Saturday, August 29, 2020

22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

If anyone wishes to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. These are difficult words, which Jesus addresses to his disciples - including us - in today's Gospel (Matthew 16: 21-27). Who by nature welcomes suffering? And yet Our Lord does not tell us to take up our cross and follow our own path, but, Follow me. We are not alone. Jesus prepares the way, as Pope Francis tells us:
Christ Carrying the Cross, (ca. 1565) Titian
Our Lord’s command seems hard and heavy, that anyone who wants to follow him must renounce himself. But no command is hard and heavy when it comes from one who helps to carry it out. That other saying of his is true: My yoke is easy and my burden light. Whatever is hard and his commands is made easy by love....
Who would not wish to follow Christ to supreme happiness, perfect peace, and lasting security? We shall do well to follow him there, but we need to know the way. The Lord Jesus had not yet risen from the dead when he gave this invitation. His passion was still before him; he had still to endure the cross, to face outrages, reproaches, scourging; to be pierced by thorns, wounded, insulted, taunted, and put to death. The road seems rough, you draw back, you do not want to follow Christ. Follow him just the same. The road we made for ourselves is rough, but Christ has levelled it by passing over it himself.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

In today's Gospel (Matt. 16:13-20), Jesus asks his disciples “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” And then he asks them, “But you, who do you say that I am?” Peter gives the response: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” In a homily for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Pope Francis commented on this passage:
Today [Jesus] looks straight at us and asks, “Who am I for you?” As if to say: “Am I still the Lord  your life, the longing of your heart, the reason for your hope, the source of your unfailing trust?” Along with Saint Peter, we too renew today our life choice to be Jesus’ disciples and apostles....
Those who confess Jesus know that they are not simply to offer opinions but to offer their very lives. They know that they are not to believe half-heartedly but to “be on fire” with love. They know that they cannot just “tread water” or take the easy way out, but have to risk putting out into the deep, daily renewing their self-offering. Those who confess their faith in Jesus do as Peter and Paul did: they follow him to the end – not just part of the way, but to the very end. They also follow the Lord along his way, not our own ways. His way is that of new life, of joy and resurrection; it is also the way that passes through the cross and persecution.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

20th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

The Church gives us a very powerful message in today's gospel: don't give up in prayer. A Canaanite woman, although a pagan, asks Jesus to heal her daughter, who is tormented by a demon. At first he refuses: I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. She persists, as Pope Emeritus Benedict tells us, even when she received an answer that would seem to have extinguished any hope: It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs. Jesus was struck with admiration, he continues, for an answer of such great faith and said to her: Be it done for you as you desire.
The Canaanite Woman
Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry (1412-1416)
Dear friends, we too are called to grow in faith, to open ourselves in order to welcome God’s gift freely, to have trust and also to cry to Jesus “give us faith, help us to find the way!” This is the way that Jesus made his disciples take, as well as the Canaanite woman and men and women of every epoch and nation and each one of us.
Faith opens us to knowing and welcoming the real identity of Jesus, his newness and oneness, his word, as a source of life, in order to live a personal relationship with him. Knowledge of the faith grows, it grows with the desire to find the way and in the end it is a gift of God who does not reveal himself to us as an abstract thing without a face or a name, because faith responds to a Person who wants to enter into a relationship of deep love with us and to involve our whole life. 
For this reason our heart must undergo the experience of conversion every day, every day it must see us changing from people withdrawn into themselves to people who are open to God’s action, spiritual people (cf. 1 Cor 2:13-14), who let themselves be called into question by the Lord’s word and open their life to his Love.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

19th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

What a wonderful gospel story we are given in this Sunday's Mass! Jesus walks on the water, and St. Peter, impetuous as ever, wants to come to him (Matthew 14: 22-33). But he loses his nerve and starts to sink. These words of St. Augustine, read at Vigils, talk about our own lives, when we are storm-tossed and sinking:
When the Lord said: “Come,” Peter climbed out of the boat and began to walk on the water. This is what he could do through the power of the Lord; what by himself? Realizing how violently the wind was blowing, he lost his nerve, and as he began to sink he called out, “Lord, I am drowning, save me!” When he counted on the Lord’s help it enabled him to walk on the water; when human frailty made him falter he turned once more to the Lord, who immediately stretched out his hand to help him, raised him up as he was sinking, and rebuked him for his lack of faith.
Think, then, of this world as a sea, whipped up to tempestuous heights by violent winds. A person’s own private tempest will be his or her unruly desires. If you love God you will have power to walk upon the waters, and all the world’s swell and turmoil will remain beneath your feet. But if you love the world it will surely engulf you, for it always devours its lovers, never sustains them. If you feel your foot slipping beneath you, if you become a prey to doubt or realise that you are losing control, if, in a word, you begin to sink, say: Lord, I am drowning, save me! Only he who for your sake died in your fallen nature can save you from the death inherent in that fallen nature.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

18th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Today, the Eucharist is foreshadowed in the gospel’s telling of Jesus’s multiplication of the loaves and fishes (Matthew 14: 13-21). When the disciples tell Jesus to send the crowd away, he tells them to feed them. They protest, but from a meager supply of five loaves and two fish, Our Lord feeds five thousand men, not counting women and children. How often in our own lives do we face a seemingly impossible situation? God asks us to go beyond what we are can do or endure: patience, generosity and forgiveness do not come easily to us. But with his help we can accomplish all things.

Here are a few paragraphs on this subject from St. Pope John Paul II’s 1998 Apostolic Letter Dies Domini (On Keeping the Lord’s Day). It’s a long document, but well worth reading and praying over from time to time.
The Eucharist is an event and programme of true brotherhood. From the Sunday Mass there flows a tide of charity destined to spread into the whole life of the faithful, beginning by inspiring the very way in which they live the rest of Sunday. If Sunday is a day of joy, Christians should declare by their actual behaviour that we cannot be happy on our own. They look around to find people who may need their help. It may be that in their neighbourhood or among those they know there are sick people, elderly people, children or immigrants who precisely on Sundays feel more keenly their isolation, needs and suffering. It is true that commitment to these people cannot be restricted to occasional Sunday gestures. But presuming a wider sense of commitment, why not make the Lord’s Day a more intense time of sharing, encouraging all the inventiveness of which Christian charity is capable? Inviting to a meal people who are alone, visiting the sick, providing food for needy families, spending a few hours in voluntary work and acts of solidarity: these would certainly be ways of bringing into people’s lives the love of Christ received at the Eucharistic table.
Lived in this way, not only the Sunday Eucharist but the whole of Sunday becomes a great school of charity, justice and peace. The presence of the Risen Lord in the midst of his people becomes an undertaking of solidarity, a compelling force for inner renewal, an inspiration to change the structures of sin in which individuals, communities and at times entire peoples are entangled. Far from being an escape, the Christian Sunday is a prophecy inscribed on time itself, a prophecy obliging the faithful to follow in the footsteps of the One who came to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to captives and new sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (Lk 4:18-19). In the Sunday commemoration of Easter, believers learn from Christ, and remembering his promise: I leave you peace, my peace I give you (Jn14:27), they become in their turn builders of peace.