We Are Little People

WeeklyMessageFr. Philip Bloom
25th Sunday In Ordinary Time
September 23, 2012

Bottom line: We are little people. Jesus tells us what it means to take up the cross and follow him – to be little people and to embrace other little people in his name.

Last Sunday we saw Jesus “set his face like flint” toward Jerusalem. In that city he would fulfill his destiny, his mission. His mission is this: “to suffer greatly…be rejected…and killed…” Peter tried to dissuade him, but Jesus rebuked him harshly, “Get behind me, you Satan.” Then he told his disciples to take up the cross and follow him.

Today Jesus repeats his announcement of the Passion, once again with the hint of resurrection. How do the disciples respond to this? With singular obtuseness. I was going to say, male obtuseness – but that might not be fair. At any rate, they failed to take Jesus’ words seriously. They simply did not get it.

Instead of asking Jesus what he meant, they started arguing about who was the greatest. They began telling each other about their personal accomplishments. Maybe the conversation went something like this:

–I am not bragging (the credit goes to God) but I did heal five people last week.

–Well, I brought in forty denarii in donations. Get realistic, guys, can’t do anything without money.

–I was talking to some folks in Jerusalem, real movers and shakers. We are going to need them on our side.

–Oh, I’ve been working so hard lately I can barely move, but let me tell you about it.

–What a crowd turned out for the talk I gave! Made some converts to our cause.

–If someone listened to my suggestion, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

In the context of that discussion, Jesus brings forward a child. It is like holding a freshly hatched chick up to strutting roosters. Why is the master interested in someone so paltry when he has myself, moi, right in front of him? The apostles want others to think they are “somebody.” Jesus presents them with one who in that culture is a “nobody.”

In Jesus’ day a child’s opinion counted for nothing. He was supposed to keep quiet. He had no “rights.” He was not “his own person” – he belonged to his father. In Jesus’ time, they had no romantic notions about a child being “innocent.” Rather they believed a child needed regular correction and discipline.

When Jesus says, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me,” he is identifying himself with the bottom rung of society. And telling his disciples to do the same.

A lovely hymn says, “‘Tis a gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be free, ’tis a gift to come down where we out to be.” Jesus is asking us to come down – to recognize that we are little people and to embrace other little people. I think about people who dedicate themselves to the troubled child – or the troubled adult. Not glamorous, often not even a grateful task – but by doing so, they receive Jesus. The greatness of the Church – and of each individual Christian comes from corporal and spiritual works of mercy.*

You and I are not rich and famous; we are not the great and the powerful. We are little people. Jesus tells us what it means to take up the cross and follow him – to be little people and to embrace other little people in his name. Amen.


*For a practical approach that helps ordinary Christians (like you and me) gain new insight and new motivation, I recommend The Work of Mercy by Mark Shea.


Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
September 23, 2012

25th Sunday: The Call to be Kind and Compassionate
Why are some people so mean? Why are some people so cruel? Sadly, these are questions that even our little children ask. In fact, one of the most difficult responsibilities of raising a child is helping the child cope with those in his or her class, among his or her teammates, who are mean and cruel. Some parents have to approach this topic as early as Early Childhood and Primary Grades. Certainly, the mean behavior of others is a reality in Middle School, High School and College as well as in the workplaces and neighborhoods of our lives. The basic plot of so many novels and movies revolves around people who are mean and cruel. And there is a sad realization of all our lives is that it doesn’t take much for us to join others in treating people poorly..

Anatomy of Envy
Envy, one of the seven deadly sins, is different from jealousy; it is darker and much more dangerous. The Bible, in both New and Old Testaments, provides us some notable examples of it.
Recently a prominent CEO told a mixed group of business leaders that, regardless of their religion, they simply had to read the Bible. Why? Because success in business depends not so much upon understanding financial reports as it does upon understanding people. And when it comes to a book that reveals what makes people tick, there is none better than the Bible.

Mary Guards the Truth about Our Relationship to God
In the virginity of Mary, we see reflected to us the essential truth of the Gospel: that it’s God who is the author of our salvation. That’s as deeply offensive to us today as it has ever been, because people don’t want to hear that we can no more save ourselves than a corpse can jump. We are much more comfortable thinking of ourselves as heroes who achieve something great and earn the respect of God and our peers through our achievements. In short, we believe in power, not love. It is the poison that has gnawed at our vitals since the serpent bit us in the Garden. It is pride.

Meet the Less-Famous Doctors of the Church.
It’s an exciting time for those of us Catholics who follow news on the saints – two new Doctors of the Church are about to be proclaimed on October 7th! St. Hildegard of Bingen and St John of Avila will soon be declared as being teachers of the faith par excellence, and I for one couldn’t be more thrilled at this.

But it brings to light something I’ve noticed about the Doctors of the Church – while a good chunk of these 33 Doctors so far are well known, there is a portion of them too that never seem to be talked about at all.

What Are Dogma, Doctrine, and Theology?
Many people are curious about the difference between dogma and doctrine. I’m asked about it surprisingly often.
It would be nice if the Church had an official dictionary I could use to answer this question, but it doesn’t.

The Most Important Thing You’ll Never Do for the Year of Faith
The Year of Faith is starting soon.
And, Pope Benedict has asked everyone to study the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
But you’ll never do it.
Oh, you’ve wanted to for a long time. You know you should do it. But it’s so big! And it’s kind of…dry.

Trust and Obey
When I was a child I was taught the Sunday School song, “Trust and Obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to Trust and Obey.”

So this morning at Mass this song comes back to me in the reading of the gospel. It is the story of the healing of the centurion’s servant. A new understanding of this story and of faith hit me square between the eyes. Here’s a clip:

Explaining Away the Greatest Miracle of Jesus’ Ministry
Of all the many miracles Jesus performed during his earthly ministry (that is, before his passion, death, and Resurrection), there is one that stands out: the feeding of the five thousands.
Unlike any other miracle from his ministry, this one is recorded in all four gospels is the feeding of the five thousand.

Taking note of those who create dissent
This may come as a shocker but, as a Catholic, I support traditional marriage. As a Catholic, I am also pro-life. And, as a Catholic, I find it deeply offensive that the President of the United States would use the coercive power of the federal government to force Catholic organizations to go against their moral teaching.
Caroline Kennedy feels differently. Even though she describes herself as a Catholic, Kennedy thinks it’s important to expand access to contraception and abortion-inducing drugs, and that it’s the responsibility of the federal government to do so. How do I know? She said so herself at the Democratic National Convention

Expert: “Jesus’s Wife” Fragment a Modern Forger
It may not be a smoking gun, but it’s Col. Mustard in the Conservatory. The awesome Dale Price turned up this story in the Guardian, which is based on this report by Francis Watson of Durham University, first shared by Mark Goodacre.

What’s the proof? The fragment appears to have been composed from pieces of other texts, primarily the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, and cobbled together by a modern forger unfamiliar with Coptic. In short, it’s a collage. And not a very good one.

Avoiding Cooperation with Evil: Keeping Your Nose Clean in a Dirty World
The most important distinction, when it comes to evaluating cooperation in evil, is the distinction between formal and material cooperation—formal cooperation being always wrong, while material cooperation might be wrong if a person does not have a sufficient reason to cooperate.
Should a Catholic nurse help care for women who are in the hospital for an abortion? Can a Catholic taxi driver accept a passenger who asks to be taken to a strip-club? May a Catholic postman deliver pornographic magazines? Is it right to pay taxes when part of it is being used to fund In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and experimentation on embryos? These are real questions facing upright people in the modern world. What all the above questions have in common is that they are questions about cooperating with evil.

Gospel of Thomas: A Few Thoughts and Some Excerpts
One thing to keep in mind with the Jesus’s wife story is that it’s all bound up in trends and obsessions in certain academic quarters devoted to study the Christian Gnostics. One of their chief texts is the “Gospel” of Thomas, a text dating to the late 2nd century or later. Thomas is important because it tells us a great deal about Gnostic beliefs, but it’s also important in modern debates as a litmus test for academic credibility.

A Bit About Angels.
Angels seem to be badly understood today. Often when attending a child’s death I hear someone say “Well you have an angel in heaven now”. But people do not become angels in heaven; we remain human souls. I was only recently asked, “What are these dominations, powers and virtues we hear about in the new translation?” My answer, “They’re angels” is of no help to many, who think there are but angels, archangels and nothing else. I think then, that a brief look at angels might be of help to those who have not received any instruction on angels in their lifetime as a Catholic.

An angel is a being who is pure spirit and whose privilege it is to praise God continually in heaven while enjoying the vision of His glory.

Letting Our Kids Struggle and Fail
One of the defining moments in my youngest son’s life occurred on a Saturday a few years ago. He had been working hard for over two years to earn his black belt in Taekwondo and was participating in an all-city testing event to determine if he was ready. He executed his kicks and moves flawlessly during the day and you could feel the tension and excitement growing as the kids approached the final test: breaking a board with a flying kick. The students had two chances to break the board and his first kick failed. There was enormous pressure on him at the end of this long day to break the board or he would not earn his black belt and have to wait another four months to be re-tested. His turn came and with a determined

Leaders Like Christ (Mark 9:30-37)
Mark 9:30-37: After leaving that place they made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know, because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them, ‘The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him. They came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ They said nothing because they had been arguing which of them was the greatest. So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and

What to do about the Continuing Threat to Religious Liberty – Will we surrender to Christ or to Caesar?
Our focus at the Integrated Catholic Life™ is to help fellow Catholics integrate their Catholic Faith throughout their daily lives. In other words, living the Catholic Faith means more than attending Mass on Sundays.
To be Catholic requires that we live out our lives guided by the teachings of Jesus Christ… in the home, in the workplace, in the public square and in the marketplace; and not just while we are within the four walls of the church on Sunday mornings.

Until Death Do Us Part
During the first session of marriage preparation, I ask the couple a simple question: Why are you getting married? They typically look at each other for a while and then respond, “We’re in love” or “We’re compatible.” Sadly, I almost never hear, “I believe with all my heart that God has put this person in my life to help me get to heaven” or “I truly believe with all my soul that my fiancée will help me become more of the person who God created and calls me to be.”
When a man and a woman enter into a marriage covenant, they promise unending love and devotion to each other, regardless of their circumstances, for the rest of their lives until death. In this exchange of life and love, they share all that they are and all that they will become. The spouses-to-be promise to nurture and support each other so that they will always grow deeper in their love for God and each other. When they give themselves to each other totally and completely as husband and wife, their union bears witness to God’s plan for marriage: a sacramental covenant of loving and life-giving communion.

Justin Bieber’s Mom Explains Why She Rejected an Abortion
Last year, Justin Bieber made waves around the world for proclaiming himself pro-life. But a new interview his mom gave to the Today show’s Kathie Lee Gifford provides an extraordinarily background as to why Bieber may oppose abortion — his mom chose life.
Justin Bieber’s mother, Pattie Mallette, explained to “Today,” in an interview that will air this week, about the sexual abuse she suffered before becoming pregnant and how she was determined to make it through a difficult pregnancy situation and give birth to Bieber.

TV star Donna D’Errico on her Catholic faith
In recent news, Donna D’Errico, former prime time TV star, has been talking about her renewed Catholic faith. I first read about this at Catholic Vote. The story was in reference to an interview she did with Fox411, in which she expressed her affinity for the Divine Liturgy and the Rosary. See also her recent interview at Ignitum Today. Pro-Catholic stories like Donna’s among the world of celebrities are uncommon. As a follow to that interview, I asked her if she would answer a few short interview questions for my blog, and she was kind enough to reply. Here is her interview with The Catholic Voyager:


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