Pastoral Sharings: "21st Sunday in Ordinary Time"


Homily from Father James Gilhooley
21 Ordinary Time

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time – A Cycle –
Matthew 16:13-20

Without the 19th century essayist Charles Lamb, William
Shakespeare would be Missing in Action. It was Lamb’s
essays that snatched the 17th century playwright from
obscurity after he was famous for Andy Warhol’s fifteen minutes.

One night Lamb and his guests were chatting about Bill Shakespeare over Madeira port and illegal Cuban cigars. “Supposing,” one asked Lamb, “Shakespeare were to stroll into our dining room at this moment.” The essayist replied, “We would raise a glass of port to the great man.” “Supposing,” asked another, “Jesus were to come here.” Lamb answered, “We would get down on our knees.”

There is the difference between the Man from Nazareth and other great people you can think of. The Christ is God and all others, no matter what their deeds, are but actors strutting on the stage for a brief time and then exiting.

When today’s Gospel opens, Jesus was in Caesarea Philippi in the northeastern corner of Palestine. There the FBI and paparazzi would not look for Him. This was not His usual territory. The sand in His clock was running out. A barbaric cross awaited Him. Yet, He had much to teach the twelve before He could give them their theology doctorates. This was quality classroom time.

This, too, is one of the most decisive periods in Christ’s life. Though He was aware of His divinity, were His own people equally aware? He realized He had a rendezvous to keep with His executioners. Thus, He had to know whether the apostles had any inkling whom they were traveling with. The right answer to His question would make His day, even His life. The wrong answer would mean He was a loser. Three years of hard work would go down the tubes.

So, He put the question to them that went to the heart of the matter, “Who do you say I am?” Imagine how His skin must have crawled with pleasure when Peter acting as spokesman for the others told Him He was “the Son of the living God.”

Surely neither Peter nor any of the apostles with the possible exception of the young and sharp John could have given a precise theological explanation of that accolade. But every mother’s son of them knew in his guts that the highest human terms one could think of were totally inadequate to categorize their Leader. He was an original.

It is not enough to learn what others, even apostles, say about the Teacher. One could write an encyclopedia about the Christ and still not be a card-carrying Christian. One might spellbind one’s friends by telling them about all the thousands of volumes written on the eternal Galilean and still not be a believer. Jewish theologians have written beautifully on Jesus, but they do not believe. (William Barclay)

To each baptized, Jesus leans over and whispers, “But YOU…who do YOU say I am?” That question will never go away.

In their artistic works, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Georges Rouault, Franco Zeffirelli. Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Mel Gibson have all given their answers to the Master’s searing question.

Now it is our turn to step up to the plate and take a swing. The Nazarene must forever be one’s discovery. Our knowledge of Him can never be something that stays in a closet. It must be outed. Christianity does not mean memorizing the Nicene Creed. Rather, it does mean knowing our Saviour.

Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, assassinated in 1980 while defending Jesus, said eloquently: “Christianity is not a collection of truths to be believed or laws to be obeyed. Rather, Christianity is a person. Christianity is Christ.”

Governor Pilate asked Jesus if He was in fact the King of the Jews. Christ, though exhausted and barely able to stand, shot back a query like an automatic machine gun, “Does this question come from you or have others told you about me?” (John 18:34)

When St Paul was writing to young Timothy on his word processor, he did not write, “I know what I have believed.” Rather he typed in his best hunt and peck manner, “I know WHOM I have believed.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

We must join to our belief John’s text of Christ that says, “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do.” Like Christ, we must turn the community about us upside down. True faith produces a life full of actions, not a head full of facts; Christ came not to make us feel good but to do good. (Unknown)

If we bypass the question “Who is Christ?” by saying, “Let’s talk about me instead!”, we trivialize Christ’s challenge to us. Are you a follower of Jesus or just a distant admirer? (Unknown)

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
August 24, 2014

If No One Is Pope, Everyone is Pope. A Homily for the 21st Sunday of the Year
The Gospel today sets forth the biblical basis for the Office of Peter, the Office of the Papacy, for Peter’s successors are the Popes. The word “Pope” is simply an English version (via Anglo-Saxon and Germanic tongues) of the word “papa.” The Pope is affectionately called “Papa” in Italian and Spanish as an affectionate indication that he is the father of the family, the Church.

That Peter receives an office, and not simply a charismatic designation we will discuss later. As to certain objections regarding the office of the Papacy, we will also deal later. But for now lets look at the basic establishment of the Office of Peter in three steps.

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Gospel (Read Mt 16:13-20)

Today’s Gospel is so familiar to Catholics that the potential for missing the punch it packs is inordinately high. If ever we are challenged on our belief in the papacy, we always look to this passage to begin our defense. We see that when Jesus quizzes the apostles about His developing reputation, they are well aware of what people were saying. This helps us understand that there was a buzz in the air about Jesus. The apostles had families and friends; they heard the conjectures about the itinerant preacher/miracle worker. The Jews, from their own history, had lots of ideas of who Jesus might be—Elijah, Jeremiah, or “one of the prophets.” Some even thought the spirit of the now dead John the Baptist had somehow come back to live in Jesus. Then comes the pivotal question: “But who do you say that I am?” We should move through this familiar part of the passage slowly if we are to let its importance register.

Twenty-first Sunday: The One Who Holds the Keys
This Sunday we are presented with two figures who are given keys.  The first is Eliakim.  Eliakim was the secretary to Shebna the Master of King Hezekiah’s palace back in the 8th century before Christ.  According the first reading from Isaiah, Shebna lost favor with the Lord and was replaced by Eliakim.  Isaiah goes on to say that God placed the keys of the Kingdom on Eliakim’s shoulder.  He would be Master of the Palace and the one through whom others would have to go to get access to the King.

he Gospel reading presents Peter as receiving the keys of the Kingdom of God.  Like Eliakim, he would determine who has access to the King.  Peter is usually pictured as having carrying large keys, representing the authority given to him by the Lord.

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 16: 13-20

The reading from the prophet Isaiah that we hear at mass today: “I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open” is the lyrical muse for the beautiful antiphon “O Clavis David…” which the Church sings in the divine office every Advent, on December twentieth. This antiphon accompanies the Marian hymn known as the Magnificat and is intended to remind us—sung as it is in anticipation of the Nativity—that the promises of God whose fulfillment has been awaited since the time of King David are brought to completion in Jesus Christ.

Why the Pope must be infallible, even if he’s not impeccable
And I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

We do not hesitate to assert the Christ Jesus is the true rock upon which the Catholic Church is built – how could there be any other? And yet, we likewise affirm that Peter is the rock upon which Christ has built his Church; for the Greek is clear: “Peter” is petros while “rock” is petra, and the Aramaic would be clearer yet as the one word used for both was cepha.

Holy Hour: Healing Through Forgiveness
Through many dark days and nights, Jesus the Eternal High Priest carried me through tumultuous waters. My encounters with Jesus during daily Holy Hours undoubtedly saved my family as the cross bore down upon us.

We, The Church Militant
Well, here we are in the 21st century Catholic Church. We have survived all of the liturgical innovations brought to us by the “spirit of Vatican II,” including clown masses, balloon masses, puppet masses, homemade banners, horrible liturgical music (Sons of God, anyone?), and somewhat-less-than-awe-inspiring architecture for new churches.  For sure, Vatican II was a great Holy Spirit-inspired Church Council, and its sixteen documents are blueprints for a great future of the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church of Jesus Christ.

Redemptive Suffering
The fear of suffering, pain, and death may seem like unconquerable mysteries. My time here at CPE [Clinical Pastoral Education] has helped me to understand, via experience, that they are not necessarily things that need to be conquered. No amount of faith excludes us from experience pain, loneliness, and death. Money, power, and other earthly things often make these three experiences worse as well.

Practicing Vocal Prayer
There are two broad divisions of prayer: vocal and mental. We shall consider these forms of prayer in some detail so that our notion of prayer may be well rounded and as accurate as possible.

Vocal prayer is prayer in word or action. Since man is com­posed of soul and body, he must use not only his mind in prayer, but also his body and its senses for the glory of God. You express your interior sentiments and reverence for God in articulated words or in bodily posture, such as kneeling, stand­ing, bowing, or folding your hands. Vocal prayer can be as pleasing to God and as useful to you as mental prayer is.

On Revelation
The word “revelation” means that something that is not known is made manifest or clear. If I maintain that nothing can be “revealed” to me, I imply either: a) that I am myself omniscient; or, b) that nothing intelligible, not already known, can come to me except what is accessible to human knowledge by its own finite powers.

Coming to Terms With Our Inner Samuel – Don’t ignore the Bible’s violence. Understand it.
My Episcopal church uses its lectionary to decide what particular readings it will use throughout the year, but those texts often have what seem like strange omissions. In one cycle, for instance, we work through the books of Samuel, and the stories of kings Saul and David. To an attentive listener, though, there are puzzling holes in the plot, threads of the narrative that the church seems determined to avoid. In fact, my church, like most others, tries to navigate around one of the most distressing stories in the Bible, a scripture that has incited real bloodshed through history. The motives for excluding such texts are obvious enough, but there must be a better way of responding to them than simply pretending they are just not there.

Did Jesus Really Die and Rise?
Christian belief boils down to one thing: The literal, bodily resurrection of a man named Jesus, who lived in first century Palestine.

If Jesus of Nazareth did not die on a Roman cross, if he was not buried, and if he did not rise again on the third day, alive, then you have no reason to give him or Christianity another thought. But if he did, then he deserves your full attention. As C.S. Lewis said, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

Angels, Anointing and Peace at the Last
Twice in the last three days I have had the privilege of attending the death bed of an old woman.

In both cases the dear souls were surrounded by loved ones, and in both cases they were struggling in the final stages of their lives.

Friendship with Christ Jesus
When I arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1986 shortly after my ordination at the hands of St. Pope John Paul II, I was contemplating a compelling portrait of Jesus. It was an image of His Sacred Heart, with flames of fire radiating from His Heart. However, what seemed to really captivate me most in the moment, were six words in Spanish that have been almost a motto of my life as Catholic, Religious and priest, and follower of Christ. These words were: “Jesus, el Amigo que nunca falla.” Translation:  “Jesus, the Friend that never fails!”

Being Catholic MeansYou May Risk Losing Friends
We all need to remember that, when it comes to pursuing spiritual maturity, our own efforts are never enough. On the other hand, St. Thomas Aquinas reminded us many centuries ago that “grace builds on nature,” and that means that we can do a lot to create a favorable climate for God’s grace to be fruitful, to take root in our souls and bear abundant fruit, “some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:8).

Why Catholicism is the True Religion
I recently met a man, about sixty-five years old, who, after I told him what I do, related this story: “When I was in Catholic high school, I asked one of the brothers, ‘How do we know that of all the religions in the world Catholicism is the right one?’ This question had been bugging me, and I was anxious to hear his answer. He replied, ‘We don’t know. We have to take it on faith.’ His response completely deflated me.”

Was Your Prayer a Failure?
This was one of the questions a journalist asked Pope Francis on the plane ride back to Rome from Korea:

Given what has happened in Gaza, was the Prayer for Peace held in the Vatican on June 8 a failure?

Pope Francis answered, in part (according to the English transcript reporter Gerald O’Connell wrote up, first published in America:

The 12 Step Biblical Guide to the Pope and Infallibility
Listers, the Office of the Papacy and Infallibility are biblical gifts to the Church. According to the Gospels, St. Peter – the first to be given the Office of the Papacy – was commissioned by Christ to be the vicar of the kingdom of God, to strengthen the faithful, and to be the chief shepherd of the Lord’s flock. In short, the Vicar governs the kingdom according to the King’s laws until the King returns. The following list is meant to demonstrate the strong biblical argument for the papacy, but it is certainly not an exhaustive list. Catholics should be weary of proof-texting – a subpar hermeneutic that seeks to support ideas by stringing together selective Scriptures – for a few reasons. First, Holy Scripture should always be viewed holistically. A single verse that can be tortured to read a certain way is not a legitimate reading of Scripture. The list at hand seeks to avoid proof-texting by offering a wide range of Scriptures from both the New and Old Testaments supported by historical and linguistic insights.

What were the Rituals Associated with Death and Burial in Jesus’ Day?
The Jewish people took the burial of the dead quite seriously; it was the way a community paid its last respects to the one who died. The Scriptures laid down quite firmly that no dead body was to be left unburied—even that of one’s worst enemy. Perhaps one of the stronger horrors that a Jewish person could imagine was stated in Psalm 78: They have thrown the bodies of thy servants as food for the birds of heaven; wild beast feast on the corpses of the just.

Uniting With Christ Through Our Senses
How do we perceive the Divine and communicate with God as beings who possess both physical and spiritual senses?

Some ascetics might try to starve their physical senses to sharpen their inner senses, but such a notion seems to me to be contrary to Catholic wisdom and practice. The Catholic Church  repudiates Gnosticism, realizing that believers come to a fuller sense of Christ through the totality of their human person.

Parenting Wisdom in Shorthand
In recent decades, we have seen Satan engage the world as never before. In all of human history we have never witnessed evil promoted so effectively, while virtue, character, and morals are roundly mocked and rejected. Meanwhile, it could be said that the Mystical Body — the Church — has never been so unprepared for and unengaged in the challenging mission of spiritual warfare. It is obvious that Satan’s forces are well trained and well organized, while ours clearly are not. At the very beginnings of our great nation, Sir Edmund Burke warned, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Not only divorced from marriage, divorced from reality.” An essay on the ugliness of divorce
Some years ago a woman (and parishioner) told me, almost in passing,  that she and her husband were planning to divorce. Knowing that she had two young children, both under 10, I asked her in so many words, “What about the children?” Unabashedly she assured me that they were in fact divorcing for the sake of the children. Perhaps she saw my bewildered, dubious look, so she added, “We don’t want them to experience all the yelling and bickering.” “Hmmm … ,” I said. “Well then stop the bickering and yelling. Get whatever help you need, but don’t make the kids pay even more for your problems.”

A Winning Program for Renewal
Recently, I wrote here about the perils and benefits of technology. Assuming that many of you are on your way to freedom from serious addiction to technology, I hope you have more time to dedicate to the most challenging task of our time – re-conversion  of a once-great country (America) and civilization (the West), both now swimming in hedonism and practical atheism.

Are Saints New Revelation?
It seems, said my friend, that the Church contradicts itself. On the one hand, Catholic teaching declares revelation complete with the close of the apostolic era. Yet consider the canonization of, say, Joan of Arc. It appears a Catholic must believe one of the following:

1. Revelation continues. It was revealed to the Pope in 1920 that Joan of Arc was in heaven.

2. Revelation ended with the apostles, but before the Ascension, Christ gave Peter a long list of those who would eventually be canonized and Joan’s name was on the list.

3. There is no revelation concerning Joan of Arc and we have no way of knowing where she is now.

The First 10 Popes of the Catholic Church
Listers, we’ve catalogued the first ten Vicars of Christ for the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Save the information on our first pope – St. Peter – all the information presented is taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia and links for further reading are provided.

1. Pope St. Peter (32-67)

St. Peter held a primacy amongst the twelve disciples that earned him the title “Prince of the Apostles.” This primacy of St. Peter was solidified when he was appointed by Jesus to the Office of the Vicar – demonstrated by Christ giving St. Peter the Keys to the Kingdom.

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