The extraordinary ordinary

Beautiful examples teach us how to live righteously in this world

As opposed to last month when we were blessed with an abundance of such solemnities as Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi and the feast of John the Baptist, in July we come to the unnamed Sundays in Ordinary Time called merely 13 through 17. Most of us would prefer to be called by a name as opposed to a number. Names make us special. However, we do live in an ordinary world here on Earth. We live ordinary lives day after day. Or, do we?

There are realities we confront every day on Earth that are far from ordinary. We deal with some basic and primordial dichotomies that challenge us daily. There are the problems of life and death, sickness and health, being rich or poor, powerful or weak, humble or proud, holy or worldly. All these break down in some way to discerning whether we are ‘of God’ or not. All of these conundrums are treated in the Scripture readings for the five Sundays in July. Let’s look at some of them and the beautiful examples that teach us how to live righteously in this world.

The month starts on the Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time with an attention-grabbing statement from the Book of Wisdom, “God did not make death.” We immediately see that God is on the side of life and that death came as a consequence of the devil. Implied here is the insight that we live in between life and death and have to make choices. Do we always choose life? Paul puts that last question in quite an unexpected light when he urges the Corinthians to contribute to a fund to help the Church in Israel, which was suffering from famine. He examines the problem of life and death and that of choosing wealth or poverty. Jesus had the choice and chose to be poor. Then Paul urges the Corinthians who enjoyed abundance to give to those suffering in Palestine so that they both may be equal.

Mark’s Gospel presents us an example of this principle. It is found in Jesus’ life and death. Jesus shows us he is on the side of life by restoring life to the daughter of Jairus. Framed inside the story of this exquisite miracle is the curing of the woman suffering from years of hemorrhaging. Jesus is against sickness as well as death. He is for us who are victims of these realities. He gives of his life and wholeness to those who need. We can do the same.

The readings for the Fourteenth Sunday consider the perennial problem of weakness versus power. Which should we seek? Paul tells us about his situation. He suffered from a “thorn in the flesh.” We don’t know exactly what that pain was but it made him weak. It led him to the extraordinary discovery that, “power is made perfect in weakness.” What the world considers power pales in comparison to the real power we receive when we choose what the world calls weakness.

Jesus looked ‘weak’ to his relatives and friends in his hometown. They had heard that he healed and performed miraculous feats elsewhere. They found him incapable of doing anything powerful here. There are two problems with their analysis. First, their lack of faith, not Jesus’ lack of power, was really in question. Second, they didn’t have the benefit of seeing Jesus on the cross. If you saw Jesus at Golgotha, would you consider him a totally powerless recipient of Roman punishment or would you realize that he was patiently enduring the world’s most painful form of death for the purpose of redeeming sinful humanity? We also can apply such a standard to our own actions as we choose either weakness or power.

This leads us directly to the Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time during which we learn to discern between being holy or profane. Are we “of God” or of the world? Our example is Amos. Is he a legitimate prophet of God? In the day’s first reading, the religious leaders of the Northern Kingdom of Israel want to deport Amos south to Judah because they judge he is not “of God” and, therefore, not a real prophet. In defense, Amos agrees. He does not make a living by preaching. He’s a farmer who has been called by God.

To determine if we are ‘of God,’ we can look to the day’s second reading. There, Paul teaches us that Christians are chosen to be holy for praise and glory of God. If we can see ourselves as impelled to love and praise God, then we may be experiencing the action of the Holy Spirit alive in us. Then, we possess “the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption.”

The Gospel presents us yet another good example of such a life. The 12 were sent out by Jesus. To look at them you’d see they had no food, no money, not a stitch of extra clothing. They had nothing material on them to indicate they could succeed. Yet, they drove out demons and cured many who were sick. The only explanation for their accomplishments could be they were ‘of God.’ There is one warning. Remember that Judas was one of those 12 and presumably performed miracles. A person who is ‘of God’ must strive to remain faithful.

Another problem people in the real world need to grapple with is the tension between being involved or detached. The readings of the Sixteenth Sunday take on that subject. Jeremiah condemns the religious leaders of his day for not caring for the people who had scattered due to a lack of good leadership. God promises to fill that void with a king from David’s line who will make the people safe and secure.

That promise has, of course, been fulfilled in the person of Jesus. In the Gospel, Jesus tried to gather the apostles he had sent out two by two. He planned to spend some time alone with them. That plan didn’t work as people kept following until Jesus gave up and, out of pity, started teaching them. Notice there is a neat ebb and flow between getting away and becoming close. The dilemma between distance and closeness is solved by doing both at the appropriate times. Paul, in the second reading, advises the Ephesians that we “who were once far off have become near thanks to the blood of Christ.” We also are one with the entire Church in the Body of Christ. Yet, we also are autonomous in the peace of Christ.

Finally, we come to the last Sunday of July and are invited to sit down on the grass and eat a meal with the Lord and an intimate group of 5,000 men. Jesus somehow felt obliged to them and asked Philip how much it would cost to feed them. Translating his answer into present U.S. dollars, it would take at least $11,440. Jesus responded by feeding them, rendering the men obligated to him. That’s what they wanted. They were looking for someone they could make king. Jesus’ reaction was to withdraw to a mountain alone. He wanted to be close; but the bonds of unity were to be religious, not political.

In this incident, Jesus fulfills the essence of what a Christian ought to do to overcome all the conflicts and dilemmas we might encounter. Jesus came close to people but maintained the agenda of the Kingdom. He risked death fearlessly and embraced life. He was poor; yet he lacked nothing. He had an intimate relationship with his Father that did not hinder his enjoyment of close ties to his mother, the Twelve, and to Mary, Martha and Lazarus to name a few. He had almighty power and used every bit of it, although, at the end, he was unable to carry his cross. He accepted all these paradoxes and more and thrived. As a result, we learn that this Christian life we strive to live is possible. In this era of ordinariness, when all is reduced to numbers and least common denominators, remember that—with Christ —we can attain heavenly glory. n

 

The funeral Mass for Deacon Joe Solis will be held at 11 a.m. CDT Thursday, July 12, at St. Alphonsus Church in Crossville.

Bishop Richard F. Stika will preside, with concelebrating priests of the diocese. Interment will be at the columbarium at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Fairfield Glade, immediately following the funeral.

A luncheon will be provided at St. Alphonsus after the interment. Anyone wishing to attend the luncheon should contact the parish office at 931-484-2358.

Deacon Solis died in a car accident Saturday, Jan. 14, in Cumberland County. n

Sister Mary Ann Konieski, formerly known as Sister Marie Cordia Konieski, died Thursday, April 26, at the Dominican Life Center in Adrian, Mich.

She was 81 years old and in the 62nd year of her religious profession in the Adrian Dominican Congregation. Sister Mary Ann formerly served at Good Shepherd Parish in Newport.

She was born in Detroit to Herman and Anna (Hebel) Konieski. She graduated from St. Joseph Academy in Adrian, Mich., and received a bachelor of home economics degree from Siena Heights College in Adrian and a master of education degree from Michigan State University in East Lansing.

Sister Mary Ann spent 21 years ministering in education in Port Huron, Brighton, and Detroit, Mich., and in Chicago and Rockford, Ill. She was a pastoral minister for 16 years at Visitation Parish and St. Agnes Parish in Detroit, for four years at St. Ladislaus Parish in Hamtramck, Mich., and for 11 years in Celina and Newport, Tennessee. She served at Divine Savior Parish in Celina from 1988 to 1990 and at Good Shepherd from 1990 to 1999. Sister Mary Ann became a resident of the Dominican Life Center in Adrian in 2012.

She is survived by two sisters, Audrey Negro and Delphine Wronski of St. Clair Shores, Mich., and by many nieces and nephews.

Burial took place Friday, April 27, in the congregation cemetery. The memorial Mass was held in St. Catherine Chapel on Saturday, April 28. The ritual of remembrance was also held April 28 in the chapel.

Memorial gifts may be made to the Adrian Dominican Sisters, 1257 E. Siena Heights Drive, Adrian, MI 49221.

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