CAMPUS PADRE Offers food for thought
We are they, today. You are sent today, from this temple of the Lord, to go out into the world where the spiritual harvest is plenty. It is no less plenty now than it has ever been, in so far as there are people out there for you to reach, for you to touch, for you to allow the grace and power of Lord to work through you as you share the Good News of Salvation. The heart of the message is simply, repent and believe for the Kingdom of God is at hand! Jesus is as close to that person you reach out to, as they will let him be… go and inspire them by your love of God and love of that person, your neighbor, to experience freedom in Christ.
Jesus tells us that we don’t need to take with us more than the essentials. What is essential in our circumstance? Our personal saving knowledge of and relationship with God… Father, Son and Holy Spirit. First and foremost. Without that, all the apologetic knowledge, catechism memorization and rhetorical expertise is meaningless. You must be able to answer the most important question. Who is Jesus to you and why.
If the people you encounter and share with, reject you… it’s ok, pray for them and move on, judgement and punishment are things between God and that person alone. It isn’t personal and their salvation doesn’t rest upon your actions alone. If they welcome you, praise God and don’t forget why you’re there. No matter what, avoid causing scandal or controversy through your own words and actions that are not borne of love and found in the mouth and actions of Christ. As he images the Father, so too you ought to image the Son.
St. Teresa of Avila:
Christ has no body on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ looks out to the world.
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good.
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless others now.
Do you have any doubt that God can use you in this way. Consider St. Paul. He was a Pharisee, a Roman Citizen. He was an aggressive enemy of the first Christian community and complicit in the martyrdom of St. Stephen. Yet, Christ touched his heart, healed his mind and enflamed his soul. We are not unaware of the powerful and amazing ways in which Christ was able to work through the humility, obedience, courage and boldness of this man. Is God not able to do so in you, if you are willing?
The Twenty Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time
Readings: Isaiah 25:6-10; Psalms 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6; Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20; Matthew 22:1-14 or 22:1-1
There is an unmistakable connection between the lectionary Scripture Readings of the 27th and 28th Sundays of Ordinary Time (October 8th and 15th). The focus on the readings for the 8th, for these reflections, has to do with the Liturgy, the Eucharistic Celebration and how the fruit of worship is our labor in the house of God. Connected to that, is the our focus on the readings for the 15th, which has to do with what it means to accept the invitation of God. In the audio homilies for these two Sundays, I focused very specifically on these two connected themes, however in this written reflection I’ll expand the focus to a much more in depth consideration.
Part 1: The House of God as Vineyard in which we labor to produce the fruit of worship, the kind of worship which is due our God. This is a theme that organizations study, theologians debate, editorial writers pontificate about and parishioners spend more time complaining about than maybe anything else! Let’s reflect on the way in which we offer this Celebration of Thanksgiving… Eucharist. The way in which we the ‘workers’ tend to the production of worship in the vineyard of the House of God. Lets do this in absolute affirmation of the words of Pope Saint John Paul II, who said, “a parish will be involved in many activities. But none is as vital … as the Sunday celebration of the Lord’s Day and his Eucharist. Through regular and fervent reception of the sacraments, God’s people come to know the fullness of the Christian dignity that is theirs by baptism; they are elevated and transformed. … That experience, in turn, becomes a powerful motive for evangelization.” Which is said in affirmation of and informed by the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
I think it’s important to be honest, at the outset of our reflections, about the fact that there are a lot of Catholics who say that the liturgy is boring. Yet, there are also those who oppose that view and say that since Vatican II the Mass has become ‘a circus side show’ with the Priest performing on the main stage! Rather than list all the various opinions that arise on the landscape between those two extremes we can just admit that everybody seems to have some idea of what THEY want to see happen during Mass. Those ideas range from everything common at mega church evangelical non-denominational services, to absolute silence and no end of variations in between. For the most part, these opinions and expectations are born of attitudes that tend to see our Eucharistic Celebration from a ‘consumer’ / ‘product’ point of view, but are not always… some are borne of a desire to create and experience the kind of worship which SEEEMS due to God, but is really good for me… and although not as numerous, some even reflect the teaching of the Church on the Eucharistic Celebration!
There is no doubt that we must also be clear from the start, that no matter where we celebrate, what that place or church looks like, no matter how dull, animated, instructive, funny, short or long the homily, or if the music is Gregorian Chant, contemporary hymn, upbeat, downbeat, off key or moves your soul to mystical union… WHAT HAPPENS AT THE ALTAR is the key, and so long as the simple elements of bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ… THAT ‘REAL PRESENCE OF CHRIST’ SHOULD BE ENOUGH TO KEEP OUR ATTENTION.
In a reflection such as this, we ought to carefully consider, according to the ageless wisdom and careful consideration of the human person and human experience by ‘Mother Church’; what are the essential elements of ‘good liturgy’, that have to do with the brothers and sisters of Christ in the pews (the Mystical Body of Christ the Church).
in order that the liturgy may be able to produce its full effects, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds should be attuned to their voices, and that they should cooperate with divine grace lest they receive it in vain. Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects.
The word ‘liturgy’ comes from the Greek leitourgia meaning a public service or voluntary work of the people. People create liturgy, and good liturgy requires the bringing together of many talents and ministries. The music, art, furnishings and vestments need to be the best and most worthy that we are able to bring before God. And, to our proclamation of scripture, our processions, liturgical actions and prayers we must bring a most authentic spirit. Specifically, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states;
Liturgy is an "action" of the whole Christ (Christus totus). It is the whole community, the Body of Christ united with its Head, that celebrates. "Liturgical services are not private functions but are celebrations of the Church which is 'the sacrament of unity,' namely, the holy people united and organized under the authority of the bishops. Therefore, liturgical services pertain to the whole Body of the Church. They manifest it, and have effects upon it. But they touch individual members of the Church in different ways, depending on their orders, their role in the liturgical services, and their actual participation in them."
Three pastors of parishes that have an understanding of the need for liturgical renewal and who we might say represent the balance between the extremes, are striving to bear amazing liturgical fruit of worship, according to their circumstances while being mindful of and faithful to Church teaching and guidance regarding the Liturgy. In one instance, realizing that their efforts to address the shrinking numbers of parishioners were failing, the pastor put an end to ‘innovations’ in the Liturgy that although well intended they were not well advised. He, in consultation with parishioners, restored and reintroduced a more disciplined and reverent liturgical life that affirmed very clearly that everything in personal and parish life must flow from the Mass. Another pastor, recognizing a similar truth and experience in his parish, said that if the Mass is to be experienced as ‘the Source and Summit’ of the Christian way of life, then it is essential to concentrate on celebrating the Novus Ordo “with a real, sacred sense of reverence and following with a holy obedience what the Church is asking.” In another instance, the pastor of a parish in a less than ‘safe and prosperous’ area of an urban center, also curtailed many of the 1960’s and 70’s liturgical innovations that tended to, in a well meaning manner, over emphasize the ‘communal meal’ and ‘fellowship gathering’ aspects of the liturgy and began to bring the liturgy in line with solid and timeless theology and fidelity to the Church. What happened there as in parishes all over the United States, was a renewal of the liturgy which drew parishioners back. When asked ‘why are people coming?’, the pastor said “If you have a beautiful liturgy and charitable hearts, they feed each other.”
The solutions of these pastors were not reactionary, angry, driven by popularized protestant or Catholic ‘church marketing models’, or by personal preferences. They looked to the Church for guidance, and followed the directions. They understood that not all who are invited to the banquet will come ready to embrace the call to transformation; not all will want to stay. They understood that that's 'ok' and trusted that God, through divine interaction and the mission work of the disciples of Christ, would continue to call them back. They also understood that, although...
“evangelization and liturgy are closely united. While liturgy is an important part of evangelization in the inward direction, it should not be used as a means of primary and initial evangelization in the outward direction because its end does not lie directly in this action. The Sacred Liturgy is essential to evangelization as it brings about the sanctification of man, and equips the faithful with the grace and impetus required to evangelize those who need to hear the Gospel.”
They were, as Christians first and as Priests called from among the people, not at all unaware of the essential relationship between the ‘Heavenly Banquet’ and the Eucharistic Celebrations, our liturgy here on earth. Every time they celebrated the liturgy, they were keenly aware of their connection to the heavenly worship referred to and described in the Book of Revelation.
They were keenly aware of their role, that...
Certain members are called by God, in and through the Church, to a special service of the community. These servants are chosen and consecrated by the sacrament of Holy Orders, by which the Holy Spirit enables them to act in the person of Christ the head, for the service of all the members of the Church.13 The ordained minister is, as it were, an "icon" of Christ the priest. Since it is in the Eucharist that the sacrament of the Church is made fully visible, it is in his presiding at the Eucharist that the bishop's ministry is most evident, as well as, in communion with him, the ministry of priests and deacons. (1142)
and not unaware of the other essential roles of the faithful which contribute to the work of all within the vineyard of God’s Church and gives rise to worship which is worthy of God. Regarding this, we read in ‘Sacrosanctum Concillum’;
26. Liturgical services are not private functions, but are celebrations of the Church, which is the "sacrament of unity," namely, the holy people united and ordered under their bishops  Therefore liturgical services pertain to the whole body of the Church; they manifest it and have effects upon it; but they concern the individual members of the Church in different ways, according to their differing rank, office, and actual participation.
27. It is to be stressed that whenever rites, according to their specific nature, make provision for communal celebration involving the presence and active participation of the faithful, this way of celebrating them is to be preferred, so far as possible, to a celebration that is individual and quasi-private. This applies with especial force to the celebration of Mass and the administration of the sacraments, even though every Mass has of itself a public and social nature.
28. In liturgical celebrations each person, minister or layman, who has an office to perform, should do all of, but only, those parts which pertain to his office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy.
29. Servers, lectors commentators, and members of the choir also exercise a genuine liturgical function. They ought, therefore, to discharge their office with the sincere piety and decorum demanded by so exalted a ministry and rightly expected of them by God's people. Consequently they must all be deeply imbued with the spirit of the liturgy, each in his own measure, and they must be trained to perform their functions in a correct and orderly manner.
30. To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence.
31. The revision of the liturgical books must carefully attend to the provision of rubrics also for the people's parts.
32. The liturgy makes distinctions between persons according to their liturgical function and sacred Orders, and there are liturgical laws providing for due honors to be given to civil authorities. Apart from these instances, no special honors are to be paid in the liturgy to any private persons or classes of persons, whether in the ceremonies or by external display.
As St. Paul reminded us in Romans, regarding our participation in liturgy and the faith lived, we all have differing roles.
It should be abundantly clearly now, that it isn't liturgical innovation which is not foreseen, recommended or reasonably commensurate with the Word of the God, the Church or tradition, that we need for well planned and fruitful liturgy. We have all we need by way of instruction, guidance and experience as well as the gifts God has given each one of us for Worship. However, WE ARE ESSENTIAL, in the sense that at every Eucharistic Celebration, no matter how many people are present... every person present must be committed to the work at hand, ready, willing and able to bring forth the worship of God which is due. Then and only then can our celebration be worthy fruit. The it will flow with integrity. In it’s orchestral beauty, it will never fail to draw us into the depths of the living Word, raise our souls, guided in ritual expression of the inexpressible, to sing our praises and bring us to our knees in humble prayer. We will rest in the wellspring of silence as a refuge from the distractions of the enemy and a gateway into the mysteries. With our bodies, with our minds, with our souls… an integrated whole, caught up in the vastness of the love and mercy of God which washes over us in abundance… we are made one by the animating Holy Spirit, the living, breathing, worshipping mystical Body of Christ.
In part two, we will reflect upon the nature of the liturgy, these heavenly and earthly banquets, and how it is that we might be able to be the kind of laborers in the vineyard of the House of God, who produce an abundance of fruitful worship.
It's been a tough few weeks in our lives, our country and around the world.
We are mindful of the recent devastation wrought by so many ‘natural disasters’ in such a short span of time. We must continue to pray for and put our faith into action in solidarity with, all those in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, the Islands of the Caribbean and the people of Mexico.
Over the past two weeks we have also continued to experience the consequences of the racial and political divide that eats away at the very heart of our identity as citizens of these United States of America. An identity which declares, as does our Creed of Faith, indisputable truth… while in the hearts and minds of those who proclaim the words with their lips, it is understood that we are weak and sinful and as a result we fail in so many ways to be able to live these truths and to more perfectly embody them and enshrine them in our culture and institutions. Yet, we do not fail to stand in demonstration of our “allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”. With hat in hand and hand upon the heart, we affirm our commitment to tirelessly put our faith into action as we struggle together to shape our nation into a perfect reflection of the ideals we proclaim. So, we also do not fail to kneel and pray, for mercy, forgiveness, healing, and outpouring of the Holy Spirit to raise up a holy revival of extraordinary faith.
Today we are hearing about the horrendous details regarding the ‘mass shooting’ in Las Vegas. Your prayers for the victims of this murderous action and for the needs of our country are as important and necessary as they have ever been. This is yet another solemn reminder of the brokenness of so many people, victims themselves of the ‘Culture of Death’… but it is not in any way, reason for despair or for feelings of being abandoned by God. God continues to raise up Saints from among sinners, and continues to empower us, the disciples of Christ to be agents of change and bringers of the Kingdom… through ever greater fidelity to God and living lives that glorify God!
More than anything else, the Word of God has said… HAVE NO FEAR!
Reflections on the LIE that I have NOTHING to CONFESS and therefore, NO NEED OF GOD'S MERCY & FORGIVENESS
The Twenty Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus challenges us all to be steadfast in our commitment answering his universal call to holiness or face the very real and eternal consequences of our choices. He also affirms the words of Ezekiel, that “when the sinner renounces sin to become law-abiding and honest, he deserves to live. He has chosen to renounce all his previous sins; he shall certainly live; he shall not die.” In drawing the contrast between the religious leaders of his time and the tax collectors and prostitutes, he affirms that those who listen to the call to ‘repent and believe’ are those who let themselves be transformed by God. They, who change their ways of acting and thinking according to the ‘mind of God’, are the ones who enter the Kingdom of God.
None of us can pretend to have never been lost and none of us can deny our initial and ongoing need for the mercy of God. Only complacency about our relationship with God, could lead us to think otherwise. Our life experience affirms that we do fall away from our commitment to Christ. Our faith experience also affirms, insofar as we are honest about our sinfulness, that no matter how far we have strayed from the way, the truth and the life, it is never too late to turn back, as long as we have breath to call upon God’s mercy and forgiveness.
To ‘repent and believe’, whether for the first time or every time after, is not just a moment when we say we are sorry and move on. That contrite heart must also have the clear intention and determination to change with the help of God’s grace to avoid “the near occasion of sin”, to ‘go and sin no more’. That intention and determination can not only be supported by prayer and hope. It must also involve openness to healing and greater self-understanding. We must understand what it means to say that sin is a violation of our nature as human beings. We must come to understand our humanity through understanding Christ and we must measure our actions against Love, which we clearly see demonstrated in the words and actions of Christ and the Saints.
We were created with the freedom to do good or to do evil. We are free to choose life or death in all our actions and we are also responsible for the outcome of our choices. Although we like to blame God when the consequences of the sins of others and of our own lead to pain and suffering, Ezekiel reminds us that those who blame the Lord for their destructive path and decisions are only deluding themselves.
Christ himself shows us the way of profound obedience to the Father which leads to the fullness of our humanity and holiness. Our choice, which is always before us, is to accept and do what is right, holy and just or to deny and rebel against our nature and our God. It is a difficult path, but it is the most fulfilling one.
St Paul truly believed that by our love for one another the world will come to know and love Jesus Christ.
Thursday of the 25th Week of Ordinary Time
But we, the ever new creation, see the living God bring the dead to life and continue to build the Church of living stones. In every generation, new heralds proclaim the coming of the Kingdom. New prophets speak the living Word and challenge the world to forsake the darkness and embrace the Son. The Messiah who was and is and ever shall be, the revelation of truth itself, still seeks the lost, frees the prisoner, clothes the naked, heals the sick… and dies and rises so that all might yet be one. The Priests of the ageless covenant, we still shepherd our flocks through The Valley of the shadow of death and along that narrow path, fearing no evil, for the Lord who is with us takes delight in us.
Despite every effort by the enemy, from Adam and Eve through to this very day… God adds to the legions of the Saints. Every day, the efficacy of the Cross is experienced by those who were lost and are found. Every day, like Herod, people come and wonder at Christ who is glorified by us and manifested through us.
The enemy is determined to wage war against heaven and earth, against God and Man. But we, who have seen and heard, who have died and risen in Christ; we claim the victory of Christ over sin and death, made free to go and sin no more, to walk in the way, the truth and the life of Christ, who leads us home…
We all want peace. We all want the kind of peace that surpasses human understanding. We all want that peace that comes from the Lord, who says "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. John 14:27 To receive and to have established within us, we will need to be vigilant in seeking the LORD who is with us and calling out to Christ who is in truth, near to us. So that the scoundrel within us will forsake those ways and our thoughts will cease to be wicked. In turning to the Lord for mercy and receiving forgiveness we will be made free. In our freedom, we will see and hear, we will listen and obey. We will humbly embrace the ways of the Lord and put on the mind of Christ… or, we shall have no lasting peace.
An everlasting desire of God’s for us, is that that we come to possess that gift of interior peace. But, the ‘spirit’ that is at play in the Gospel story today, is for many of us a real stumbling block to lasting holy peace. All too often, undermining the purity of our motivations, is the desire for affirmation and recognition by others that overtakes us. We might even fool ourselves by claiming it’s righteous anger or indignation according to Justice, or Charity or Mercy… but really, we’re just angry or bitter or hurt because we were pretty pleased with our performance, our generosity, our piety, our sacrifice, our intellectual prowess… etc, etc, etc! And we thought it only right that we should be given our due, here and now, for all the world to see on Facebook and Twitter. How many likes did I get? How often have our good actions or good words been spoiled by our selfish need to be recognized, or affirmed or immediately rewarded. And, zap… just like that, no more peace.
In all that we do, we ought to be striving not for praise and recognition from other people here on earth, but rather, merely to be and do what love demands. This is purity of intention. We ought to strive simply to love God and to love our neighbor, to be instruments of grace and manifestations of God’s glory. We ought to do good to others so as to be mirrors of God's own goodness in this fallen world.
There is one very easy way for us to take the temperature of our purity of intention: look at our reaction when we do something for someone and they don't say "thank you". Of course, they ought to say ‘thank you’, but if they don’t, our usual reaction is to give into feelings of resentment and anger, and maybe even vengeance. The supernatural reaction, the one that shows purity of intention, is to let those feelings pass by, like clouds, and keep the eyes of our soul focused on Christ. For the disciple of Christ who is actively pursuing growth in holiness, that alone ought to give us deep spiritual joy.
Working to ensure the purity of our intentions, will protect the peace within our souls. Then, we will truly understand what St. Paul has written in today’s second reading. We will become strong in ‘holy indifference’ and no matter the circumstance, it will always be win / win. To live is to have more time to glorify the Lord and to die is to live. No other religion or philosophy provides for such a mysterious truth which can be known.
This ‘holy indifference” is perfect acceptance of what God wants. It is perfect acceptance of God’s ways and the total merging of my vision with God’s. It is to conduct ourselves in a way that is worthy of Christ, who remains near to all who call upon him.
The Twenty Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time
In the second reading, St. Paul challenges us to be certain of our identity, by which we are strengthened to avoid becoming someone who fits the description found in the first reading! So, who are we? All of us here, in this house of God, who are about to receive communion… who are we? Those of us who will pray the Lord’s prayer and presumably mean it? Who are we? Are we children of darkness? Are we serving in the platoons of the enemy, at war with God? Are we unaware of the truth of what we believe and profess in the Creed?
OR, are we brothers and sisters who live for the Lord? The Lord who died for all, so that [we] who live might no longer live for [ourselves], but for Him who died and rose again on [our] behalf. 2 Corinthians 5:15 Are we people who embrace being creations who are made by God in the image and likeness of God? Are we people who, relying on God’s grace, are kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion; in imitation of our Lord? Are we children of God, of light and love, who know our own guilt and the debt we owe to Christ which we could never repay.
What if I said, no one leaves this Church today until they stop embracing hateful things and instead, choose life, choose to forgive. What if I said, no one gets to receive communion until they’ve opened their hearts to God, ready to give and receive forgiveness and really mean the words… “Lord I am not worthy, but only say the word and my soul will be healed.” What would you do? Who would you call? You might want to start with your spouse, and your kids who might be here with you… as you give the sign of peace and say those words…
During Mass, have you ever really considered the order of the parts? Particularly, the communion rite during the liturgy of the Eucharist. It begins with praying together as Jesus taught us… “Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (keeping in mind the words of Jesus who said, “If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But, if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done.” Matthew 6: 12,14-15).
Then the Priest leads us in a concluding prayer which includes the petition, “grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress…” Followed by an invitation to offer each other a sign of that forgiveness which leads to unity and peace, to each other. This ‘sign of peace’ between us, is intended to demonstrate our unity with and love for one another. It's symbolically, and maybe for you in that moment, it’s very much really about the forgiveness that leads to reconciliation which gives rise to peace and effects unity, in the full spirit of Christ. Here, we are reminded of the words of Jesus' exhortation in, "If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift." Matthew 5:23-24
"Christ is our peace, the divine peace, announced by the prophets and by the angels, and which he brought to the world by means of his paschal mystery," the 2005 circular letter on the ritual expression of the gift of peace at Mass, said. "This peace of the risen Lord is invoked, preached and spread in the celebration [of Mass], even by means of a human gesture lifted up to the realm of the sacred,” it continued. This exchange of peace comes after the consecration because it refers to the 'paschal kiss' of the risen Christ present on the altar, and it comes just before the breaking of the bread during which the Lamb of God is implored to gives us his peace.
Despite popular practice, especially among small groups and parishes, that sign of peace isn't about romantic affection, shaking as many hands as possible or high fiving your best buds. This is a profound moment in the liturgy after which we fall to our knees, recognize and adore the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, call upon his mercy, and then humbly acknowledge our weaknesses, our utter unworthiness and our absolute need for and dependence upon God to make us worthy.
Then, and only then, we approach the altar to receive the Lord in the Eucharist.
Yes, very powerful, if we are more like the merciful master and less like the other guy in the Gospel today. There are two big lessons about forgiveness in that Gospel. We are challenged to understand that there is to be no limit on the amount of times we forgive each other, because we ourselves have been forgiven a debt we could never repay. And let’s be honest… we’ve been forgiven by God probably more times than we could count.
We, as the children of God, are to reject an approach to our relationships which does nothing except produce death, pain, grief and the seeds for more of the same. Instead, being fully secure in the knowledge of being totally loved by God we realize that forgiveness and reconciliation aren’t really that difficult.
Some of us, will no doubt complain that this sort of attitude about forgiveness only breeds license in others. So, it’s good to acknowledge that although we must be always ready to forgive, we must also fight against sin. Forgiveness of the person, is not acceptance of the behavior. Nor is condoning unrepented sinful thoughts words and actions, expected. The Christian community ought not to fully receive a member who refuses reconciliation and healing of behavior that is contrary to our nature, to the truth and love.
The Twenty Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Post delayed by Hurricane Irma)
When it comes to living in the imitation of Christ and remaining committed to responding to our call to holiness, St Paul is our guy in Scripture for explaining doctrine and giving instruction. The words in the letter to the Romans, today, are no different. Paul reminds of the law and strives to raise our understanding to see that law is the natural fruit of the kind of love we are to have for ourselves because of the love which God has for us, and that our love for others is then itself a reflection of the love which God has for each of us.
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta explained Christian love, clearly when she addressed the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, in 1994. She told the political leaders of the United States that:
We are members of the family of God, a community of brothers and sisters who constitute the mystical ‘Body of Christ’ the Church. That’s a big deal. How we live community, must be expressive of our Eucharistic Communion. Cain, the son of Adam, once said in response to God “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and God has spent our entire human history teaching us the answer to that question. Sending the embodiment of that answer in Christ, his beloved Son and pleading with us to listen to him. Christ, in word and action, unceasingly demonstrated what it means for us to love our neighbor as ourselves, to live in accord with the two great commandments, to Love God and Love Neighbor. As Scripture says, “By this will all know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35) and “As often as you did/did not do it to the very least of my brothers and sisters, you did/did not do it to me” (Matthew 25:40,45).
God will allow us to suffer the consequences of choosing to live contrary to our nature, but first and foremost God desires reconciliation rather than punishment. God never ceases to say ‘Repent and believe’. So, God sends each of us as his ambassadors of love, to each other. “If two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven. For where [even] two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.” Wherever Christians meet in truth and love, we are stronger, good things get done, God is glorified and people are saved. We are each other’s life line. I heard a story told by a pastor here in town which really exemplifies this point.
Love contains all other Christian obligations. “Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbor; I have to look carefully at the needs of my brothers and sisters. If I see them hurting themselves or someone else, that is my business. Which brings us to the first reading, “[If] you do not speak to warn the wicked man to renounce his ways, then he shall die for his sin, but I will hold you responsible for his death.” I am my brother’s and my sister’s keeper. But not absolutely. “If, however, you do warn a wicked man to renounce his ways and repent, and he does not repent, then he shall die for his sin, but you yourself will have saved your life.” We do not help each other by turning a blind eye to behavior which is clearly unchristian. I have a responsibility to save my brother from sin, although not responsible for his salvation. The last choice will always be with him.
At stake is not only your own dignity as a human person (created in image of God), but also the dignity of the whole community to which you belong. Sin destroys unity. So—in order to achieve real unity—we must confront what causes division: sin. Peace in the world begins at home, it begins inside each one of us. By confronting the sin inside ourselves, and in the community around us, we work toward bringing the peace of Christ, to all the world.
The Twenty First Sunday of Ordinary Time
Today, the vast majority of the world isn’t at all interested in Jesus. But, the people around us, are interested in who we are! Essential to our own identity, is the answer to the Gospel question we hear today. Who is Christ to you?
Today’s First Reading is a Scriptural foundation for, and helps us to understand what Christ meant when he invested Peter with his authority, represented by the imagery of the keys. We see examples of this throughout history, as Kings invested their authority in trusted and faithful servants. We see it in our own Military, in the sense that the President is the ‘Commander in Chief’ and his generals act with his authority, trusted to be faithful to the Commanders desires. We see the principle at work in our places of employment and in our homes. All of us, understand what it means to be invested with the authority of a superior.
God the Father chose Peter as the one to whom would be revealed this otherwise incomprehensible truth about Jesus. Jesus readily recognized the Fathers choice and affirmed it in his own words. It is this moment in the life of Peter and the early Church, that makes Peter ‘first among equals’ results in ‘Petrine Authority’ and what we now call ‘the See of Peter. From that authority all Bishops derive theirs and subsequently all priests exercise their authority as a participation in the authority of the local Bishop and his successors. So, we then can say that all authority in the Church hierarchy flows from the ‘See of Peter’. When we speak of the Pope’s office, we speak of the Apostolic “See,” which means seat. Aided by the Holy Spirit, when the Pope makes a doctrinal declaration regarding faith and morals that all Catholics are to believe, we say he’s speaking ex Cathedra (from the chair). All these things are represented by the Chair of St. Peter. The chair in the sanctuary, from which the Priest presides, is the symbol of his authority, through the Bishop to the Pope, the Petrine ministry that watches over the unity of faith and love in the Church.
This authority in the Church is substantially different from secular authority. Ours is authority in service. In service of the Truth and in service to the people. In today’s Second Reading St. Paul reminds us that a great treasure and responsibility has been entrusted to Peter and his successors. The Father gave authority to the Son, who then shared it with Peter. The focus was to protect and to pass on the treasures of God “the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God.” Our Lord entrusted Peter and his successors with what we call today the deposit of faith. Our treasure is the truth about God, about who Our Lord is and what he said and did, about the path to holiness and happiness. The greatest treasure the Church watches over and communicates is the truth about who Jesus is which reveals the truth of who we are. The Son was revealed divinely to Peter by the Father, through which revelation the Son was then able to reveal to Peter the truth about himself. Peter will spend a significant amount of time through to the passion of Christ, his ascension and into the early years of the Church, deepening his understanding of these revelations and maturing in his ability to embrace, appropriate and live their truths.
While recognizing the above as true, good, beautiful and essential parts of our faith and history… we cannot deny the humanity of Peter and the very real difficulties he faced. That divine revelation did not immediately make him perfect as a man. Peter’s answer points us all toward the treasure of God that leads us to be able to both understand and to receive; the truth about Christ and about ourselves. As well, just like Peter, we too continue to grow in understanding of these unfolding revelations, and in our ability to embrace, appropriate and live the truth.
We also have to recognize, because we are not blind to our history, both distant and recent, that God did not choose to rely on perfect human beings in order to ensure that ‘the gates of hell would not prevail’. Rather, God chose the weak and the broken. God chose to offer everything necessary for their healing and perfection. God never was and never is, surprised by the unfaithfulness of the chosen… God never desires their unfaithfulness. The promises of God aren’t dependent upon the absolute faithfulness of one person or several persons, although the fidelity of all the children of God would vastly change everything. Unimaginably so.
It isn’t Peter himself who is important in this story, it’s the choice of Peter, by Christ. The choice of a man who would even deny Christ. Christ affirms that there will always be a ‘Peter’ and that that man will always be first among his brother servants and their chosen co-workers. That God will never cease to raise up from among his children those whom he calls to this succession of apostolic servants, alter Christus’. Though some may one day deny or betray, the will always be those who truly, ‘become what they touch’. So, in truth, God ensures that “the gates of hell shall not prevail”. The enemy may tempt, torment, torture and take down individual foot soldiers, but will never succeed in killing the Church, the ‘Body of Christ’.
Only faith could have led Peter to say what he did and only original sin could have led him to do what he did. Only faith could have led Peter to repent and only God’s love shown in mercy through forgiveness could have raised him up again. Peter came to understand, that all meaning comes from knowing the truth of the revelation, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and to become the person who was able to die for that truth.
Peter was the rock, the foundation of the community which carried the truth in the name and the authority of Jesus to the whole world. On him, together with his Apostolic companions the Church was built and stands firm in existence today, with you and I as ‘living stones’.
We know ourselves to be sinners. We know God calls us to holiness and that God provides us with what we need to become ‘perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect’. We know that God keeps promises. With that in mind, we must also stand firm in faith and knowledge that no matter the challenges faced from the enemies work among us, inside and outside the ‘Body of Christ’ and the sins committed, that threaten the Church and weaken the body… under NO circumstances will the gates of hell prevail. NONE.
Now, let’s each and every one of us ‘go forth and sin no more’, so that which we cannot imagine, will come sooner to be!
There is no preached audio recording this week
The Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Readings: Isaiah 56:1, 6-7; Psalms 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8; Romans 11:13-15, 29-32; Matthew 15:21-28
Contrary to many ‘theology light’ interpretations of these Scriptures, this is not a lesson in how the mind of Jesus was changed by this woman, and suddenly he realized that salvation should be extended beyond the chosen people. This is not a story of how Jesus the ‘racist’, ‘ethnic purist’ had his heart melted and his understanding changed by a really nice Canaanite who was suffering terribly because of the suffering of her daughter. This is not a story of how surprising it is that a woman in a gentile women in a pagan culture somehow came to have faith and be a disciple of Christ, before Christ got there. It’s also not a story of how Jesus tested the woman to see if she was worthy to be heard and given what she was asking for.
First and foremost, this encounter between the woman and Jesus, is an affirmation that God’s love and mercy is never withheld from someone who, although they may not be able to fully understand their desire and what moves them, is genuinely seeking God, seeking truth, and who are open to grace as they demonstrate that hallmark of faith, self-sacrificing love and humility. It is also a reminder of a particular law for the Jews. The interaction between Jesus and the woman is very much a word play that speaks to the expectation that Jews will not glean their own fields after the harvest but instead, leave that part of the harvest for the ‘outsider’, the ‘foreigner’. In Leviticus chapter 23 verse 22 we read, “When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I am the LORD your God.’” When we consider this encounter, in light of Leviticus and that this event takes place soon after the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 and shortly before the miracle of the feeding of the 4000… the beauty of this story becomes much more evident!
The woman, having found Jesus, pushes her way into the crowd and cries out, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” She refers to Jesus according his proper titles of ‘Lord’ and ‘Son of David’. Jesus didn’t turn toward her right away, but he could not help but hear in her cries what his heart most yearns to encounter in others, self-forgetful love and humility. She was so concerned for her daughter, that she was willing to make a humiliating public spectacle of herself. The life of her daughter is at stake and she won’t give up, as she continues to cry out, “Lord, help me,”. Jesus breaks his silence, saying, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” Undaunted, the woman replies: “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” When Jesus hears this answer which immediately points to the Jewish law, he says, “Woman, great is your faith!” “Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed.
The power of God working in the hearts and minds of ‘man’, brings down the walls we build between us. Through actions of humble self-sacrificing love and prayers for peace and healing, let the power of God be unleashed to cast out the demons that oppress the people of the world.
Peace doesn't just happen; it's made.
CampusPadre is a college ministry Priest Chaplain with 30 years experience in youth and young adult ministry, who strives to let the Holy Spirit lead and challenges students to seek holiness above all.