Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Keys to the Kingdom

By Peter Paul Rubens

Scripture scholar Steve Ray of explains the meaning of today’s Gospel:

“From the obscure fishing village of Capernaum on the shores of Galilee, Simon son of John rose to great prominence in the early Church… Jesus bestowed special prerogatives on Peter, recounted in Matthew 16:13-20. Peter is given a new name, which in Scripture denotes a change in status or position (e.g., Gen 17:4-5). Jesus spoke Aramaic and gave Simon the Aramaic name Kepha (Rock) which is is “Petra” in Greek and “Peter” in English… Jesus is the builder and Peter is the rock foundation.

Jesus chose Caesarea Philippi as the backdrop for the Petrine appointment. Here Herod had built a temple to Caesar Augustus atop the massive rock, a center of pagan worship and a source of the Jordan River. At the rock base was a gaping cavern referred to by the pagans as the “gates of hell”. Standing before the “temple” built to the “divine Caesar”, Jesus revealed God’s plan to build his new “temple”, the Church, to the true God with Peter as the solid rock.

… Jesus promises to give Peter the “keys of the kingdom of heaven”-a reference to the steward’s keys in Isaiah 22… Keys represent exclusive dominion and this authority was granted to Peter alone. The office of royal steward was successive in Israel… the Jews certainly understand that the office of Peter would be filled by successors as was the royal steward’s office in Judah. The steward may die, but the office continues.

As the steward of Christ’s kingdom, Peter is given the authority to bind and loose… scholar M. Vincent explains, “No other terms were in more constant use in Rabbinic canon-law than those of binding and loosing. They represented the legislative and judicial powers of the Rabbinic office. These powers Christ now transferred . . . in their reality, to his apostles; the first, here to Peter.”


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Adopted into God's Family

“The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD… loving the name of the LORD, and becoming his servants… I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer.” Is 56:6-7
Today’s readings show how the blessings originally meant for Israel, the chosen people of God, are now showered on the foreigner and the alien, because of the generosity of God and the faith shown by these outsiders. We Catholics, once foreigners and Gentiles ourselves, have become the new chosen people. The Church has been entrusted with the great gift of the New Covenant. Within her, God is present in the Eucharist; Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. She possesses the infinite treasure of God’s Word in the Scripture, and has been given the authority to forgive sin.
Our response to God’s generosity must be one of faith and gratitude, never forgetting the great mercy He has shown us. If we take God’s gifts for granted, forgetting to keep the commandments and to honor the Lord in all we do, we also could lose the graces and gifts meant for us. Do we respond with gratitude, offering God praise and worship, expressing love for Him in all we do? Do we recognize His presence with us at every Mass, spend time with Him in Adoration, meditate on His Word, ask His forgiveness for our sins, pray to Him when we rise in the morning, and remember His mercy every evening at the setting of the sun?
Every day is a new opportunity for renewing our faith, loving God and neighbor, remembering to show our gratitude for every blessing we receive, and our willingness to take up every cross, appreciating the great mercy and love God our Father has for us. Remain close to Jesus, ask every day for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and always remember to thank God for inviting us, the stranger and the alien, into His house of prayer.



Sunday, August 13, 2017

Faith Amid the Storms

"I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen."
Romans 9:1-5

In today’s second reading, Paul expresses great sorrow that many of his beloved Jewish brothers and sisters have failed to recognize the coming of their long-awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ. Paul, once a persecutor of the Christians himself, mourns for those who are still in the darkness of unbelief. He is even willing to suffer the loss of his own salvation for their sake.
Later in this letter, Paul also recognizes God’s mercy working through Israel’s unfaithfulness, which has opened the way for the Gentiles to be saved. Paul trusts that the time will come when the Jews, the chosen people, will be grafted back into the tree of life, becoming stronger than ever, if only they come to believe.
Most of us have loved ones who have left the faith for one reason or another, and we can relate to Paul’s heartfelt anguish. We pray for our loved ones, we hope for their return and suffer because of their absence. We would give anything to help them find their way back.  While we await the return of our loved ones, we, like Paul, must patiently trust in God’s plan, placing our hope His merciful love.
Today’s Gospel story shows us that even the Apostles experienced the doubts and fears that caused their faith to falter. As their ship is tossed about in the storm, they don’t recognize Jesus when He approaches them, walking on water. Jesus reassures them, telling them not to fear. Only Peter steps out of the boat, but even he quickly loses faith and begins to sink. Jesus reaches out to save Peter and calm the storm. In doing so, He strengthens the faith of all the Apostles, who praise Him as the Son of God.
Our loved ones may be facing their own storms of unbelief, doubt, and fear. But trust in God to use even these trials to draw them, and many others with them, back to Him, strengthening their faith and finally grafting them back into the tree of life.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Transfiguration

From a homily by St. Leo the Great on the meaning of the Transfiguration:

“The Lord reveals his glory in the presence of chosen witnesses. His body is like that of the rest of mankind, but he makes it shine with such splendor that his face becomes like the sun in glory, and his garments as white as snow.

The great reason for this transfiguration was to remove the scandal of the cross from the hearts of his disciples, and to prevent the humiliation of his voluntary suffering from disturbing the faith of those who had witnessed the surpassing glory that lay concealed…he was also providing a firm foundation for the hope of holy Church. The whole body of Christ was to understand the kind of transformation that it would receive as his gift. The members of that body were to look forward to a share in that glory which first blazed out in Christ their head.

The Lord had himself spoken of this when he foretold the splendor of his coming: Then the just will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Saint Paul bore witness to this same truth when he said: I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not to be compared to the future glory that is to be revealed in us. In another place he says: When Christ, your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory…

The radiance of the transfiguration reveals clearly and unmistakably the one who had been promised by signs foretelling him under the veils of mystery. As Saint John says: The law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ…

When it comes to obeying the commandments or enduring adversity, the words uttered by the Father should always echo in our ears: ‘This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’”


Nicholas Kristof's Birth Control Advice Hurts Women and Demeans the Poor

Photo from     My response to a New York Times article by Nicholas Kristof promoting birth control for teens was ...