21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

OTHER HOMILY SOURCES:

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – On the Gospel

Isaiah 22:15,19-23

Romans 11:33-36

Matthew 16:13-20

Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

Building the Church of Christ

 John XXIII was pope during the turbulent 1960s when it seemed that everything was falling apart. The priesthood was in crisis, religious life was in crisis, marriage was in crisis, faith was in crisis and the church was in crisis. The pope worked long and hard hours trying to address these problems. One evening, after an exhausting day in the office, he went to his private chapel to do his daily Holy Hour before retiring but he was too exhausted and too stressed out to focus or pray. After a few minutes of futile effort, he got up and said, “Lord, the church belongs to you. I am going to bed.” Difficulties might have driven the Pope to acknowledge that the church belongs to Christ. But Jesus himself said it 2000 years ago:

You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).

This passage is crucial for a proper understanding of what the church is, and our role in the church. For this is the most explicit statement that Jesus makes in the Gospels about the church.

Firstly, it tells us that Jesus is the owner of the church. Neither Peter nor the disciples owns the church. Pastors and church leaders who think and act as if they own the church are like farm workers who go about posing as if the farm belongs to them. All God’s people have been called together as co-workers in Christ’s vineyard, though some work as foremen overseeing others. But we do not own the church. We belong to the church. The owner of the church is Christ.

Secondly, the passage tells us that Jesus is the one who builds his church. He is the master builder who has the building plan in his hands. Human co-operators are like masons and carpenters employed by the master builder to help him with the building. Our role is to listen and follow his instructions, doing our own small part in the grand design of the master. Workers who stick to their own ideas of what the building should be rather than follow the directives given by the master may find themselves working at cross purposes with the master.

If Jesus is the owner and builder of the church, where then do we come in? We come in precisely where Peter comes in. Together with Peter we are the building blocks of the church. Peter is the foundation rock and we are the pieces of stones with which the church is built:

Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5).

The passive voice “let yourselves be built” indicates that God himself is the builder and not us. Our role is to allow God to use us. The question we could ask ourselves today is: “How is God using me to build up his church? Am I letting God use me?” We must not forget that no matter how small a piece of stone may be, the master builder could still use it to do something beautiful.

A famous stained-glass artist was commissioned to make a huge portrait for the window of the cathedral in Chartres, France. First he laid all of the pieces he was going to use out on the floor of the cathedral. Among these awesome pieces of glass was a small, clear piece about as big as a fingernail. As the stained-glass portrait was assembled, that little piece remained on the floor. Only the big colourful pieces were used. On the day of the window’s completion the entire city gathered to witness the unveiling of the portrait. The artist pulled away the cover cloth and the crowd gasped at the beauty of the colourful window glowing in the sunlight. After a few seconds, however, the crowd grew silent. They sensed that something was missing, that the portrait was unfinished. The great artist then walked over to where the little clear piece of glass lay, picked it up, and placed it in the portrait, right in the centre of Jesus’ eye. As the sun hit that little piece, it gave off a dazzling sparkle. The work of art is now complete. Without the small piece the work was incomplete. In the grand design of building the church of God, each one of us could consider ourselves to be that small piece of glass – so small and yet so indispensable.

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21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – On the Epistle

Isaiah 22:15,19-23

Romans 11:33-36

Matthew 16:13-20

Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

How Inscrutable Are God’s Ways

 St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica is one of the most important theological books ever written. For many centuries it remained for Catholics the beginning and end of theology. What many people do not know is that St Thomas did not complete that work. You see, Thomas was a theologian as well as a mystic. Toward the end of his life, Thomas had a mystical experience in which he was granted a glimpse of the divine glory. In comparison with what he saw, he felt that what he wrote about God in the Summa was thrash. His theological treatise was such a poor representation of the mystery of God that Thomas wanted to burn the book. Fortunately, his brother friars prevented him from doing so.

Today’s 2nd reading is the conclusion of Paul’s theological discourse on the position of Israel as the chosen people of God and how it squares with the choice of Christians as the new people of God (Romans 11-13). Opposing, on the one hand, his contemporary Jews who claimed that God has chosen them and not the Christians, and on the other, the predominantly Gentile Christians who claimed that God has now chosen them in place of the Jews, Paul argues that God has chosen both the one and the other. Paul knows that his position does not make much sense, logically speaking. As he struggles with the question, he suddenly realises that God’s ways transcend the strict rules of human reasoning. God’s ways are mysterious. God’s ways are beyond full human understanding.

Like Thomas Aquinas at the end of his life, here we see Paul abandoning theology for poetry, abandoning arguments for adoration, and abandoning inquiry for contemplation. “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33). Yet Paul still manages to articulate these inscrutable ways of God under three headings: God’s riches, God’s wisdom, and God’s knowledge. Next he expatiates on each of these three attributes of God with a rhetorical question, beginning with the last.

“For who has known the mind of the Lord? (verse 34a). Here Paul is saying that the depth of God’s knowledge is unfathomable. Even the most knowledgeable theologian on earth, in many ways, still does not know the mind of God. This reminds us of one of the Igbo epithets for God: “Amaama amasiamasi” the known but never fully known. The belief that we know God’s mind, minus the corresponding belief that we do not fully know God’s mind, equals theological arrogance, intolerance and extremism. The belief that we know God’s mind, plus the corresponding belief that we do not fully know God’s mind, equals theological humility, open-mindedness and balance, such as we see in Paul and Thomas Aquinas.

Or who has been his counsellor?” (Verse 34b). Here Paul is saying that God’s wisdom is so deep that God does not need our advice and suggestion on how to run the world. Many of us spend our prayer time advising God on what He should do and how He should run the world instead of recognising our nothingness before Him and submitting to Him. Such was the attitude of Job when he challenged God for a debate, until God asked him, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding” (Job 38:4). Then Job surrendered to God and confessed, “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:3).

Or who has given a gift to him, to receive a gift in return? (verse 35). Here Paul talks of Gods’s riches and generosity. Paul is saying that all the advantages of being people of God, which the Jews and now Christians enjoy, are free gifts of God and not a reward for anything on our part. All is G-R-A-C-E (God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense). They are free gifts of God’s unconditionally love. “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). If God gives us these blessings without any merit on our part, so can God also give GRACE to others who are equally undeserving.

Many of the rules we make in society regarding who belongs and who does not belong are justified on the grounds that we have limited resources. If an immigrant takes a job, then that job is lost to a citizen who is looking for a job. Jobs are limited. But God’s riches are so abundant that there is room for all and then some. So the rules for who is in and who is out may not apply. Everyone can be in and yet no one is deprived. We can all be first born sons and daughters of God (Hebrews 12:23). All nations on earth can be God’s chosen people without depriving the Jewish nation or Christians of their historical importance and heritage.

For from him and through him and to him are all things” (verse 36a). Paul reminds us that everyone in the world, indeed all things in the world, came from God, is kept in existence by God, and will ultimately return to God. This is the mystery of the oneness of all humankind, and indeed all reality, in God. In the face of this huge mystery, our only response should be: “To God be the glory forever. Amen (verse 36).

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21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

 Homily # 1

Readings:  Isaiah 22:19-23;  Romans 11:33-36;  Matthew 16: 13-20

Today’s readings give us a scriptural insight into the way we Catholics, understand God’s provident and enduring care for his people, the Church.  If we reflect on what God promises he will do for Israel in today’s first reading, we can see how he continues to work in us and for us today.

In order to understand that first reading from the prophet Isaiah we need to look at the context.  The People of Israel were in a difficult situation.  Their nation had endured corruption and division from within as well as attacks from foreign enemies.  Apparently their internal problems had reached the highest levels of both the government and the religious establishment.  We all know what God does at a time like that: he sends a prophet.  The role of the prophet is to speak God’s word and to call people back to faith in God.  Sometimes the prophet speaks words of warning and doom, and at other times he brings words of consolation and hope.

In today’s brief reading God tells his people, through the words of Isaiah, that he has had enough of the current political leadership.  He proclaims that he will remove the “master of the palace” and choose another who will be a good and faithful leader.  The “master of the palace” was really the king’s representative, his prime minister and second-in-command.  When he speaks, it was as if the king is speaking.  When he makes a decision to “bind or loose” and “open or shut,” he acts with the authority of the king himself.  The presence of this trusted leader would make it possible for the king to be present to lead his people, even if he were to go away for negotiations or to do battle.  That is why this important minister was said to have “the keys of the  kingdom.”   It is also significant that Isaiah refers not just to the kingdom, but to King David – who was the greatest of all their Kings.  God promised King David that his rule would endure, and that one of his descendents would be the greatest king ever to rule over Israel.  God’s promise to raise up a just master of the “house of David” recalls Israel’s former greatness, and re-kindles Israel’s hope for a great king who would come in the future and be a ruler for the Ages.

Is it an accident that Jesus uses words from this prophecy when he speaks to his chosen apostle, Simon?   Simon has just proclaimed his faith in Jesus: “You are the Christ!”   In effect, Simon’s words mean this: “You are the Messiah, the one God promised he would send us.  You are the Son of David who will rule for the Ages.”  But he dares to say even more, “You are the Son of God!”

Jesus is overjoyed by Simon’s profession of faith in him.  And he knows that this uneducated fisherman from Galilee did not come by this knowledge on his own.  Jesus recognizes that his Heavenly Father has helped Simon to understand who he is, to believe in him, and to proclaim that belief openly.  And so Jesus, the King, the Son of David, proclaims a new identity for Simon.  He is now to be called Peter.  Just as God changed Abram’s name to Abraham when he designated him father of many nations, and changed Jacob’s name to Israel when he designated him the father of the Chosen People, now Jesus gives Simon a new name:  Peter….The Rock.   Peter, and his solid rock profession of faith, will be the leader of the new Chosen People.  This Church, this house of living stones, will be built not on sand, but on the Rock, where it will stand strong when the winds blow and the flood waters rise.  And he makes him his prime minister, his “master of the house,” when he gives him “the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.”  Jesus gives the authority to bind and loose, to open and shut.  When Peter speaks the truth, Jesus speaks.  When Peter decides, the Lord decides

Today we are faced with difficulties in our culture, in our civil institutions, and even in the Church.  No one can make light of the difficulties that have harmed the Church as a result of the injuries done to others by those in positions of leadership and trust.

On more than one occasion someone has said to me, “I believe in Christ and in the Church, as a community.   It’s just the “institutional Church” that I have problems with.”

Certainly, some people feel that way.  But the statement is based on a false assumption.  There is only one “Church.”  “The Church” is at the same time a community and an institution.  The “institutional” Church IS the community Church.  We can no more separate the Church that Jesus founded from its leadership and institutional character than we could separate the Church from the community of the faithful.  Together we are the Church, the People of God.  There is One Church, the communion of believers united with those believers whom God has chosen to lead us.

In the writings of the early Church we find this statement:  “Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia est.”  “Where Peter is, there is the Church.”  Peter, and his successor, our Holy Father Benedict XVI, and the other bishops in communion with him, are the ones to whom God has given the care of his people and the keys to the kingdom.  We cannot claim to believe in the Church unless we believe in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church that Jesus founded.

Like the people of Israel, we pray that we will always remember that God is true to his promises.  In times of difficulty God sends prophets and strong, good leaders in order to bring his people through their difficulties.  Why?  Because God loves us, and God is always faithful.  Let us pray every day for Pope Benedict and for our bishops, that they will lead us and teach us with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, and that they will help to build up Christ’s body, our Church.


Homily # 2

In today’s gospel Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They answered that the people thought He could be John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

Then Jesus asked the important question of His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” That question should be asked of each of us. “Who do we say Jesus is?”

Our answer can very well determine our future.

What answer do some of the people throughout the world give to that question? Well, many who don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God, including the Muslims and others in the Middle East, say that Jesus was prophet, a holy man, but that’s all. Many people in other parts of the world share that opinion but in different degrees. What other people believe about Jesus is really not important to us but we, each one of us, must answer that question, “Who do I think Jesus is?”

I’ll pause 10 seconds and to allow each of us to answer that question in your minds … the young, the middle aged and the senior citizens here this morning. Who is Jesus Christ?

It’s a bit scary as we think about our answer. If we believe, as the apostles did, that Jesus is, “Christ, the son of the living God,” then we also believe in His teachings. We believe in the Commandments, we believe we must love one another as we love ourselves, we must help those less fortunate than we and, in general,, follow all the teachings of Jesus.

Of course, one of the big stumbling blocks are those COMMANDMENTS Jesus gave us. He was very specific. Among His teachings we find that we should not lie, steal, murder, abuse our own bodies with drugs or alcohol and be chaste until marriage. He also indicated we must love others, help those less fortunate than we are and work to end such practices as abortion, euthanasia and a number of other activities. We also must love each other as we love ourselves which means parents must love their children, give good example to those children and provide what is needed for their health, sustenance, education and provide a loving environment for them.

Of course, if we believe in Jesus, the children will also love their parents and will obey them, endeavor help to develop a loving and happy home, pay attention to curfews and help in any way possible.

When we say we believe Jesus is God, we should not be just referring to his Divinity. That’s a theological concept. Our love of Jesus must pertain to our everyday lives and our actions toward others as well as recognizing His divinity.

It doesn’t make sense to say, “I believe Jesus is God” and then not demonstrate this belief by how we live our lives and by how we love our neighbors.

Isn’t it true that we demonstrate to our families, our friends and our neighbors that we love them by our actions. And, our actions can demonstrate to them that we do not love them. If parents don’t fulfill their obligations to their children or if children don’t return the love of their parents, one would have to assume there is no love in that relationship. In short, just saying “I love you” doesn’t mean very much if our actions don’t reinforce our words.

So, if we believe that Jesus is God, how do our actions demonstrate our beliefs? By keeping His commandments and loving one another. It’s not the big things that necessarily say, “I love you.” Husbands love their wives not with expensive gifts alone but by leaving a long stemmed red rose on her pillow before leaving for the office. When she comes into the room and sees it, I believe she’ll know he’s thinking of her and appreciates what he does for her. I’m not saying she wouldn’t appreciate a $5,000 diamond ring but isn’t it the little acts of say “I love you”, just as important? I know the girls here are possibly thinking, “Wait a minute, I wouldn’t mind getting the ring also.” But it’s still the thought.

Demonstrations of love aren’t measured by dollars and cents.

Likewise, for wives to pick up their husbands at the airport after he’s had a tiring few days meeting with customers and greet him with the words, “I got a baby sitter. We’re not going home. I’m taking you on a second honeymoon.” the children can tell Mom and Dad, “We’re cooking this dinner, tonight. You take a rest.”

If we love one another, we will show it by our actions and well as by our words.

God shows His love for us every day. We live in a relatively safe environment. We are not starving, as are some in the underdeveloped countries of the world. The poorest among us have a quality of life that millions throughout the world would like to have. The young people here are well fed, well educated and have probably live in a comfortable home and have conveniences many other people couldn’t even dream of having.

So, who do we say Jesus is? He is our loving God who has bestowed on each of us a fantastic life of abundance and relative safety. He has surrounded us with a family that loves us and nurtures us. We have food, conveniences, medical care, entertainment at the push of a button ……. in short, most of us live a life of luxury.

IF HE WERE HERE THIS MORNING AND WOULD ASK EACH OF US, “WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?”, WE SHOULD RECOGNIZE OUR BLESSINGS AND REPLY, “YOU ARE OUR GOD WHO HAS BESTOWED THESE BLESSINGS ON US AND I WILL LOVE YOU AND OBEY YOUR COMMANDMENTS BECAUSE THAT’S THE ONLY WAY I CAN TRULY SAY, “I LOVE YOU, JESUS!”


Homily # 3

THE HEBREW PEOPLE HAD A DEEP CONVICTION OF THE IMPORTANCE OF NAMES. THE NAME GIVEN A CHILD WAS, IN A SENSE, A DECLARATION OF THE HOPES OF THE PARENTS ABOUT WHAT THAT CHILD MIGHT ACCOMPLISH IN LIFE. EVEN GREATER IN IMPORTANCE WAS CHANGING A NAME IN MIDLIFE. ONCE AGAIN, THE PURPOSE WAS TO SIGNIFY A QUALITY THE PERSON HAD OR A NEW PURPOSE IN LIFE GIVEN TO THAT PERSON.

IN TODAY’S GOSPEL, JESUS CHANGES SIMON’S NAME TO PETER — PETROS IN GREEK, MEANING A ROCK. THE NAME WAS GIVEN BECAUSE PETER HAS JUST BEEN SELECTED TO BE THE FOUNDATION STONE UPON WHICH THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH IS TO BE BUILT.

IT IS OBVIOUS THAT JESUS KNEW PETER PRETTY WELL AND WHEN HE GAVE PETER HIS NEW NAME, JESUS KNEW EVERY ONE OF HIS FAULTS. HE KNEW PETER WOULD DENY HIM IN PUBLIC; HE KNOW PETER WOULD BE SO AFRAID FOR HIS OWN LIFE THAT HE WOULDN’T EVEN COME NEAR THE CROSS. HE KNEW PETER WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO STAY AWAKE FOR AN HOUR WHILE JESUS SUFFERED IN GETHSEMANE, AN EXPERIENCE THAT WAS IN SOME WAYS EVEN WORSE THAN THE CROSS — THE AWFUL MENTAL ANGUISH OF BEING ABANDONED AND WITHOUT FRIENDS. YET, KNOWING ALL THIS, JESUS PICKED PETER TO LEAD HIS NEW CHURCH. THAT SHOULD GIVE EVERY ONE OF US THE CONFIDENCE THAT DESPITE OUR FAILINGS, DESPITE OUR LACK OF COURAGE, GOD CAN DO ANYTHING THROUGH US. HE CAN WORK WITH POOR MATERIAL. HE CAN BUILD WITH FAULTY TIMBERS.

TODAY, JESUS TAKES THE FIRST STEP IN THE ORGANIZATION OF HIS CHURCH. HE PICKS THE FIRST LEADER. IN EVERY ORGANIZATION TWO FACTORS MUST BE PRESENT IF THAT ORGANIZATION IS TO ADVANCE, TO GROW, TO BECOME SUCCESSFUL. FIRST, THERE MUST BE A SOLID FOUNDATION UPON WHICH TO BUILD. THERE MUST BE SOME STABILITY, SOME LASTING STRENGTH THAT DOES NOT CHANGE. SECOND, THERE MUST BE A READINESS, A FACILITY, A WILLINGNESS TO ADAPT AND GROW WHENEVER CHANGE BECOMES NECESSARY.

MICROSOFT IS A HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL CORPORATION. THE FIRM FOUNDATION OF THAT COMPANY IS IN ITS REPUTATION AND THE QUALITY OF ITS PRODUCTS. BUT IF MICROSOFT DID NOT KEEP CHANGING ITS PRODUCT, IF IT DID NOT CONSTANTLY SEEK TO IMPROVE, TO PERFECT AND TO MINIATURIZE, OTHER COMPANIES WOULD SOON PASS IT BY. MICROSOFT WOULD GO OUT OF BUSINESS.

THE U. S. IS RECOGNIZED AS ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL GOVERNMENTS IN THE WORLD. GOVERNMENTS OF OTHER COUNTRIES REACH A CRISIS EVERY FEW YEARS AND FAIL, EITHER THROUGH A COUP OR THROUGH THE INABILITY OF THE GOVERNMENT TO RECEIVE A VOTE OF CONFIDENCE. BUT NOT SINCE THE CIVIL WAR HAS OUR GOVERNMENT BEEN IN THE REMOTEST DANGER OF COLLAPSE.

THE SOLID FOUNDATION ON WHICH THIS COUNTRY RESTS IS A REMARKABLE DOCUMENT KNOWN AS THE CONSTITUTION, CONCEIVED BY BRILLIANT MINDS WHO SAW THE FLAWS OF OTHER TYPES OF GOVERNMENT AND SKETCHED A CHARTER THE WOULD AVOID THOSE WEAKNESSES.

YET, THAT SAME CONSTITUTION IS FLEXIBLE ENOUGH TO PERMIT ALTERATIONS WHICH KEEP OUR LAWS ADAPTED TO CHANGES THAT TAKE PLACE IN SOCIETY.

CHRISTIANITY HAS THE SAME TWO FEATURES AS OUR GOVERNMENT. TODAY’S GOSPEL ANNOUNCES WHAT THE FOUNDATION IS: “YOU ARE PETER, AND UPON THIS ROCK I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH.” OUR FOUNDATION IS NOT THE INDIVIDUAL POPE WHO HAPPENS TO HEAD THE CHURCH BUT THE OFFICE ITSELF. EACH OF THE MORE THAN 200 SUCCESSORS OF PETER HAS BEEN DIFFERENT. SOME WERE CHARISMATIC, SOME BUILDERS, SOME GREAT SAINTS, SOME SINNERS. YET THE OFFICE HAS CONTINUED; THE OFFICE IS THE ROCK — AND UNDERNEATH THE ROCK IS JESUS, THE CORNERSTONE.

BUT LIKE ANY OTHER ORGANIZATION, THE CHURCH MUST BE READY FOR CHANGE, OPEN TO CHANGE, WILLING TO CHANGE — NOT IN ESSENTIALS, NOT IN BASIC DOCTRINE, BECAUSE THAT WOULD UNDERMINE THE FOUNDATION ITSELF. BUT THE CHURCH MUST BE READY FOR CHANGE IN NON-ESSENTIALS– THE WAY THE MASS IS OFFERED, THE METHODS OF INSTRUCTING OUR CHILDREN, THE SHARING OF RESPONSIBILITIES AND GIFTS WITH THE LAITY.

ONE OF THE PRINCIPLE WAYS OF MAKING NEEDED CHANGES IN THE CHURCH IS TO CALL AN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL. YET, STRANGELY ENOUGH, COUNCILS, BADLY NEEDED AS THEY MAY BE, OFTEN SEEM TO PROVOKE A CRISIS IN THE CHURCH.

ONLY A FEW DECADES AGO THE CHURCH UNDERWENT A CRISIS BECAUSE OF VATICAN II COUNCIL. IT WAS A CRISIS BECAUSE THERE WERE, AND EVEN NOW ARE, PEOPLE WHO SIMPLY DON’T WANT TO CHANGE. PEOPLE SO IN LOVE WITH THE PAST THAT THEY COULD NOT HANDLE WHAT THE BELOVED JOHN THE 23RD CALLED “A FRESH BREATH OF AIR IN THE CHURCH”. IT IS TRUE THAT SOMETIMES INDIVIDUALS, WANTING TO RUN AHEAD OF THE PACK, INSIST ON RADICAL CHANGES NEVER INTENDED BY THE COUNCIL. BUT ANY THINKING PERSON WHO READS THE DOCUMENTS CAN SEPARATE THOSE CHANGES FROM THE ONES MANDATED BY THE COUNCIL. IF YOU ARE ONE WHO TENDS TO RESIST ALL CHANGE, THINK ABOUT MICROSOFT; THINK ABOUT THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT; THINK ABOUT THE CHURCH.

IT IS BECAUSE CHRISTIANITY HAS THE FIRM FOUNDATION OF THE ROCK OF PETER AND BECAUSE IT HAS THE ABILITY TO CHANGE AND UPDATE, THAT THE PROMISE OF JESUS, MADE TO SIMON PETER, HAS BEEN AND WILL ALWAYS BE TRUE. “THE JAWS OF DEATH SHALL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST IT.” AND THAT IS A COMFORTING THOUGHT BECAUSE NO ONE LIKES TO STAKE HIS LIFE ON A LOSER.


Homily # 4

CALL TO WORSHIP

Whenever we gather for liturgy, we come with many things on our minds, worries, joys, hopes, fears, wants . . . all in hope of God’s nearness. St. Paul writes in today’s second reading: “O, the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God. But, how inscrutable, how unsearchable are God’s ways.” Let us then open ourselves to God’s ways, letting go of what we expect of God, so that the true and living God can come into our midst as He desires.

Jesus, it was your joy and bread to do the will of God, LORD, HAVE MERCY.

Jesus, you call us, too, to receive and act on the will of God, CHRIST, HAVE MERCY.

Jesus, your word and your body and blood nourish us in our longing for God’s will, LORD, HAVE MERCY.

HOMILY

People often ask, when they see me out socially but not dressed in my priest clothes, ‘How come, Father? Why aren’t you dressed in your clericals?’ Some people get more pointed, ‘What’s the
matter, Father, aren’t you proud to be a priest?’ And, then, there are the really nervy ones who wonder if I’m incognito for some unseemly purpose, vaguely implying that casual clothes are my
opportunity for a moral lapse.

The truth is that the main reason I often dress in regular clothes is that, when I do wear my priestly clothing, I most often receive one of two responses. Depending on the group, some folks are so amazingly respectful, almost embarrassing in their deference to my role as a priest. ‘Father, can I get you something to eat? something to drink? Is there anything you need?’ They are eager to make conversation about things they assume I will find interesting and want to talk about. ‘Do you know Father so-and-so? What parishes have you been assigned to? Do you remember so-and-so from there? I’m a friend of the pastor at such-and-such parish and he says this about the bishop. What do you think?’ And on and on it goes, as if I have no other interests, no knowledge of things like music, literature, sports, whatever.

And, the other typical response is even worse. For many, my Roman collar makes me a convenient lightning rod or landfill for people who have been seriously hurt by priests in the past. Torrents of past grievances, nearly all of them fully legitimate, come pouring out, the person’s voice rising and higher pitched as they ventilate their pain. ‘How dare YOU priests say, do, teach, what you do?’ Genuinely awful and serious concerns, but very difficult to take when I thought I was going to have an evening of relaxation. All in all, it’s just come to make sense that I don’t always wear my priestly clothes.

Which is precisely what Jesus is about when he concludes today’s Gospel story about his identity by telling them not to tell anyone that he is the Messiah. The title, Messiah, God’s Anointed, had so many different meanings by the time of Jesus, so much baggage, that He just couldn’t let people haphazardly call him that. It’s why he asked the real question, ‘who DO people say that I am?’ As they sorted through the possible options, e.g. John the Baptist or Elijah or Jeremiah or some other prophet, it became clear that Jesus was going to be a unique combination of many meanings. Jesus was NOT going to be defined by any pre-existing term or title; rather, he was going to re-shape and re-define the titles themselves.

Simon says, ‘you are Messiah, you are God’s Son, you are our connection to the living God’ and Jesus says ‘yes, but it’s from a different wisdom than merely human thinking. And, Simon, if you stay
faithful to that wisdom, to that thinking that is beyond your human calculation; if I am the bedrock of your faith, if I define the terms, then you’ll have enough sense to know what to bind and what to loose.’

But, then, only two verses later, verses we don’t read today, when Jesus describes his Messiah-ship as one of suffering, Simon boldly dares to argue with Jesus, preferring his own version of Messiah, a Messiah of power and triumph. Just that quickly a moment of open and utter trust in Jesus, a moment of readiness to follow him, is shattered by Simon’s preferences for what he was used to . . . his own interests and his own merely human wisdom.

We come to Church, we gather to pray, for many reasons and we truly seek, like Simon, to put our full faith in Jesus and to put our lives at God’s disposal. But, just that quickly, we can take our trust
back. We ask for the healing of a family relationship that is in conflict, but then decide it’s up to the other person to make the first move towards reconciliation. We pray for unity in the Church, but that often translates into an expectation that those we disagree with will come to see it our way, the correct way.

On a more global scale, several recent sociological studies of American church goers indicate that, in addition to the overt desire for union with God, there are three other, less conscious ‘purposes’ to
religious practice. For the rich and powerful of society who go to church, their faith tends to desire comfort and consolation, especially amidst their crosses of illness, divorce, deaths, and other personal difficulties. For the more middle class, however, the additional purpose of religious
practice is a matter of social relationships, a kind of religious networking in the midst of a culture and society that leave many folks feeling pretty isolated and disengaged. Finally, sociologists say,
there is the function of religious faith for the poor. Basically, the poor are trying to survive; beleaguered from every side, struggling for the very basics of survival, they want their faith to strengthen them, to promise that the injustices they experience WILL one day be turned
upside down and God will vindicate their sufferings. The point is that, in every case, the tendency is to bring one’s own personal and social agenda to Church, to God’s table and, however unconsciously, expect God to fit into that agenda and fix it as we would have Him fix it. Rarely do I truly put aside my agenda and say, ‘God, show me your perfect desire for me. I know my preferences, God, but your will is what I really want.’

I read a very interesting piece on prayer the other day. It was by an Episcopal priest, Brian Taylor, in Albuquerque. The gist of his article is this question: when we pray, when we come for liturgy, do we REALLY want God or do we want a particular experience of God that we have pre-determined that we want? If we anticipate something specific like comfort or inspiration, we’ll probably find some way to experience it . . . or to complain and blame someone else if we don’t.
But, even we do experience what we came for, that will be all we’ll experience and it will end up being more about us and less about God.

So, does this make any sense? Did you, did I, come today with my ideas of who Jesus is, what discipleship is, what should be loosed and what should be bound up? Are those hardened ideas? Can they be flexible enough that, like Simon, we can truly meet Jesus, God’s anointed, God’s living Word among us? And follow that Jesus wherever he leads? As we continue our liturgy and try to embrace the week ahead, perhaps we could just keep reminding ourselves . . . Jesus, here is what I’d like or prefer; send your Holy Spirit so that I can see, understand, and do what it is that YOU want.


Homily # 5

Has anyone ever wondered why the vast majority of the Church year is called “Ordinary Time”? For the longest time that was something that I simply took for granted and never really questioned. It was only after being asked about this that I really started to think about it. The very word “ordinary” seemed so plain, so simple. And, yet, there was something very complex going on here.

We have certain special seasons of the year: Easter, Christmas, Lent, Advent — and then there’s Ordinary Time. We generally think of “ordinary” as simply run-of-the-mill, common, without any special merit. But then we come across a Gospel like the one we read today. Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Son of God and the promise that God would build a Church, not only the the faith that Peter evidenced, but on Peter himself. This establishment of the Church could not be coincidental, could not be “ordinary” but was, in fact, most extraordinary.

Therein lies the key to understanding this season of Ordinary Time. we are to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. We are called to take those special events of Christmas, Easter, Advent and Lent and to use them as way stations that give us strength to live out the rest of the year.

But we are also called to be something special. We are called to be Church. The word that Matthew uses here for Church is “ecclesia” — a Greek word meaning “the community called out.” We are, in fact, “the community called out.” But what is it that we are called out for?

In part, we are called out of the world. We are to be in the world but not of it. We live here, we are to be good stewards of the earth’s resources but we are not destined for earth. We are destined to be with God in a union so intimate, so fantastic, that we cannot even being to conceive of it.  We are “called out” to be of service to our brothers and our sisters. We are called out to see the sacred in the secular, to see the holy in the homely, to see God in each other. In short, we are called to be Church in all the many facets that implies.

You and I, working together, are called to build up the Kingdom of God. Brick by brick, stone by stone, person by person we are to be the builders. This “ordinary time” is, in fact, and extraordinary time. It is a time for confessing that Jesus is Lord. It is a time for faith. It is a time to rebuild what has been lost. It is a time to trust again.

“To everything there is a season…” In ordinary time we live out our faith. In ordinary time we do extraordinary things. In this season we discover if we are “good time Catholics” happy to see Easter and Christmas, or if we are laborers in the vineyard working for the Kingdom.

Our Church is called to be the Image of Christ in the world. That image has been tarnished. Let’s polish it and let it shine. Let’s be beacons of hope, bastions of faith, builders of a Kingdom, bearers of the Good News.

Let us be Church!


Homily # 6

I want to talk about something today that, at first are going to sound very secular so bear with me. I need to explain a term that is common in parts of the business world:

Brand – a brand is more that the trademark of a product. A brand contains within it a sense of what the product means to the consumer. Take cars for example – if I say BMW or Lexus some specific thoughts pop into your mind (like expensive, high
quality, well made)….if I say Yugo a totally different and opposite set of things come to mind.

Jesus asks in the gospel today: “Who do you say I am?”

Jesus asks and Peter answers…..where does Peter get the idea that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah……well, he gets it from being with Jesus and coming to understand that all the things Jesus does – healing, helping, forgiving, loving, teaching, living out life in a certain, specific way – all these aspects of Jesus come together and define Him. Jesus is the Messiah.

In the world of business today…..specifically in the marketing departments……we would say that Jesus has a specific brand image. Think about it…..when I say “Jesus” it triggers within each person here a whole series of thoughts that contain within them the essence of how to live out the Christian life.

OK – then what does it mean when, in response to being asked who we are, what faith we follow, we say  “we are followers of Jesus”….we are Christian……we are Catholic”?

In all honesty, if it is an authentic description of “who someone could say I am”, what it has to mean is that my life reflects the same things that the life of Jesus did…..it means I am kind, loving, forgiving, patient, that I care for the poor, that I fight for the marginalized….all the things that define being a follower of Jesus, I am.

If no one knew whether or not we belonged to this Church, would we still be taken to be a Christian? Would we be seen as showing the same characteristics as Jesus?

Think back to the early church. The thing that attracted new members to the faith was the living example of how the Christians related to one another and the world itself – “see how they love one another” was the behavior of a Christian. Seeing that modeled was what brought people to join.

Our reflection for this day…think back through you’re last couple days…..if a stranger were to have followed you around all day long, each day, would that person have been able to respond to a question from someone asking “who you are” by saying “he (or she) is a disciple of Jesus Christ”…..by our actions in life, would we be taken to be a Christian?

*************************************************************************

Despite his frailties, Peter became 1st pope

By BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD

THERE’s a joke that Peter had a grudge against Jesus, denying Him three times all because He healed his mother-in-law!

Despite his frailties, Jesus called Simon Peter “Rock” in this 21st Sunday’s gospel, He was implying that he was solid and firm.

* * *

But looking closely, the nickname given to him was unlikely for Peter was everything but rock-like. He was so weak that he did not only abandon his Master, but even denied ever knowing Him during His dark moments.

* * *

Peter’s weakness is likewise highlighted in the story entitled “Quo Vadis” made into a movie after some years. When persecution of the early Christians broke out in Rome, Peter developed cold feet. He tried to flee, leaving behind those gallant Christians to be tortured and fed to the lions for public spectacles.

* * *

As he sneaked out through the Via Appia, he is said to have met Jesus walking in the opposite direction. Surprised, he asked the Lord, “Where are You going?” (“Quo vadis?” in Latin). His reply, “To Rome… to be crucified again.”

* * *

This hit Peter like a thunderbolt. It dawned on him, albeit embarrassingly, that if he must follow Christ, he must face the cross as his Master had done. Thus Peter returned to Rome and, like Christ, he was crucified – but upside down because he deemed himself unworthy to be crucified like Jesus.

* * *

When I was in Rome, I learned that a church called “Quo Vadis” was erected to mark the legendary spot where Peter met Christ.

What’s amusing is that just across it is a “ristorante.” The apocryphal story has it that after that fateful meeting with the Lord on Via Appia, the scared Peter had to take a few shots of wine there to calm his nerves.

* * *

But why is it that Jesus chose Simon to be the solid, firm foundation of His Church and leader of His disciples?

If love and loyalty were the basis for leadership, it would have gone to John, who stood by Him up to end on Calvary.

* * *

The main reason could not be Peter’s character of his strength, but the strength of his faith. Deep down he knew himself to be weak and imperfect, hence he was convinced that his total security could only come from a power greater than his own.

Peter’s story illustrates how the Lord entrusted the Church He founded in the hands of imperfect humans.

* * *

Just as there were holy and virtuous church leaders, there were also some who did not have the right virtues to lead; even today, there are some priests and bishops who, by their misconduct and indiscretion, have caused grave scandal.

* * *

But through all the good and the bad, the Church has withstood the violent storms that have threatened it because it is founded on rock, proving Christ’s words in today’s gospel: “And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18).

* * *

Another inspiring message is that for all the human imperfection of Peter, we poor mortals can identify with him because we, too, have our own embarrassing faults and failures.

And like Peter, we too can rise from our human weaknesses — with the help of a Higher Power.

* * *

ASK YOURSELF: After you’ve fallen down, do you strive to rise and reform yourself? Do you have enough faith to hold on to the Lord even after you’ve sinned and let Him down?

If the answer is no, then let’s learn from the example of St. Peter.

************************************************************************

Moments
You, yes you!

By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:40:00 08/23/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The story is told about a man who was robbed and was almost killed. When asked if he sought the help of the police, he said he sent a text message to the police station, but all he got was this response: “Hu u?”

* * *

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 16, 13-20) Jesus first asks His disciples: “Who do people say the Son of man is?” After getting different responses, He ends by asking them, “But who do you say that I am?” The bottom line is that religion is not so much about doctrines, traditions, or devotions but more of a personal relationship with God. As someone once pointed out, the word “CH_RCH” is incomplete if “U” are not in it.

* * *

The word “you” appears nine times in today’s gospel. This underlines the importance of personal commitment and personal involvement without which religion becomes just an ideal, a burden, or just a show. At the end of our lives, when we come face to face with our Creator, may we be given the grace to say in all humility: “Lord, you know I really tried to love you in my lifetime.” Amen!

* * *

A personal relationship must lead to mission and action. A cozy-cozy, nice-nice romantic feeling is necessary to start and to maintain a relationship, but a relationship too caught up in itself soon dies. Love must overflow into concrete actions. Love cannot be exclusive. It must be expressive.

* * *

Today, ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing. What for? Whom for? Let us remember and keep reminding ourselves that our greatest agenda in this world are not things, but people, and that what matters most in the end is not what we hold in our hands but what we hold in our hearts.

* * *

Every once in a while, we hear from the media about some people who would climb up a tall building or a tower to call attention to themselves or to their cause. Some of them may be mentally or emotionally disturbed, but the message is clear: “I am here. I am a person. I desperately need to be heard and listened to!” Make sure that no one in your life is about to climb up a building or a tower, just because you are not listening.

* * *

While some people are desperately shouting “I am here!” there is one person I know who is joyfully shouting “I am still here!” Last Aug. 21, 2008, we honored with a Mass and dinner at our SVD Retirement House Fr. Wim Van Kuijk, SVD on his 70th priestly anniversary. Father Wim from Holland is 97 years old, the oldest living member of the Philippine SVD. He arrived in the Philippines in 1938. That’s 70 years of priestly and fatherly presence wherever he was assigned. He is still a lively presence in the retirement house, moving around in his wheelchair or sitting in front of his computer in his room, but most especially, absorbed in deep prayer at the chapel. Father Wim is hard of hearing (lots of people go to him for confessions!), and is also hardly understandable when he speaks, but his whole life is one big, loud and clear message and one powerful witnessing to the love and faithfulness of God. What an inspiration!

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, remind me of the importance of the You in others, and the You that is You. Amen.

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ALIAS KO… KRISTIYANO! : Reflection for 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A – August 21, 2011

 What’s in a name? Ano ba ang mayroon sa iyong pangalan? Alam mo ba ang kahulugan ng pangalan mo? Kung minsan mahilig tayong magbigay ng “alias” sa ibang tao. Kapag panot ang tawag natin ay “HIV positive”(Hair Is Vanishing), kapag payat ang tawag natin ay “Palito”, kapag mataba ang tawag natin ay “Baboy”, kapag bading ay “sioke” at marami pang ibang pang-asar na “alias” ang ginagamit natin para pangalanan ang iba. Napakagaling din nating mag-coin ng pangalan. Kapag ang pangalan ng tatay ay Jose at ang nanay naman ay Maria ang magiging pangalan ng bata ay JOMAR. Mag-ingat lang sapagkat hindi ito maaring gawin sa lahat ng pagkakataon. Halimbawa kasi na kung ang pangalan ng tatay ay Conrado at ang nanay naman ay Domingga, siguradong ang kakalabasang pangalan ng bata ay CONDOM! Kawawa naman ang bata pag nagkataon! hehehe. Sa Ebanghelyo ngayon ay nagbigay din ng alias si Hesus sa isa sa kanyang mga alagad hindi upang mang-asar ngunit upang magbigay ng isang misyon. Tinawag niyang “Pedro” si Simon. Ang Pedro sa wikang Latin ay “Petrus” na ang ibig sabihin ay “bato”… matigas, matatag, di natitinag. “Ikaw ay Pedro, at ibabaw ng batong ito ay itatayo ko ang aking Iglesia!” (Simbahan). Ano ba ang nakita ni Jesus kay Pedro? Alam ni Jesus na ang taong ito ay mahina. Iiwan siya ni Pedro sa hardin ng Getsemani upan mahuli ng mga Judio. Itatatwa siya ni Pedro ng tatlong beses sa harap ng ibang tao. Alam itong lahat ni Jesus ngunit sa kabila nito ay pinili niya si Simon Pedro upang pamunuan ang kanyang Iglesia at ibinigay pa sa kanya ang “susi” ng kaharian ng langit, simbolo ng kapangyarihang mamuno. Anung nakita ni Jesus kay Pedro? Ang sagot ay “kahinaan”, kahinaan na nagbigay daan upang manaig sa kanya ang kalakasan ng Diyos! Maganda ang sabi ni San Pablo tungkol dito: “I willing boast of my weakness because in my weakness.. God is strong!” Ito nga marahil ang nais ding makita sa atin ni Jesus… ang masabing “Ang Diyos ang ating lakas sa kabila ng ating kahinaan!” Kalimitan ay madali tayong panghinaan ng loob kapag lagi tayong tinatalo ng ating kahinaan: paulit-ulit na kasalanan, masamang pag-uugali, masamang hilig. Tandaan natin na tayong lahat ay maaring maging “Pedro” kung taos puso nating aaminin ang ating pagkakamali at tatanggapin natin ang Diyos bilang ating lakas! Sa tuwing tayo ay humihingi ng tawad sa ating mga pagkakasala dapat ay hinihingi din natin ang Grasya ng Diyos upang tulungan tayo sa ating pagbabago. Tandaan natin na sa lakas ng Diyos para tayong “nakasandal sa pader”. Sa lakas ng Diyos ay walang imposible! Sa lakas ng Diyos ang kahinaan ay maaring maging kalakasan ng tao! Sa binyag, binigyan tayo ng “alias” ng Panginoon. Ang alias natin ay KRISTIYANO. Ikinabit Niya sa atin ang Kanyang pangalang KRISTO! Ibig sabihin, taglay natin sa ating kahinaan ang kalakasang dala ng kanyang banal na pangalan. Kaya nga’t nararapat lamang na pangatawanan natin ang pangalang ito. Ipakita natin sa ating pag-iisip, pananalita at pagkilos na tayo ay KRISTIYANO! Tandaan… ALIAS natin ito!

kiliti-ng-diyos.blogspot.com/

*************************************************************************

Moments

Image

By: Fr. Jerry M. Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer

3:28 am | Sunday, August 21st, 2011

The story is told about an elderly man with a bloated ego who asked the trainer in a gym what machine he should use in order to impress all the beautiful girls around him. The trainer’s answer was: “Sir, at your age, the most effective machine for you to use is the ATM machine outside the gym.”

* * *

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 16, 13-20), Jesus asked His disciples: “Who do people say that the Son of man is?” Not that He had a self-image problem, He just wanted to know from His very own disciples what they really thought about Him. In other words, He wanted to know the depth of their perception and understanding.

Today, we ask ourselves how deeply and how truly we know Christ. Who is He? What is He really to you? To me?

* * *

A lot of sins have been committed in Jesus’ name. A lot of worldly agenda have been pushed in the guise of spirituality and religion. We all must beat our breasts and bow our heads, and utter our sincere  “mea culpa” for the many times we have made God our alibi, our escape route, or our ladder to go up higher. Truth to tell, many of us have used God, the most convenient truth.

* * *

How many of our national thieves pray in private or profess in public their faith in God, but go on cheating, lying and stealing anyway?  How many of them continue to appear holy and unblemished, but go on making life difficult for the lost, the least and the last among us? Jesus in His public discourses had one word for them: hypocrites!

* * *

We are confident of God’s mercy, understanding and forgiveness. However, there is also the reality of divine justice which sooner or later will catch up with us. Let us never think that we can manipulate God. A humble and contrite heart indeed He will not spurn, but a proud, unrepentant and abusive heart sooner or later He will scold and reprimand.

* * *

Please remember that it is not those who profess the Lord but those who do His will that will inherit the kingdom. While it is true that we must work out our salvation with joy and confidence in God’s grace, it is equally true that we must work out our salvation in fear and trembling because of our many sins.

* * *

Sinner or saint, or whatever we conceive ourselves to be, let us not forget humility. The evil one knows how to destroy us, and the best tool for the evil one is our pride. Today, Peter professed Jesus as the Messiah. Let us examine ourselves if we, in any way, be it so subtle, believe that we or some other creature is the Messiah in our lives. We are all dispensable and disposable. God is not.

* * *

Let nothing or no one become our God.  Let nothing or no one disturb us in our mission and in our journey to God’s heart. We are all called to go the extra mile, to go up to the mountaintop, and to cast into the deep.  May we not be found wanting in the end because we did not go beyond our comfort zones, we refused solitude, or we did not leave familiar shores.

* * *

Bantay Matanda invites you to a lay forum on the “Non-pharmacological Treatment of Dementia” at the Arnold Janssen Hall, Christ the King Seminary, E. Rodriguez Sr. Ave., Quezon City. from 9 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2011. For inquiries, please call 373-2262 / 998-2548 / 0917- 4167849.

* * *

Speaking of dementia, Pope Benedict in his address in El Escorial at the World Youth Day celebrations in Madrid, Spain, (Aug. 16-21) lamented our modern society’s “amnesia” about God, and the denial of the treasure of our faith. Without God, without faith, we lose our identity and we lose sight of our priorities. Who do we perceive ourselves to be, and what are our priorities as individuals and as a nation?

* * *

Tomorrow, Aug. 22, is the Feast of the Queenship of Mary. Let us place ourselves, our families and our country, earnestly and steadfastly, under the queenship of Mama Mary. It may not sound urgent and it may not even be obvious, but there is an agenda to weaken the Church socially, politically and culturally. This is the time for vigilance, and for taking a stand, following our Master’s advice to be innocent as doves, but also to be wise as serpents. Let us not be caught off-guard or allow ourselves to be overtaken by events and circumstances because of our complacency or image preservation.

* * *

Think about this prayer on humility: “God, I am far too often influenced by what others think of me. I am always pretending to be either richer or smarter or nicer than I really am. Please prevent me from trying to attract attention. Don’t let me gloat over praise on one hand or be discouraged by criticism on the other. Neither let me waste time weaving imaginary situations in which the most heroic, charming, witty person present is myself. Show me how to be humble of heart like you.”

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, remind me that life is not so much about image, or being impressive, but being real and being expressive. Amen.

opinion.inquirer.net/10357/image

***********************************************************************

Word Alive

St. Peter Chosen Despite Failings

August 19, 2011, 9:57pm

MANILA, Philippines — Nicknames are given to people to describe one of their characteristics. That’s why we call some people “Shorty,” “Kulot” (curly haired), “Palito” (skinny), or something to that effect. In this 21st Sunday gospel, Jesus called Simon “Rock,” implying that he was solid and firm.

However, it was an unlikely nickname for Peter was everything but rock-like, solid, and firm. For instance, despite his bravado at the Last Supper that he would never abandon his Master, he was so weak that when Jesus was arrested, he did not only abandon Him but even denied ever knowing Him, not once but three times.

* * *

But why is it that Jesus chose Simon to be the solid foundation of His Church, leader of the disciples and first Pope?

If love and loyalty were the basis for leadership, it would have gone to John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” who followed Jesus in His darkest moments.

But Jesus chose Peter. The main reason could not be Peter’s character of his strength, but the strength of his faith. Deep down he knew himself to be weak and imperfect, hence he was convinced that his total security and strength could only come from a power greater than his own.

* * *

Peter’s story illustrates how the Lord entrusted the Church He founded in the hands of imperfect humans. The history of the Church buffeted by internal dissent and confusion from the early centuries right down to our own  times, has proven Christ’s words: “And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18).

* * *

There were numerous popes and religious leaders who were paragons of virtue, but we cannot gloss over certain church leaders who succumbed to their weaknesses and caused grave scandals. But through all the good and the bad, the Church has withstood the attacks and violent storms that have threatened it because it was founded on rock.

This reminds me of the remark of a certain layman serving the parish, “The Church belongs to God and is eternal. Churchmen are here among us, and are sometimes fallible. Do not condemn the Church for what some churchmen do.”

* * *

For all the humanness of Peter, we poor mortals, can identify with him. We draw inspiration from his spirit of repentance. Instead of giving in to despair like what Judas Iscariot did, he went out remorseful and “wept bitterly.”

We surely have our failings and weaknesses but what’s important is that we don’t give up on the mercy and love of God.

* * *

The story is told about the late Pope John Paul II. He visited a large prison facility in Rome. While conversing with some of them, one of the prisoners sheepishly approached him and mumbled, “Holy Father, will I still be forgiven?”

He must have committed a lot of crimes. The Holy Father embraced him lovingly, and that said it all. The gesture was like the father forgiving his wayward son in Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son.

Don’t ever despair. God orders us to throw our sins in the depths of the ocean and puts a sign, “No Fishing!”

*********************************************************************************************************

See Today’s Readings:  Cycle A

Back to: Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

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