Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 21, 2011
Isaiah 22:19-23; Psalm 138; Romans 11:33-36; Matthew 16:13-20

          Every friendship has a critical moment that defines whether it will fade away or last. Jesus has his moment this week with the disciples. He places himself in a vulnerable spot because he wants to know if his disciples are understanding what he has been showing and telling them. In his recent history with them he fed the five thousand, healed the sick, walked on water, and fed the four thousand.   His actions have been declaring who he is. Now he wants to openly talk about that "elephant in the room." What do his disciples think about his real identity? He wants to know, "Who do you say that I am?"
          Their answer will define the course of ministry for Jesus. If his closest friends are not yet comprehending then the larger public is not getting it. Has his methodology been effective? This is a measuring stick for his program. After skillfully coaxing his friends along, what more does he need to do? Not only that, Jesus is coming to realize that he is a special emissary from God. He wants to be able to share that with his friends so they can talk about what has been unspoken. He would feel a lot freer to take what is shared in whispers out into the broad daylight.

          Fortunately, Peter saves the day. After tip-toeing around the question, he nails it, which brings great delight to Jesus. Peter calls him "the Christ," who is the Son of the Living God. It is as much a statement about God as it is about Jesus. Just as Peter has given Jesus a name and title, Jesus does the same for him. He is renamed Peter from his name Simon (Petrus - the Rock; or more affectionately, "Rocky") and is given a monumental task: to build his church. He was given a weighty responsibility because he named Jesus correctly.
          Peter was given the task of forgiving or keeping bound people's actions. This privilege was only reserved to God in the past, but now it has been passed on to humans. What we absolve in one another in the name of Christ will be forgiven by God in heaven. Our cooperation is key. All too often we refuse to forgive former close friends and especially our family members. They are the ones who hurt us most. Some of us die before we can achieve needed reconciliation with meaningful people. Primarily because of deep pain, we keep ourselves and others bound and closed off from God's redeeming actions. This is no way to live or to die. We must always work hard, through the grace of God, to become as open as possible to other aspects of the truth. It is the only way to achieve happiness.

          A distressing part of life in our church today is that people are closing themselves off to one another. If one does not hold the same position as another, a person can be called unorthodox and subsequently shunned and marginalized. This is not the way to peace. It is not the way to a responsible use of our gift of reconciliation and mercy. It does not open us up to grace. Let us learn from one another and hold each other's views with as much respect as we can. Rash, harsh judgments do not help out anyone - and it makes us unhappy as we close ourselves off to the possibilities for life. Jesus offers us incredible richness when we recognize that he (not ourselves) is the Lord. When we establish ourselves in right relationship with him, he blesses us generously.
Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Thessalonians, Paul gives thanks and praises the believers who turned to God from idol worship. Paul tells of the hardships of proclaiming the Gospel to them and the courage they needed to continue with the struggle. Paul explains his method is to please God and not humans, but that he wanted to remain among them with gentleness. He tells them how much he has prayed for them and that he is among them to remedy their deficiencies of faith and that they may abound in greater love for one another. Paul then gets to the point: they are to refrain from immorality. They are not to act as Gentiles do in taking a wife or to exploit a brother or sister. God called the people to holiness - a people set apart from the behavior of others. Paul then urges them to love one another more fervently. Their love can grow and they can aspire to live a more tranquil life and to conduct affairs in according with the Gospel.
Gospel: Jesus lashes out at the scribes and Pharisees for their lack of consistency in their preaching and actions, for perverting the child of God, and choosing to honor one's oath by gold while neglecting one's temple oath. They also neglect the more important considerations of judgment, mercy, and fidelity. They criticize one's outward appearance while their inner lives are filled with self-indulgence. Jesus turns to the crowds and appeals to them to stay awake for one does not know the hour of his or her judgment. His parable honors the faithful and prudent servant who waits for his master's return. He further illustrates it with the parable of the ten virgins who go out to meet the bridegroom. Five were foolish; five wise. Jesus tells the foolish ones, "I do not know you." In another parable, a man heading out on a journey entrusts talents to his servants. Those who invested well in their talents were greatly rewarded while those who hoarded and saved for themselves were cut off from the community.

Saints of the Week
Monday: The Queenship of Mary concludes the octave of the principal feast of Mary as she celebrates her installation as queen and mother of all creation. This feast was placed on our calendar in 1954 following the dogmatic proclamation of the Assumption.

Tuesday: Rose of Lima (1586-1617) was the first canonized saint of the New World. She had Spanish immigrant parents in Lima. Rose joined the Dominicans and lived in her parents' garden to support them while she took care of the sick and the poor. As a girl, she had many mystical experiences as she practiced an austere life. She also had many periods of darkness and desolation.
Wednesday: Bartholomew (First Century), according to the Acts of the Apostles, is listed as one of the Twelve Disciples though no one for sure knows who he is. Some associate him with Philip, though other Gospel accounts contradict this point. John's Gospel refers to him as Nathaniel - a Israelite without guile.

Thursday: Louis of France (1214-1270) became king at age 12, but did not take over leadership until ten years later. He had eleven children with his wife, Marguerite, and his kingship reigned for 44 years. His rule ushered in a longstanding peace and prosperity for the nation.  He is held up as a paragon of medieval Christian kings.
Saturday: Monica (332-387) was born a Christian in North Africa and was married to a non-Christian, Patricius, with whom she had three children, the most famous being Augustine. Her husband became a Christian at her urging and she prayed for Augustine's conversion as well from his newly adopted Manichaeism. Monica met Augustine in Milan where he was baptized by Bishop Ambrose. She died on the return trip as her work was complete.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Aug. 21, 1616: At Pont a Mousson in Lorraine died Fr. William Murdoch, a Scotchman, who when only 10 years of age was imprisoned seven months for the faith and cruelly beaten by the order of a Protestant bishop. St. Ignatius is said to have appeared to him and encouraged him to bear the cross bravely.
·         Aug. 22, 1872: Jesuits were expelled from Germany during the Bismarckian Kulturkampf.
·         Aug. 23, 1558: In the First General Congregation, the question was discussed about the General's office being triennial, and the introduction of Choir, as proposed by Pope Paul IV, and it was decreed that the Constitutions ought to remain unaltered.
·         Aug. 24, 1544: Peter Faber arrived in Lisbon.
·         Aug. 25, 1666: At Beijing, the death of Fr. John Adam Schall. By his profound knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, he attained such fame that the Emperor entrusted to him the reform of the Chinese calendar.
·         Aug. 26, 1562: The return of Fr. Diego Laynez from France to Trent, the Fathers of the Council desiring to hear him speak on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
·         Aug. 27, 1679: The martyrdom at Usk, England, of St. David Lewis, apostle to the poor in his native Wales for three decades before he was caught and hanged.