Pastoral Sharings: "22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 31, 2014

Last week we heard in our Gospel reading about Peter’s
spontaneous profession of faith “You are the Christ, the
Son of the Living God.” This was followed by Christ’s
great mandate to Peter and his successors, “Upon this rock I will build my Church.” And yet here we are with the immediately following text where Jesus calls Peter a stumbling block and says, “Get behind me Satan!” It is hard to credit that these two things should be in the same Gospel, let alone in the same chapter.

Of course, since we are dealing with a period of three years condensed into twenty-six short chapters (excluding the infancy narratives) we are not expected to take the chronology absolutely literally. For the sake of brevity and the need for a flowing text, things that happened at different times and on different days are often placed right next to each other and so we sometimes get the impression that one followed immediately on the other. However, there are some clues that last week’s Gospel text and this week’s one did not happen immediately after each other. In the first line this week we are told that “Jesus began to speak” about going up to Jerusalem and suffer and die at the hands of the scribes and Pharisees and then rise again.

This is important because it is the first prediction of his passion in Matthew’s text. But we are not given any exact data about the timing. When it says “he began to speak to them” it is not very specific and so we must take it to mean from that time on, not necessarily the very next minute. Whatever the actual timing, Matthew has deliberately chosen to put these incidents together. First we have the profession of Peter’s faith together with Jesus’ declaration that it is on the rock of Peter that he will build his Church and then immediately following we have the text today about him becoming a stumbling block and the famous phrase “Get behind me Satan.” Matthew puts these two things together as a warning to us, the members of the Church, the people to whom this Gospel is primarily addressed. It is a warning that we should not take the first part of the text in any sort of triumphal way.

We should not become so confident that we are members of the true Church of Christ that we start to believe that this means we can do no wrong. Actually, what he is telling us is that we have to tread very carefully indeed so as not to become the very opposite of what we are meant to represent. Peter did not mean to offend Jesus, and he certainly did not want to do anything to obstruct Jesus’ plan of salvation; it is simply that he didn?t understand it in all its fullness. Peter was simply saying the kind of thing any other human being would say in the circumstances; he can’t really believe that Jesus would need to suffer and die. Because he loves Jesus he does not want him to die and so comes out with his statement of disbelief.

One can’t help but think of how human Peter was; his very impulsiveness being one of his most endearing characteristics. It seems that in the Gospels he always speaks from the heart even if what he says is a bundle of contradictions. We find this to be very reassuring. Jesus did not choose the perfect man on which to build his Church. No, he chose a man like us; someone with all the same sorts of faults and contradictions that we recognise within ourselves and yet someone who is essentially good and straightforward.

Even when we get to the moment of Peter’s greatest betrayal, when he denies Christ three times, we find that it is not something blatantly bad that he is doing. Actually he is trying to be near Jesus, to find out what is going to happen to him and, one is tempted to think, try to help Jesus if he can. What happens is that his cover is blown, he is recognised and it is the panic that this induces that causes Peter to deny that he even knows Jesus. And here in our text today we see that Peter’s real intention was not to be a stumbling block so much as to try to protect Jesus from harm. We are inclined to think that Jesus is being a bit hard on poor Peter in order to stress very clearly what is going to happen and that anything that gets in its way is contrary to the will of his Father.

The underlying assumption of Peter is that suffering is bad and it is something that we should be protected from, and this is an assumption that we all share in our everyday lives. Christ, though, tells us something different; he tells us and shows us in his own life that suffering is redemptive. He tells us that suffering is essential to his work of salvation. One of the greatest problems in the world is that people do not seem to understand this anymore. And indeed one of the most common arguments against the existence of God put forward by ordinary people today is that God allows the innocent to suffer. What they fail to take into account is that suffering has a meaning.

They fail to understand that it is often only through suffering and struggle that a greater good can come about. Now this is not to say that suffering and pain are good in themselves or we would feel obliged to flagellate ourselves every five minutes! No this would be a distortion of God’s intention. But we do know that in suffering there is something deeply mysterious, valuable and redemptive.

In time Peter was to come to understand the meaning of the Cross. We know that when faced with his own crucifixion at the hands of the Romans he asked to be crucified upside down because he did not feel worthy to imitate Christ. There is another tradition which tells us of Peter leaving Rome to escape persecution and as he passes down the Via Appia meets Christ travelling in the opposite direction, towards Rome.

He greets Christ with the words “Quo Vadis, Domine?” Where are you going, Lord? Only for Jesus to respond that he was going to Rome to be crucified once again. At which point Peter turned around and returned to the city to face his own death. This little story might be apocryphal but there is something in it for each one of us.

Our following of Christ will inevitably lead to the Cross and it is how we regard the Cross that will determine our response to it. We will then face the moment of truth; which we hope, with God’s help, will be the moment of our salvation.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
August 31, 2014

Every Round Goes Higher, Higher – A Homily for the 22nd Sunday of the Year
In today’s Gospel the Lord firmly sets before us the need for the Cross, not as an end in itself, but as the way to glory. Let’s consider the Gospel in three stages.

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A—August 31, 2014
Gospel (Read Mt 16:21-27)

In the verses preceding today’s passage, Jesus and Peter had a remarkable exchange. Peter identified Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God; Jesus announced that God had revealed this truth to him. On that basis, Jesus changed his name and made him head of the Church He was to build. He made a promise to preserve that Church, giving us some confidence that He wasn’t making a terrible mistake. However, in today’s reading, that confidence gets tested.

Twenty-second Sunday: Conform or Be Transformed?
“Times have changed, Father.  I’m only doing what is perfectly acceptable by our society.” And with these words, the elderly lady explained away her present living condition.  And with the same words, the young man justified his “wild” lifestyle, and with the same words the substance abuser justified his actions. And on and on and on.  Add in whatever immoral behavior you can think of, and someone will say, “I’m only doing what is perfectly acceptable by society.”

Twenty Second Sunday of Ordinary Time
Matthew 16 : 21 – 27

Last week we heard a passage immediately before this Gospel in which Peter responded to the question of Jesus, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter makes a profession of faith in Jesus in declaring his belief that “Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” (Matthew 16: 16) Jesus’ response to this shows his high regard toward Peter, “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. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16: 18 – 19) This is followed by Jesus making the first prediction of His Passion. Peter gives, what seems to be, a sensible and caring response, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” (Matthew 16:22) The response of Jesus to this was no doubt unexpected by Peter. “Get behind me Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (Matthew 16: 23)

You Can Be With Him In Paradise
Jesus said, “Not everyone who says Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father” (Mt 7:21); yet the Good Thief, whom tradition has named “Dismas,” says “Lord,” and Jesus promises him paradise that very day. “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Besides acknowledging Jesus as Lord,  in the short time that he encountered Jesus and died with him on Mount Calvary, how else did Dismas do the will of the Father?

Encounters with Angels
A visit to the local bookstore will reveal a whole shelf of books on angel encounters, angel channeling, and angelology. There’s even a book called The Physics of Angels which tries to blend quirky physics theories with the theology of St Thomas Aquinas. A quick look at the books on offer make you realize that the New Age understanding of angels stretches from “listening to the light within” to the fully fledged summoning up of the “dark angels” — in other words, modern angelology is the stuff of fantasy, neo-gnosticism and a rather nasty occult religion.

How Can I have a Better Relationship with God?
Dear Father John, I want to follow Christ more closely but I don’t seem to be doing that.  How can I draw closer to Christ?  How can I have a better relationship with God?

Frustrations in Prayer
Fr. Ronald Knox, an English Catholic of the early 20th century and convert, gave retreats and talks to lay people to help them deepen and improve their spiritual life. In his Spiritual Guidance for Christian Living: A Retreat for Lay People, he gathers two dozen talks and homilies written for lay people and the troubles they experience. One chapter deals with the rich young man from Mark 10:17-31.

I cannot feel God’s presence, am I a bad person?
I am a Catholic or try to be one, and I am having problems feeling the Power of my religion. I have been so hurt throughout my life and I’ve tried to forgive the people, but it does no good. I feel like I get far more satisfaction out of my work than my faith. It’s so hard for me to get the concept that when I go to communion, its Jesus’ Body and Blood that I’m receiving. That is so deep to me that I can’t grasp it.

The 14 Most Challenging, Radical, Do-We-Really-Have-To Teachings of Jesus
Everyone loves Jesus – until they read what he really taught.

Jesus’s life and teachings are just as radical today as they were 2000 years ago. It’s easy to call ourselves Christians. But are we really willing to accept and follow everything Jesus taught?

All of Christ’s teachings are important, but here are some of the most challenging:

Jesus Wept
Since my beloved son Larry died last year, not a day has gone by that I have not thought of him.  Immediately after his death I would think about him, literally, almost every minute of each day.  Now it is usually once every 15 minutes.  He enriched beyond measure the life of myself and my bride and I miss him with all my heart.  Larry had autism, and, as a result of his autism, my conversations with him were limited in words, although we each got our meanings across.  I greatly admired the way in which my son did not let his disability add sorrow to his life, and the joy he normally radiated warmed my soul.  I have had several privileges in my life that have been granted me by God, but I think the greatest was being entrusted with Larry.

Reasons to Go to Confession
“If there is a heavenly idea in the Catholic Church, surely, next after the Blessed Sacrament, Confession is such.”  -Blessed John Henry Newman

Confession is one of my favorite sacraments, and I try to go as often as I can. But this wasn’t always the case. I am a convert, and I still remember the awkwardness of my first confession. I dreaded it for weeks, about as much as you would if you had to tell your parents you totaled their brand new car.

Catholics With a Past
“The man who has not suffered, what can he possibly know, anyway?” says Rabbi Abraham Herschel. He may be onto something. When we look for insight and understanding, we go to someone who has been wronged, and who has come out stronger and wiser: survivors of wars, genocide, concentration camps; people who have overcome massive disabilities; people who have been abused and outcast, and who have responded with love, gentleness, generosity, and wisdom.

But what about the man who caused his own suffering? The man who has been selfish, foolish, ugly, cruel, and who has suffered because of his own willful sins?  What can he possibly know, anyway?

Our Lady of Czestochowa: The Black Madonna
The Black Madonna was painted by St. Luke the Evangelist; and it was while painting the picture, Mary told him about the life of Jesus, which he later incorporated into his gospel. The next time we hear of the painting is in 326 A.D. when St. Helen found it in Jerusalem and gave it to her son and had a shrine built for it in Constantinople. During a battle, the picture was placed on the walls of the city, and the enemy army fled. Our Lady saved the city from destruction. The picture was owned by many other people until 1382, when invading Tartars attacked a Prince Ladislaus’ fortress, where the painting was located. A Tartar’s arrow lodged into through the throat of the Madonna. The Prince transferred the painting to a church in Czestochowa, Poland.

The Reform of the Whole World Takes Place One Soul at a Time, Starting with My Own
Yesterday’s blog on the increasing darkness in our culture received a lot of good feedback. Special thanks to Patrick Madrid for spreading the word. Reading such data can cause us to feel discouraged at times. Here are a few thoughts on this discouragement and what we can do about it.

1. The beatitude “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” comes to mind. Who are those who mourn?

St. Therese’s daring teaching on Purgatory
Before we discuss St. Therese of Lisieux’s teaching on Purgatory, I want to put that teaching into context. Her teaching is daring. Some of the nuns she lived with in the Carmelite monastery were scandalized by it, thinking it presumptuous. The last thing St. Therese (or I) would want is for people to interpret her teaching in such a way that they thought they could be spiritually lax and still go straight to Heaven.

So, As you read about her teaching, keep these things in mind:

Jesus Pulls a Fast One
So, there I am, at a weekday Mass, mind wandering as usual (“Focus, man, focus! You’re at the threshold of heaven, and, um,…what does that guy’s t-shirt say?”), and we get to the Gospel:

Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you…. If he refuses to listen to them, tell the Church. If he refuses to listen even to the Church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.”

Please Don’t Say These Six Things at My Funeral
There will come a day, perhaps sooner, perhaps later, when the man in the coffin will be me. They say the dead don’t care, but I’m not dead yet, so as long as I’m still alive, I’d like to have some say in what goes on at my funeral. And, truth be told, I think the dead do care. Not that they will be privy to the details of what happens at their own funerals, but they still care about the world, about their family, about the church. The saints in heaven continue to pray for those who are still on their earthly pilgrimage, so how could they not care about them?

The Casual Catholic Men
There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of Catholic men, while not rejecting the faith explicitly, have implicitly rejected the faith because of a lack of commitment.  They are like an empty suit; the clothes are there, but the man is not.

These are Casual Catholic Men, men who are casual in their faith.  Here, the word “casual” is carefully chosen: the etymology of the word traces to the Latin casualis, meaning “by chance” and from the Latin casus, meaning “chance, occasion, opportunity; accident, event”.  When speaking of persons, the word “casual” can mean the person is  “not to be depended on, unmethodical.”

St. Therese’s daring teaching on Purgatory
Before we discuss St. Therese of Lisieux’s teaching on Purgatory, I want to put that teaching into context. Her teaching is daring. Some of the nuns she lived with in the Carmelite monastery were scandalized by it, thinking it presumptuous. The last thing St. Therese (or I) would want is for people to interpret her teaching in such a way that they thought they could be spiritually lax and still go straight to Heaven.

So, As you read about her teaching, keep these things in mind:

The Priest and the Prostitute
The day before the Independence Day holiday weekend, the Catholic Answers staff headed up to Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside, California, for a retreat. It was led by a Norbertine priest from St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California. The priest chose Divine Mercy as his topic for the retreat.

As part of his talk, he told us a story from the private revelation allegedly given to Maria Simma. I don’t know much about Maria Simma, except that she was a mystic who died a decade ago. According to our retreat master, her visions of visits with the holy souls in purgatory, as recorded in her book Get Us Out of Here!, have the approval of her local bishop. Nonetheless, Catholics are not required to put stock in private revelations, as is affirmed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

The Hilarious Evangelist – On Laughter in Religion
I’m waiting for my ride at San Antonio airport. The car pulls up. A Latino fellow leans out the passenger window with a huge grin, “Hey Father Longenecker! I get to meet you at last! I read your stuff all the time man!”

It was Catholic lay Evangelist Jesse  Romero. I have had the pleasure of spending a weekend with Jesse and Dr Ray Guarendi at the Fullness of Truth Conference in San Antonio.

Blasphemy Against Mercy
Back in 1997, I was browsing a bookshop and came upon a book that truly shocked and horrified me. A feminist theologian had written a book wherein she argued that the two greatest “crosses” Catholic women must bear are the Catholic Church’s opposition to women’s ordination and its opposition to abortion. I could hardly believe that blasphemy had reached this level, but there was no denying my senses, as much as I might have wished myself caught in a nightmare.

19 of the Most Refreshingly Commonsensical G.K. Chesterton Quotes
A person can never get enough of the great Apostle of Common Sense. Enjoy!

1) “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.”

The Everlasting Man, 1925

2) “Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”

ILN, 4/19/30

The Beauty of Prayer Brought to Life with 37 Impressive Photos
A collection of photos that invites us to meditate on the beauty and mystery that is hidden behind prayer… do you really think that those who don’t pray aren’t missing out? Check out the post and respond for yourself!

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