Pastoral Sharings: "Who do you say that I am?"

Fr. Andrew M. Greeley

June 23013
Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time


Jesus loved surprises. His Father in heaven was the God of surprises, so it would naturally follow that Jesus reveled in surprising people with good things. In the Gospel today he surprises a woman who has been plagued by a physical problem, and the parents of a little girl thought to be dead. Both woman and the parents desperately hoped for a surprise. They were not sure there would be one, but they were at least open to the possibility. Jesus liked people who had the openness of spirit and mind to be ready for  surprises. Those who in the core of their personalities believed in a God of surprises. 

That’s just what The Father in heaven wants of all of us. 

Jesus would have had a much harder time helping the cynical, the sardonic, the bitter, the conniving who might want to purchase miracles from him. So the simple faith of these simple people occasioned the grace that Jesus had within him.


Once upon a time, a certain pastor, worn out from phone calls and summons to the office was slipping off to the land of Nod when a call came from the teenager who manned the office in the evening. Father, there’s a kind of cute elderly man down who wants to talk to you. “Kind of cute” meant that the young woman did not deem him dangerous. The man was well-dressed, handsome, genial, Yes, kind of cute.

Probably a nut said the pastor to himself. He wants to complain about the sermons last Sunday or the Bishop or the Pope. Yes, he said, not particularly happy to have been disturbed so late on a cold winter evening. You don’t remember me, do you, father? I’ve seen a lot of faces in the last forty years in a rectory. No reason to remember me. I was hitchhiking home from college because we didn’t have much money in those days and I borrow fifty dollars from you. I promised to pay you back and I never did. You were from Notre dame? That’s right, Father. What my kids call a Domer. I figured I’d better pay you back. What kind of interest do you charge?

The priest remembered that he had like the young man because of his grace and charm. No, interest he said. That wouldn’t be fair. The man took out his checkbook. How about two hundred percent, he said as the grinned and wrote a check. Could I bring in my kids and introduce them. Megan, he said to the teenager, who he knew had been listening at the door, could you make us a pot of tea?

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
June 23
, 2013

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 9:18-24

Gospel Summary

Jesus asks his disciples what the crowds were saying about him. Then he asked his disciples, “But who do you say I am?’ Peter replies, “The Christ of God.” Thereupon, Jesus says, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly…be killed and on the third day be raised.” Then Jesus says that anyone who wishes to follow him as a disciple must also be ready to give up his life for his sake.

Twelfth Sunday: Our Father Will Never Leave Us
Although last week was Father’s Day, I want to tell you a story about a Father that really fits today’s readings.  I believe Scott Hahn tells this story, but I am not sure it is uniquely his.   

The story takes place on December 7, 1988 in Spitak,  Armenia.  A horrible  earthquake had just struck, and a frenzied businessman ran from his office to his little boy’s school.  His son was a kindergartner.  He had dropped him off at school about four hours earlier and had said to him, as he said to him every day, “You be a good boy, and remember, you father loves you and will always care for you.”  And now an earthquake had hit.  The initial reports were that there was destruction in the area of his son’s school. 

Messianic Secret — the Meaning of the Cross
Jesus asks a simple question.  “Who do the crowds say that I am?”  (Luke 9:18)  All volunteer an answer, because describing other people’s opinions requires no personal commitment whatsoever.   But then Jesus asks them a tougher question: “Who do YOU say that I am?”  Answering this one entails sticking your neck out a bit.

The impetuous Peter blurts out what they are all secretly thinking.  “The Messiah!”

Just as we are getting ready to break into applause, Jesus throws us a curve ball.  “He strictly forbade them to tell this to anyone.”


Pope Tells Pilgrims: Selfish Living Leads to Slavery and Death
As he met with thousands of pro-life advocates from around the globe, Pope Francis stressed that the Gospel is the “way to freedom and life,” but lifestyles that are “dictated by selfishness” lead to slavery and death.

“Dear brothers and sisters,” the Pope urged, “let us look to God as the God of Life; let us look to his law, to the Gospel message, as the way to freedom and life. The living God sets us free.”

Audience: Unity in the Body of Christ
The Church is not an charitable, cultural or political association, but a living Body, that walks and acts in history. And this Body has a head, Jesus, who guides, nourishes and supports it”, said Pope Francis Wednesday as he continued his series of lessons on the Creed during his General Audience.

A boiling summer sun brought temperatures to a high of 29°s, but despite this St Peter’s square was packed by tens of thousands of pilgrims. In his catechesis he told them we must remain united to the Church lamenting the divisions among Christians which he says ‘wounds this Body’. He said differences in the Church can enrich us and help us grow, but “a Body must be united to survive.”

The Littlest Suffering Souls III: Brendan Kelly of Great Falls
Two weeks before his death at sixteen, Brendan Kelly’s aunt helped him into bed one night. Owing to massive steroid treatments to fight the ravages of chemo, and being a big boy anyway, he weighed more than 200 pounds. So it was difficult getting him to bed, made more difficult because large sores covered his whole body.

There was no place you could touch him that did not hurt. Except his head. She patted him there and Brendan said, “Aunt Kelly, I am so happy. All you need to be happy is to open your heart to Jesus.”

The Gift of the Sphragis
I was introduced to this word “sphragis” while studying the history of liturgy. The early Church Fathers called the ancient tradition of the imposition of the sign of the Cross on the forehead of the candidate at Baptism the “rite of the sphragis.” St. Basil wrote in the fourth century that it was among the oral traditions from the Apostles who taught us to mark with the sign of the Cross “those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The word referred to a mark impressed on wax to show possession and identity. The sign of the Cross is the sacramental seal that marks the forehead of those who belong to Christ.

If God is Real, Why Won’t He Show Himself?
The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said that “just as important as the truth, and of the two the even more important one, is the mode in which the truth is accepted, and it is of slight help if one gets millions to accept the truth if by the very mode of their acceptance they are transposed into untruth.”

God hides himself so we will come to him in the right mode. He is not an object. He is not an old man in the sky, available to our observation, nor a slight grease on the surface of all things, available to our scientific probing. God is love. What merit is it to know of God’s existence as a man knows the existence of his right foot? God doesn’t want our observation, nor our pitiful attempts to “prove” his existence — he wants our love. He wants to be known in truth, as he is, as love, which is only known in the act of loving.

When God Says “No”
Have you ever prayed really hard about a decision – perhaps one involving a new job or a new relationship – and you were absolutely certain that God would answer your prayer in a specific way? You would get the job, the guy or girl, the promotion or the recognition for work well done. But you didn’t.

Have you experienced the hope for a love returned only to have it rejected? Or perhaps you were the lead candidate in a job search, but the company picked someone else? How about being nominated for an award or scholarship, but, nope, this wasn’t your lucky day?

Four Reasons I Think Jesus Really Existed
A small handful of scholars today, and a much larger group of Internet commenters, maintain that Jesus never existed. Proponents of this position, known as mythicists, claim that Jesus is a purely mythical figure invented by the writers of the New Testament (or its later copyists.) In this post I’ll offer the top four reasons (from weakest to strongest) that convince me Jesus of Nazareth was a real person without relying on the Gospel accounts of his life.

Why God is Father, not Mother
Why do we say, “Our Father” and not “Our Mother”? God the Father, it would seem, does not have sexual organs of gender. Why then is He God the Father?

Lately, we have been exploring the way the culture of death manipulates the words of our language to gain ground in the culture war. So far, we’ve looked at Enlightenment use of the term “individual” and then, more recently, the phrases “gay marriage” and “marriage equality.”

We are observing the careful strategy to strip “personhood” away from what it means to be human. Ultimately, this is a demonic attempt to undermine the way we know God as Father.

Mary is Not as Far Out There as We Think
“I hate to admit it,” my friend confided in me. “But, I really have a difficult time feeling close to the Virgin Mary. She’s just so far out there.”
She paused and revealed the rest of her dilemma to me. “I have an even harder time with the Church’s teaching that we should imitate her.”
My friend had no problem with the Church teaching itself – it’s absolutely clear to her why we should imitate Mary. It’s the how that gives her trouble.

Faith of Our Fathers
There is a pious tradition that, when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles on Pentecost, each enunciated one of the 12 articles of the Apostles’ Creed.

Though this is not historical, the early Church made use of this story to teach an important truth: The faith of the apostles is the foundation of our faith.

The War is in Your Soul – An Enemy Within
Who is your greatest enemy? The friend who hurt you so badly years ago? Someone who persecutes you? The government? The devil?

Let me suggest that your greatest enemy is yourself. God made you to be with Him forever. Your divinely appointed destiny is to enter eternal bliss and be perfectly happy for ever.

But there is only one person in the world that can lose that for you. Only one person can forfeit eternal beatitude: You

The Time of your Eternal Life
It is not long to go until World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. And what a World Youth Day it will be. The first World Youth Day with a new pope, a South American pope, and in South America.
Many younger generation Catholics have an experience of World Youth Day.
The World Youth Day movement was started in 1985 by Pope John Paul II, who invited youth from all over the world to celebrate with him in Rome. Since then, World Youth Day (WYD) has been held annually in dioceses as well regularly around the world on a larger scale. At an international WYD large numbers of young people gather around the Pope for a week of celebration and catechesis, culminating in a large final WYD mass.

Does God have favorites?
Q: Dear Father John, This is a question that has been bothering me for quite a while. I heard that God has favorites. Admittedly that seems obvious enough in the Bible. But I can’t imagine God loving some people more than others. At the same time, I can’t help but have a twinge of jealousy when I hear how close other people are to Him. I wish my relationship with Him was just as close. What does it mean for God to have favorites? Does it mean He loves some people more than others? Is it sinful to wish you had the same intimate relationship with Him? 

Overcoming Suffering with Love
Recently, a friend told me that he was studying the life of Blessed Alexandrina Maria da Costa. Blessed Alexandrina was chosen by God to be a “victim soul” – one who offers up her suffering for the sake of others in union with the cross of Christ.

She suffered tremendously, experiencing near paralysis, great misunderstandings from family and friends, and even lived out the last 13 years of her life consuming nothing other than the Holy Eucharist. For nearly four years, she mystically experienced the three-hour “passion” of Jesus every Friday, having received the mystical grace to live in her body and soul the suffering of Christ in his final hours. From her deeply contemplative life, she commented that she had received from God “an even greater grace: first, abandonment; then, complete conformity to God’s will; finally, the thirst for suffering.”

Show Catholic Courage at Work
How many times have we missed opportunities to stand up for Christ or share our faith? Is it the conversation we avoid with a troubled co-worker? Is it our refusal to publicly make the Sign of the Cross and say a blessing over our meals? Is it our reluctance to stand up to someone who is attacking the Church?

Too often, a misplaced concern for the possible negative opinions of those around us keeps us from embracing our responsibilities.

A Witnessed Moment of Heartbreaking Love
I was recently with the kids at our local bookstore. We were all seated in the café reading books when an older woman walked in with a young man I assumed was her son. He was about 25 years old and using a walker and was obviously straining with each step. She was mothering him and clearly panicked by each step.

I could see he grew frustrated with her putting her hand on his back and his walker and her whispered urgent instructions to “be careful” and “easy does it.”

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