreligious dialogue ended fittingly with the blessing of the wheels of reconciliation located along a pond in the Metta Karuna grounds that was hollowed by a cluster bomb. The monks chanted blessings for peace and reconciliation, and the Christian beatitudes were proclaimed in the Khmer language.
Afterwards, JCAP Coordinator for Dialogue with Buddhism Fr In-gun Kang took Fr General to the 1,000 year old Wat Svayromeath, the oldest temple in Siem Reap. It was Fr Sosa's first visit to a Buddhist temple and the Chief monk Ven Vuthi introduced Fr General to 80 novice monks - children and teenagers studying in the monastic school - who impressed him with their concentration during meditation. In a gesture that surprised Fr Kang, Ven Vuthi invited him and Fr Sosa to sit among the young monks.
"It is very unusual to sit in that way in the Theravada tradition; even the king has to respect monks by sitting in a separate seat. I think Ven Vuthi respected us as equal religious friends who deserve to sit together in the temple," said Fr Kang.
On July 16, Fr General Sosa flew to Phnom Penh where he visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Memorial Museum built to remember the tens of thousands who were tortured and killed after the Khmer Rouge took power in 1975. The visit prompted Fr Sosa to recall the tragic events of his own country, Venezuela, during the dictatorship. He said that this kind of history is tragic and terrible but something that people have to remember. After his tour, Fr Sosa met with Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler, Apostolic Vicar of Phnom Penh.
The following day, Fr General visited Banteay Prieb, the Jesuit vocational training centre for survivors of landmines and polio and people with learning disabilities that had been the foundation of Jesuit involvement in Cambodia. Fr Sosa was also shown the room where Richie Fernando, a Filipino Regent, was killed in October 1996 while attempting to calm a problem student who had threatened the school with a grenade. Fr Sosa, moved by the martyrdom of Richie, offered a short and silent prayer in front of Richie's memorial and blessed the people gathered around.
Fr Oh, who accompanied Fr Sosa from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh and then to Singapore, said that Fr Sosa's visit had been a source of inspiration for the Jesuits and collaborators in the Cambodia mission. "Many expressed their gratitude and joy for being graced with his loving presence, simplicity, joyful laughter and accessible nature."
Six Jesuits ordained priests in Indonesia
The Society of Jesus welcomed six new priests from the Indonesia Province with the ordination of Fathers Antonius Dhimas Hardjuna SJ, Ferdinandus Tuhu Jati Setya Adi SJ, Gerardus Hadian Panamokta SJ, Stephanus Advent Novianto SJ, Thomas Septi Widhiyudana SJ and Thomas Surya Awangga Budiono SJ.
They were ordained by the Archbishop of Semarang, Msgr Robertus Rubiyatmoko, on July 13 in the Church of St Anthony of Padua in Yogyakarta. Emeritus Archbishop of Jakarta Julius Cardinal Darmaatmadja SJ and Fr Arturo Sosa, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, concelebrated the Ordination Mass as did Indonesia Provincial Fr Sunu Hardiyanta SJ and St Ignatius College Rector Fr Andreas Sugijopranoto SJ.
During his homily, Bishop Rubiyatmoko highlighted the many firsts in the occasion. It was his first presbyteral ordination since his appointment as Bishop. It was the first time for Fr General Sosa to concelebrate an ordination Mass in Indonesia, and the first ordination Mass in the local church to have a children's choir. All six ordinands were also from different dioceses.
Speaking at the end of the Mass, Fr General, who was in Indonesia for his first official trip to the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific, told the new priests, "Do not be afraid to sail into the deep and be fishers of people". The ordinands had chosen as their ordination theme, "Because of His Grace and Love, I Cast the Net", inspired by the vocation of St Peter.
All six men had studied in minor seminaries prior to entering the Society, with most of them attending the Jesuit-run St Peter Canisius Minor Seminary. All but one, Fr Novianto, studied Theology at Sanata Dharma University, the Jesuit university in Yogyakarta. He did his Theology in the Loyola School of Theology in Manila.
Four of them - Fr Hardjuna, Fr Setya, Fr Budiono and Fr Widhiyudana - have been assigned as associate pastors in different parishes in the Archdiocese of Semarang. Fr Hardjuna will go to St Anne Parish in Duren Sawit, Fr Setya to St Servas Parish in Kampung Sawah, Fr Budiono to St Joseph Parish in Ambarawa and Fr Widhiyudana to St Isidore Parish in Sukorejo.
Fr Novianto will serve as associate pastor of the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary Parish in Tangerang in the Archdiocese of Jakarta, while Fr Panamokta has been assigned to St Aloysius Gonzaga High School in Jakarta.
The new priests led their first mass with the community members of St Ignatius College the day after their ordination.
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