Wednesday, August 31, 2011

September 4th, 2011 - 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ezekiel 33:7-9
This selection is part of the Prophet’s call to holiness.  Here the oracle of Ezekiel recalls God’s instructions; that he is to correct those who are identified to him as behaving in ways that will result in their death.  Failure to warn them prophetically would constitute a rejection of God’s call and the punishment meted out for the sinner would also be applied to the prophet who failed (“…but I will hold you responsible for his death.”).  In a covenant-like formula, God also says if the waning is unheeded no punishment shall fall to Ezekiel.

Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
We are encouraged to listen to the Lord, even if what we are asked is difficult.

Romans 13:8-10
St. Paul, in this reading from his Letter to the Romans, restates the second half of the great commandment saying that following Christ’s commandment to love for one another automatically fulfills any other commandment of the law governing Christian interaction. The Apostle essentially paraphrases Jesus own teaching from St. Matthew’s Gospel, as the Lord debated the Sadducees and Pharisees in Matthew 22:34ff.

Matthew 18:15-20 
“Passing from the duty of Christian disciples toward those who have strayed from their number, the discourse now turns to how they are to deal with one who sins and yet remains within the community. First there is to be private correction; if this is unsuccessful, further correction before two or three witnesses; if this fails, the matter is to be brought before the assembled community (the church), and if the sinner refuses to attend to the correction of the church, he is to be expelled. The church's judgment will be ratified in heaven, i.e., by God. The section ends with a saying about the favorable response of God to prayer, even to that of a very small number, for Jesus is in the midst of any gathering of his disciples, however small. “ [1] See NAB Footnote on Matthew 18:15-20

As Ezekiel is appointed watchman over the house of Israel in today’s first Reading, so Jesus in the Gospel today establishes His disciples as guardians of the new Israel of God, the Church (see Galatians 6:16).

He also puts in place procedures for dealing with sin and breaches of the faith, building on s of discipline prescribed by Moses for Israel (see Leviticus 19:17-20; Deuteronomy 19:13).
The heads of the new Israel, however, receive extraordinary powers - similar to those given to Peter (see Matthew 16:19).
They have the power to bind and loose, to forgive sins and to reconcile sinners in His name (see John 20:21-23).

But the powers He gives the apostles and their successors depends on their communion with Him. As Ezekiel is only to teach what he hears God saying, the disciples are to gather in His name and to pray and seek the will of our heavenly Father.

But today’s readings are more than a lesson in Church order. They also suggest how we’re to deal with those who trespass against us, a theme that we’ll hear in next week’s readings as well.

Notice that both the Gospel and the First Reading presume that believers have a duty to correct sinners in our midst. Ezekiel is even told that he will be held accountable for their souls if he fails to speak out and try to correct them.

This is the love that Paul in today’s Epistle says we owe to our neighbors. To love our neighbors as ourselves is to be vitally concerned for their salvation. We must make every effort, as Jesus says, to win our brothers and sisters back, to turn them from the false paths.

We should never correct out of anger, or a desire to punish. Instead our message must be that of today’s Psalm - urging sinner to hear God’s voice, not to harden their hearts, and to remember that He is the one who made us, and the rock of our salvation.

You can Listen Here to Scott Hahn's commentary
Deacon Jim

Sunday, August 21, 2011

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) August 21, 2011

Reading I: Isaiah 22:19-23
Responsorial Psalm: 138:1-2, 2-3, 6, 8
Reading II: Romans 11:33-36
Gospel: Matthew 16:13-20

Reading I: Isaiah 22:19-23
The passage is notable for its use of the “key” taken up in the gospel today, the Tu es Petrus saying. (You are Peter/Rock)
In this passage Isaiah denounces one Shebna, the prime minister (“who is master of the household,” v. 15), and predicts his replacement by Eliakim. 

*Placed in context, this passage is important because it exemplifies the high honor associated with being given the keys to a place in biblical times. (Key: symbol of authority; see also Matthew 16:19; Revelation 3:7).
Responsorial Psalm: 138:1-2, 2-3, 6, 8*
R. Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.
Slightly different selections of verses from this psalm are used on the fifth and seventeenth Sundays of the year in series C. Today’s refrain (“Lord, your love is eternal”) suggests that God’s purposes are not defeated by the infidelity of his human instruments.
Reading II: Romans 11:33-36
This magnificent doxology comes at the end of Paul’s discussion of Israel’s place in salvation history. Biblical theology is an attempt to reflect on the ways of God in salvation history. This is precisely what Paul has been doing in Rom 9-11.

Gospel: Matthew 16:13-20
“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18)

Jesus pronounces Peter blessed and gives him the name Peter, “Rock.”

"Now let's just stop here and ask, "What is he talking about?" I think it's simple. . . . Jesus in giving to Peter not only a new name, Rock, but in entrusting to Simon the keys of the kingdom, He is borrowing a phrase from Isaiah 22. He's quoting a verse in the Old Testament that was extremely well known."  (Dr. Scott Hahn on the Papcay) Isaiah 22:19, 20 . . .
Then comes a series of promises: the building of the church on the foundation of Peter; the assurance that the powers of death shall not prevail against that church; the promise of the keys; and the saying of the binding and loosing.

The Rock on which the church is to be built is Peter himself, not his faith, as some patristic and most Reformation exegesis has supposed. (Please see the addendum to this Sunday's Readings for some wonderful lagniappe on the Papacy and its Biblical and logical roots, infallibility and succession . . .  commentary by Dr. Scott Hahn)

Christ Handing the Keys to St Peter
 Thoughts from the Early Church:

Peter was to be entrusted with the keys of the Church, or rather, he was entrusted with the keys of heaven; to him would be committed the whole people of God. The Lord told him: Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Now Peter was inclined to be severe, so if he had also been impeccable what forbearance would he have shown toward those he instructed? His falling into sin was thus a providential grace to teach him from experience to deal kindly with others.

Just think who it was whom God permitted to fall into sin—Peter himself, the head of the apostles, the firm foundation, the unbreakable rock, the most important member of the Church, the safe harbor, the strong tower; Peter, who had said to Christ, Even if I have to die with you I will never deny you; Peter, who by divine revelation had confessed the truth: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

The gospel relates that on the night that Christ was betrayed Peter went indoors and was standing by the fire warming himself when a girl accosted him: You too were with that man yesterday, she said. But Peter answered: I do not know the man.

Just now you said: Even if I have to die with you, and now you deny him and say: I do not know the man. Oh Peter, is this what you promised? You were not tortured or scourged; at the words of a mere slip of a girl you took refuge in denial!

Again the girl said to him: You too were with that man yesterday. Again he answered: I have no idea what man you mean.

Who was it that spoke to you, causing you to make this denial? Notsome important person but a woman, a doorkeeper, an outcast, a slave, someone of no account whatever. She spoke to you and you answered with a denial.

What a strange thing—a girl, a prostitute, accosted Peter himself and disturbed his faith! Peter, the pillar, the rampart, could not bear the threat of a girl! She had but to speak and the pillar swayed, the rampart itself was shaken!

A third time she repeated: You too were with that man yesterday, but a third time he denied it. Finally Jesus looked at him, reminding him of his previous assertion. Peter understood, repented of his sin, and began to weep. Mercifully, however, Jesus forgave him his sin, because he knew that Peter, being a man, was subject to human frailty.

Now, as I said before, the reason God's plan permitted Peter to sin was because he was to be entrusted with the whole people of God, and sinlessness added to his severity might have made him unforgiving toward his brothers and sisters. He fell into sin so that remembering his own fault and the Lord's forgiveness, he also might forgive others out of love for them.

This was God's providential dispensation.

He to whom the Church was to be entrusted, he, the pillar of the churches, the harbor of faith, was allowed to sin; Peter, the teacher of the world, was permitted to sin, so that having been forgiven himself he would be merciful to others.
(On Saints Peter and Elijah: PG 50, 727-728)
Based on the writings of an early Church Father, John Chrysostom (c.347-407)


Sources: Dr. Scott Hahn on the Papacy, Servant of the Word (with special thanks to Deacon Jim Miles),  St. John Chrysostom.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Matthew 15:21-28 (Addendum)

Why did Jesus call the Canaanite woman a "dog"? To teach us how to pray!

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Matthew 15:21-28
But the [Canaanite] woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”
Often enough, when preaching on this Gospel, priests and deacons will say something incredibly foolish like, “Jesus didn’t realize just how persistent this woman could be!” Or, “This Gentile woman taught Jesus that he wasn’t sent only to the house of Israel, but to all people.”
It is really quite absurd to think that Jesus was taught anything by anyone (cf. Summa Theologica III, q.12, a.3) – though he did obviously learn through observation, he was never the “disciple” or “pupil” of another.
How much more absurd it is to think that our Lord would not know his own mission! That he would be ignorant of his role as universal mediator of salvation for all peoples! Far be it from any to say that our Savior did not know that he was sent to save the Gentiles also. Far be it from any to say that our Savior did not know he was going to heal this woman’s daughter.
What is perhaps most disappointing about this all-too-common take on the Gospel passage (according to which Jesus is taught by the woman) is that it misses the essential thrust of the event: It is not that our Lord is learning from the woman, rather the good Savior is teaching her (and us) how to pray.

The woman is ignored
The woman is twice rejected by our Lord. Even before that, she had been ignored for some time. As the Canaanite woman calls out to Jesus, he at first did not say a word in answer to her. Perhaps you have felt this sometimes – have you ever prayed and prayed, and it seemed as though our Savior were not listening? Remember, Matthew does not say that the Lord “did not listen to the woman”, but he only states Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. In other words, the good Lord does most certainly hear her prayer (and yours), but he refuses at first to answer. He is listening, but he delays his response.
The first rebuff
When the Savior does respond, it is to rebuff the woman: I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It is as though he said to the woman, “You are a Gentile, but I am sent to the Jews. Depart, therefore, and do not ask any good thing from me.” It is a strong rebuff indeed! Have you ever felt that Jesus said this to you in prayer? Does it ever seem that our Lord will not hear your prayers, because you are a sinner and unworthy of him? Follow then the example of the Canaanite woman!
The first repulsion does not faze the woman in the least, but rather she came and did Jesus homage. It is as though she says, “Lord, I know that I am not worthy to receive your blessings, for you are God the Almighty and I am a mere creature (and, what is more, I am a sinner).” Worshiping Christ, she humbles herself before him – a contrite and humble heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. So too, must you humble yourself before your God; for the proud are displeasing to God, but he loves the humble servant.
The divine insult – “You are a dog”
And so, in response to the woman’s great humility and perseverance, the Lord answers her request a second time: It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs. How good and loving our Savior is! It is as though he says to the woman, “Good, you are learning humility. But humility is gained not so much when you humble yourself, as when I humble you through humiliations. You then, I say, you are a dog!”
This last rebuke is much stronger than the first. Our Savior calls the woman a “dog” after the manner of the Jews, who considered the Gentiles “dogs” on account of their idolatry. This accusation, this name-calling, would prick the woman in a most sensitive place: Here she is, a Gentile woman among a crowd of Jews; and our Savior humiliates her with this most demeaning term, one which was in the hearts of all.
Have you felt like this? Does our Lord give you humiliations to bear? Perhaps it seems that he rejects your prayers, when he humiliates you so – but remember this Gospel, imitate the example of this Canaanite “dog”.
Perseverance in prayer
Hear the commentary of Fr. Cornelius a’ Lapide, on the Canaanite woman’s response, Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters – “She means to say, ‘It is altogether true what Thou sayest, 0 My Saviour. I acknowledge that I am a worthless dog, and not worthy that the children’s bread should be given to me, who am a Gentile. Yet the dogs and the curs (in Greek the word is the same, κυνάρια) are wont to eat the crumbs of bread which fall from the tables of their master’s children. Nourish me then as Thy dog. I cannot leave my master’s table. You cannot drive me from Thee either by rough words or by blows. I will not leave Thee, until thou give me what I ask. Give me therefore, 0 most merciful Lord, only a crumb, give me this least favour of my daughter’s health. Let this one crumb fall among us Gentiles, and I will gather it up.’ She presses Christ prudently, convincingly, and yet modestly by His own words; and by her humble faith and reasoning conquers Him willing to be conquered by her prayer, says S. Chrysostom.”
The woman does not reject the humiliation which Christ has given her. Rather, she knows that, if only she should embrace this humiliation (being called a “dog”), the good Savior will allow her also to be filled with his graces. To spurn the Cross is to spurn grace. But to embrace the Cross is to embrace the grace of Christ.
Jesus is teaching – Learn from him
Through it all – indeed, before even the woman began to ask – Jesus was moving her and inspiring her by his hidden graces. It was our Savior who had allowed the daughter to become ill. It was our Savior who inspired the woman to come to him and call out. It was our Savior who allowed the disciples to rebuff her, but he still sustained her with his grace. It was our Savior who gave her the strength to persevere, even when rejected. Through it all, the grace of Christ sustained this woman’s prayer – and thus, because it was all grace, her prayer was answered.
The rebuffs and the humiliations were needed so that her prayer would be nothing of herself. She needed to become less and less so that Christ could be more in her. Finally, when she cries out “I am a dog”, her prayer is clearly no longer from her, but is only from Christ. This is the mystery of prayer – it is always Christ praying in us, through his Spirit. We pray, Christ prays, the Spirit prays; and it is one prayer, which will surely be answered.
The 10 characteristics of perfect prayer
Fr. Cornelius a’ Lapide gives us the characteristics of Christian prayer: “Contemplate the ideal of perfect prayer, and imitate it. This woman of Canaan teaches us to pray.
1. With great humility, in that she acknowledges herself to be a dog.
2. With faith, because she calls Christ the son of David, i.e., the Messiah, the God and Saviour promised to the Jews.
3. With modesty because she sets before Christ the right of dogs and her own misery; yet does she not draw from thence the conclusion that Christ should heal her daughter, but leaves that to Him.
4. With prudence, in that she takes hold of Christ by His own words, and gently turns His reasoning against Himself, into an argument for obtaining her desire.
5. With reverence, with religion and devotion, because she made her supplication on her knees.
6. With resignation in that she did not say, ‘Heal my daughter,’ but ‘help me,’ in the manner which shall seem to Thee best.
7. With confidence, because although a Gentile, she had a firm hope that she would be heard by Christ.
8. With ardour.
9. With charity, in that she made intercession for her daughter, as if she were anxious for herself, saying, help me.
10. With constance and perseverance, in that she persisted when she was twice repulsed and became yet more earnest in prayer.
“Truly says Chrysologus (Serm. 100.) ‘Deservedly is she adopted as a daughter, and raised to the table, who in her humility placed herself beneath the table.’ S. Laurence Justinian, the first Patriarch of Venice imitated this woman, who prayed thus to God when he was at the point of death. ‘I dare not ask for a seat among the happy spirits, who behold the Holy Trinity. Nevertheless Thy creature asks for some portion of the crumbs of Thy most holy table. It shall be more than enough for me, 0 how much more than enough! if Thou wilt not refuse some little place to this Thy poor servant beneath the feet of the least of Thine elect.’”

SOURCE: The New Theological Movement

Saturday, August 13, 2011

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A

“Christ and the Canaanite Woman “
by Juan De Flandes, c. 1500
Readings for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time[1][2]

Readings and Commentary:[3]

Reading 1: Isaiah 56:1, 6-7

Thus says the Lord:
Observe what is right, do what is just;
for my salvation is about to come,
my justice, about to be revealed.

The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
ministering to him,
loving the name of the Lord,
and becoming his servants—
all who keep the sabbath free from profanation
and hold to my covenant,
them I will bring to my holy mountain
and make joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be acceptable on my altar,
for my house shall be called
a house of prayer for all peoples.
Commentary on Is 56:1, 6-7

This passage is part of what scholars call the “Post Exilic Torah” or the law after the return.  In this selection we see that foreigners (those living outside Palestine) are offered member ship in the faith community.  The other important element is the temple is given the name “a house of prayer”.  This passage was quoted by Jesus as he drove the money changers from the temple (see Mark 11:17 and Matthew 21:13).

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 67:2-3,5-6, 8

R. (4) O God, let all the nations praise you!

May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!

May the nations be glad and exult
because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!

May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you!
May God bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth fear him!
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!
Commentary on Ps 67:2-3,5-6, 8

Psalm is a song of thanksgiving.  These strophes request a blessing, that through the Lord’s graciousness the nation might be an example of faith others will follow.


Brothers and sisters:
I am speaking to you Gentiles.
Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles,
I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous
and thus save some of them.
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world,
what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.
Just as you once disobeyed God
but have now received mercy because of their disobedience,
so they have now disobeyed in order that,
by virtue of the mercy shown to you,
they too may now receive mercy.
For God delivered all to disobedience,
that he might have mercy upon all.
Commentary on Rom 11:13-15, 29-32

St. Paul’s concern for the Hebrew people who have reject Christ becomes clear in this passage as he states clearly that one of the reasons he became “apostle to the Gentiles” was to make them jealous. He does so in order that they would recant their rejection of the peace and eternal life offered by salvation in Christ and accept the promise offered by the Messiah.

The concluding verse makes it clear that even though the Jewish people who rejected the Gospel of Christ are “enemies on your account” (v. 28). Their election as the chosen people is irrevochable – the offer of salvation is not withdrawn.


At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!
My daughter is tormented by a demon.”
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.
Jesus’ disciples came and asked him,
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”
He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.”
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish.”
And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.
Commentary on Mt 15:21-28

There was a long history of tension between the Canaanites and the Hebrews that was at a high point when Jesus encountered the woman. She clearly knew what she was doing as she addressed him as “Lord, Son of David” identifying him by that name as a Hebrew.

Jesus, while the words attributed to him are harsh, did not do as most of his own contemporaries would have, begin throwing stones at her to drive her away. His disciples were begging him to do that. Jesus recognized the great gulf between them but opened his healing touch to the woman’s child when her faith in him was demonstrated.

In this selection Jesus has withdrawn from Palestine to escape the persecution of the Pharisees and scribes and to spend time training his disciples. The region they come to is predominantly gentile and sets the scene for his encounter with a Canaanite woman (in St. Mark’s Gospel it is the syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30).

The exchange between Jesus and the woman is intended to describe the universal nature of the messianic mission. Within the dialogue we see Jesus first refuse to accede to the woman’s request (even though she recognized his authority “…the woman came and did him homage, saying, "Lord, help me."”). 

This same pattern of refusal and then acquiescence is found in St. John’s Gospel (John 2:4, John 4:48)The metaphor being exchanged in this banter refers to the “children” being the Hebrews and the “dogs” a reference to the Gentiles (frequently referred to as such by Hebrews of the day). While this seems out of character for the Lord, our translation leaves out some conversational nuances that soften the dialogue. The word translated as “dogs” in this translation could be more accurately expressed as “pups”. It is also significant that the children and pups are eating at the same table, again expressing the universal nature of the mission of the Messiah.


In spite of the way the exchange between Jesus and the Canaanite woman sounds, the message given is actually one of unity. We hear Jesus refuse the woman who has come to him. She caught him at a very bad time. He had just traveled to Tyre, he needed a rest, time away from the confrontations with the Pharisees in Palestine. And here comes this woman, a gentile, and throws herself at him.

Jesus is true man as well as true God. He became tired just as we do and curing the sick and casting out demons took much effort on his part. So he declines. He has not been as successful with the Children of Israel as he had hoped. The gospel he brought had not been well received in his native land and here comes this gentile woman making claims on that message of salvation.

Jesus uses a slang expression but softens it. In scripture we here the world used was “dogs”, however, the Aramaic expression would have been more like pups. The woman persists and uses the metaphor to her own advantage and the Lord expels the unclean spirit from her daughter.

The message that is clear from this encounter is that Jesus brought the message to everyone, not just a select few. And his call to us is to take up that message and pass it on to others. We find that difficult to do at times. We even find it difficult to express that message to others who are tasked with sharing the same message, our brothers and sisters in Christ.

This then is what the Gospel calls us to do on this day – to bring the message of God’s love to those we meet. To express it in words and actions in a way that cannot be misunderstood. In this way we respond to the Lord as he responds to us – in love and understanding.


[2] The picture is “Christ and the Canaanite Woman “ by Juan De Flandes, c. 1500
[3] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Addendum) Cycle A - August 7, 2011

We have in our Gospel story for today, the story of Jesus walking on the water.  
Have you ever known anyone who could literally walk on water?  Have you ever had the faith of Peter and stepped out of a boat and actually walked on the water?  I certainly have not and apparently many scripture scholars have not experienced it either.  
This is why, so often, you will read scripture commentaries that try to develop some sort of rational explanation for this story.  
~~>  Some have suggested that Jesus and the disciples were really not that far from shore, or that Jesus was walking on rocks.  
~~> There was even someone who suggested that there was a freak weather pattern that froze the Sea of Galilee into sheets of ice and Jesus walked to the disciples on sheets of ice.  
~~> There was at least one Catholic Scripture scholar, who because he could not find a rational explanation for this miracle, claimed the story was simply made up by the apostles after the Resurrection.  
None of these answers can be supported by the text of the Gospel.  The simplest answer for why Jesus could walk on water is also the most difficult to accept.  
The text of the Gospel said that the disciples explained this miracle with the only rational way to explain how someone could walk on water.  “Those who were in the boat did JESUS homage, saying “Truly, You are the Son of God.”  
C. S. Lewis in his book, Mere Christianity wrote about Jesus Christ that: 
"A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg - or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us."  
Note: I remember this quote of Lewis' by memorizing this simple 4 worded question, "Lunatic, Liar or God?"

At first, the disciples, did not grasp the real meaning of the event either!  At first, they tried to rationalize that it really could not be Jesus, so they said , “It must be a ghost.”  That would be easier to believe than that Jesus was actually walking on water.  After this long period of struggle, after their fear was increased by the image of what they thought was a ghost, they cried out and the Lord heard them.  “At once Jesus spoke to them, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."”  
Notice that Jesus did not say, “Hey guys it’s Jesus.” He said, “It is I.” How often do you knock on the door or pick up the telephone and say, “Hi, it’s me.”  But who is me?  You are hoping the person on the other end recognizes your voice.  Jesus was hoping that the disciples would recognize His voice.  But notice Jesus did not say, “It’s me” but “It is I” which in the original Greek reads simply “ego eimi” which is often translated “I AM.”  
“I AM” is the name which God gave to Himself when revealing Himself to Moses at the burning bush.   By saying “ego eimi”, “I AM,” Jesus was not only hoping for voice recognition from the disciples but faith recognition in Him as the Son of God.  Once Peter made that recognition in faith, he stepped out of the boat and onto the water.  
Peter was a fisherman.  He knew that humans could not walk on water.  He knew that it was impossible for him.  This is why “Peter said to Him in reply, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water."  
Pope Benedict once said that perhaps in teaching about the truths of the faith, we have lost the focus of the core teaching of the Church—Jesus Christ is God made man.  It is no wonder that when we fail to accept this central tenet of our faith, all the others seem fall apart.  
~~> Only because God became man in Jesus Christ, could His suffering and death have the power to free us from our sins.  
~~> Only because God became man in Jesus Christ, could He rise from the dead, as our model and hope for our own resurrection from the dead.  
~~> Only because God became man in Jesus Christ could He give us His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist.  
I know that Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, God made man, who gave up His earthly life so that I might receive eternal life.  I know that it is because Jesus is God made man that I can stand up here and pronounce the words of Jesus and change bread and wine into His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.  I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and I will live my life for Him.  Who do you say that Jesus is?

Source:  Homily by a lovely priest over at Roman Catholic Homilies

Thursday, August 4, 2011

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 7, 2011 (Cycle A)

To understand Elijah’s journey and why he just wanted to die, one must read the previous chapter to the one from which our First Reading is taken. Elijah is being chased for good reasons by Jezebel and Ahab who have killed all the other prophets of Israel. Elijah in his turn has proven the prophets of Baal, a god of fertility, no god at all. That little piece of action you must read and enjoy in chapter eighteen (see 1 Kings 18). He has mocked their god and then slaughters all one hundred and fifty false prophets. They played for keeps in those days! Elijah has slain the prophets of Baal, and Jezebel has threatened his life in revenge. He retreats to Mount Horeb to commune with God, as Moses had done before him (there are distinct parallels in the narrative—the forty days and the lodging in the cave).

So Elijah is on the run, making for the mountain of the covenant
. We see him exhausted, frustrated, and ready to quit. An angel wakes him and urges him to eat and drink; he does this twice. 
 Elijah then gets up and journeys for forty days and forty nights before arriving at Horeb.

What we read today is the deep listening which Elijah experienced while resting and hiding in a cave.
This passage has obviously been chosen to match the gospel story of the appearance of Jesus to his disciples on the lake. In each story an encounter with God/Christ takes place after the stilling of a storm.
R. (8) Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
Israel’s rejection of Jesus as Messiah has been a great shock to Paul, and he uses very strong language in praying for their salvation (Romans 9:3).
In his attitude toward his fellow Jews, Paul strikes a mean between two diametrically opposite attitudes that have characterized Christian thought at different periods—anti-Semitism and a complete “ecumenical” acceptance of Judaism as a valid religion and an abandonment of any hope for their conversion to faith in Jesus Christ.

Both attitudes are seemingly a betrayal of the gospel as Paul understands it. His attitude is in continuity with both Moses (Exodus 32:32) and Elijah (see the sequel to the first reading in 1 Kings 19:14-18).
•  Jesus calms the seas. 
•  Jesus walks on water and then Peter walks on water towards Jesus. Peter loses faith. Jesus rescues him.
Both stories also emphasize that the disciples wavered in their loyalty to God. “Why are you afraid, you of little faith ?” (Matthew 8:26). “You [Peter] of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31). The biblical term “faith” is best rendered “loyalty.”

The sea as a good symbol of the present world, and the apostle Peter is a symbol of the one and only Church. For Peter, who ranked first among the apostles and was always the most ready to declare his love for Christ, often acted as spokesman for them all.

Today’s gospel asks scientifically oriented and technologically proficient Americans where human beings ought to place their faith or loyalty: in themselves or in God?

Edith Barnecut, O.S.B., ed.
Larry Gillick, S. J 
Reginald H. Fuller 

Monday, August 1, 2011

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Addendum A & B) - Sunday, July 31, 2011

This Sunday's Mass covered Christ's multiplication of the loaves and fishes in the 13th chapter of Matthew's gospel. Miracles don't seem like miracles when they're commonplace, do they? When we lose sight of the common place miracles, we certainly do get the "blahs" and sometimes we go looking for something that is seemingly more exciting.

When Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish, he gave the people a foretaste of the nourishment he would provide through the Eucharist. That meal took care of their physical hunger, and they had plenty of leftovers as proof that God doesn't provide only what we need, but so much more.

We have at every Mass a miraculous food that comes straight from heaven to nourish us. By divine intervention, Jesus Christ is fully present, body and soul – his humanity and his divinity – looking like simple bread and wine. In the Eucharist, he feeds us with his total self so that our own bodies and souls are nourished while we journey through the desert of life's difficulties. How then, can we say that Mass is boring or blah? Sadly, the Eucharist can be so common place that it's easy to lose the awe and wonder of what really happens in the Mass. Why else would we complain that God is not doing enough to heal us or deliver us from hardships or give us whatever we're lacking?

The Eucharist nourishes us in every way that we need IF we participate in it fully. Minimal,  

half-hearted involvement in the Mass prevents us from participating fully in all the benefits of the Eucharist. Every prayer, the songs, the readings, and the communal experience of worship all work together to make the Eucharistic experience complete. Opposed to saying, "I don't get anything out of this. This is boring. Blah! I need something to feed me; to put me on a spiritual high," we should ask ourselves, "How can I appreciate what's going on here?" Full participation means that when we consume Jesus, he consumes us. We become more like him!

Today's reading in Matthew Chapter 13 tells us about the time when the apostles saw Jesus walking on the water. Instead of actually believing that Jesus was indeed walking on the water, they believed something else. "It is a ghost!" they fearfully cried rather than believe in something beyond their grasp to believe: that it was Jesus, present, walking on the water; that Jesus is God and it is not beyond his power to be able to walk on water. May we, then, recognize that it is Jesus present in the Eucharst, instead of limiting our belief to what our human brains tell us ("this is only bread"); that it is not beyond His power to transform Himself into our Bread of Life!

guest author: Angela Hebert

B This is a great 2nd addendum! By, none other than, Jeff Cavins:

It is called, I'm Not Being Fed
In this dynamic talk, Jeff Cavins explores some of the reasons why so many have left the Catholic Church for evangelical Christianity. He responds to the most commonly heard complaint of these former Catholics – that they simply were not being “fed” by their Church. As he presents the story of his own return to Catholicism, Cavins builds a case for the unique character of the Catholic Church as the church founded by Christ.