Welcome to the Word & Life Series. In this series, Fr. John Ludden will take the Sacred Scriptures offered at Mass each Sunday and apply them to our everyday lives. As you read Fr. John’s reflection, open your hearts and minds in new ways to God’s Holy Word. St. Paul says “The Word of God is living effective“. So as we journey together in the Word & Life, let us allow the wisdom of God to transform our relationship and our outlook on life, inspiring us to love one another as He has loved us. You are now invited to reflect on the Word of God which is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! Welcome again to the Word & Life!
August 28, 2011
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Psalm 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
The Challenge of the Cross
As we listen to the gospel today, we continue to the episode that took place in Caesarea Philippi. One can almost feel the beating of the heart in Peter’s chest; afterall,Christ has just given him heavenly authority. The mood quickly changes, however, as Jesus begins to spell out to his disciples what he will have to endure for the message that he was handing on to his friends. Jesus was no stranger to the deception that was taking place among the leaders. He foresaw what was going to happen, knowing that he would shed his blood for his message. Peter’s heart skips a beat as he listens and his humanity spurs him onto rebuking Jesus, telling him that no such thing shall ever happen. Little did this new leader know that one day it would also happen to him –– he too would be crucified for the sake of the gospel.
Jesus in turn rebukes Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” How must have Peter felt at that moment? One minute he is acclaimed as leader, the next Satan! Jesus invites Peter, along with his disciples, to move beyond the limitations of their human understanding. He reminds Peter and he reminds us that we cannot put obstacles ahead of God’s will. He invites Peter and the disciples to take up the cross. The cross was the sign of humiliation for the Jews. Jesus is challenging his followers to forego humiliation and rejection for the sake of his teachings and his name. Jesus was offering his followers a radical challenge. Jesus tells them that he will take up that cross and invites them to do the same for the sake of the kingdom, finding their reward in heaven.
The challenge of the gospel calls us to move beyond worldly desires and it involves sacrifice. For Jesus and the early Church, this sacrifice involved their very lives. For us, however, this sacrifice involves something different. As St. Paul says in today’s second reading to the Romans: “Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” The sacrifice involved in following Christ today is that of foregoing popularity for the sake of the kingdom. We will not be popular when we stand up against the realities of abortion, euthanasia, or experimentation with embryos, which are the beginnings of life. We will not be popular if we tell the economists of our world that bigger is not always better if it involves the oppression of the poor and the elimination of family owned businesses. We will feel the weight of such a cross if we stand up to individual injustice and confront individuals with their sin. The weight of the cross is the weight of truth. If we remain steadfast to the truth, then it will truly set us free. In the shadow of the cross, this is our fundamental option –– to direct our lives and choices to the ultimate goal of goodness and peace for all.
We pray for all those who bear the name of Christian, encourage us to accept and bear the cross of discipleship. Help us to embrace the truth that you have given. Whenever we are challenged by the sin of this age, give us the words and the strength to make your will known. In our witness to your truth, may we encourage others to embrace the life of the kingdom. Amen
Why is Jesus so harsh in responding to Simon Peter?
Why did Jesus have to suffer at the hands of the religious leaders?
What are the problems of the present age which contradict God’s will?
What is God’s will for you?
How do you see the cross of discipleship in dealing with the obstacles that stand between you and God?
How far are you willing to go to follow Christ?
The Feminine Genius
“…It was human love that helped me to understand divine love. Human love at its best, unselfish, glowing, illuminating our days, gives us a glimpse of the love of God for man. Love is the best thing we can know in this life, but it must be sustained by an effort of the will. It must lie still and quiet, dull and smoldering, for periods. It grows through suffering and patience and compassion. We must suffer for those we love, we must endure their trials and their suffering, we must even take upon ourselves the penalties due their sins. Thus we learn to understand the love of God for His creatures. Thus we understand the Crucifixion.”
— Dorothy Day
Union Square to Rome
Published by The Preservation of the Faith Press, January 1938
August 21, 2011
Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
WHO Do You Say That I Am?
The story of Caesarea Philippi is familiar to all Catholics. It is the moment when Simon Peter clearly defines who Jesus is as the Anointed One (Christ). It is also the moment when Simon Peter is named the rock on which Christ will build the Church and is given the keys of the kingdom to have authority both in heaven and on earth. Jesus enjoins this privilege and authority upon Peter to continue his mission on earth. Peter passes on this same authority to his successors –– right up to the present leader of the Church in the person of the Holy Father in Rome.
Today’s encounter reminds us that once we experience the call of the Lord to lead, we are also given responsibilities to live out that call. None of us dares imagine that we will ever know fully the mind of God, but we can certainly discern his presence in our world today. Jesus’ question to Peter could be asked of us today: Who do you say that I am? The greatest challenge for the Church today is to find its Christological heart. We must not consider Christ as a personal possession exclusively keeping our relationship in solitary confinement. Jesus Christ is the Anointed One who challenges us to live the gospel he proclaimed. If we feel comfortable in our faith and have abandoned ourselves to our obligation, it probably means that we have yet to encounter the Jesus of the gospel. Jesus Christ disturbed people out of their complacency and challenged them to move beyond boundaries. At the beginning of his ministry Christ announced that he was anointed to bring Good News to the poor and liberty to those held captive. Christ’s example changed human history forever by moving hearts and transforming lives. Christ also reminded his disciples if they neglect others, they also neglect him. Jesus wanted people to concentrate on what would change the heart and move people to transform their lives. Christ tells us that he is to be found in the needs that surround us.
Who do you say that I am? Christ is in the gift of the poor calling us to reach out beyond boundaries so that his love and generosity may be experienced through us. Christ is in the lonely old and the lonely young. He lives amidst the rich and the poor, calling us to unity and love. Christ is present in the sanctuary of our churches as we listen to his Word and as we receive his Food from Heaven. Christ dwells in the gathering of the people who sit in the pews waiting for the Sunday Mass to begin. Christ is present in the stranger –– Christ lives in our prisons –– he walks with those who struggle with existence and the meaning of their lives. As we recognize him in all these people and situations, he commissions us to look after one another and recognize that we are truly brothers and sisters. The way in which we treat one another, ultimately reflects the way in which we treat Jesus Christ. To love someone is to love Christ –– to hurt someone is to hurt Christ. Vast is the call of Jesus who asks us to recognize his true identity. Thankfully, he gifts us with the treasure of the Church’s wisdom to remind us always of our call to recognize and follow him.
You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. You are our healing and strength ~ the calm in our storm ~ the tenderness of our lives. Open us to the challenge to see you in all people, even those we would rather forget about. May we glorify you in all that we say and do in your holy name. May the aroma of your presence which was given to us through the anointing of baptism and confirmation be experienced through what we do and say. Amen.
Why does Jesus pose the question: “Who do you say that I am,” to his disciples?
Why is Simon Peter’s confession so powerful?
What is Peter granted in today’s gospel and how is that passed onto the Church today?
What is the significance of naming Jesus as “The Christ, the Son of the living God”?
Where do you experience the anointing of Christ in your life and in the life of the Church?
How are you anointed to be Christ for others?
Wisdom of the Fathers
“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asks his disciples this question near Caesarea Philippi. Simon Peter answers: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). The Master then turns to him with the surprising words: “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you; but my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 16:17).
What is the meaning of this dialogue? Why does Jesus want to know what people think about him? Why does he want to know what his disciples think about him?
Jesus wants his disciples to become aware of what is hidden in their own minds and hearts and to give voice to their conviction. At the same time, however, he knows that the judgment they will express will not be theirs alone. Because it will reveal what God has poured into their hearts by the grace of faith.
— Blessed John Paul II (World Youth Day 2000, August 19th, Prayer Vigil)
August 14, 2011
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
The God of All Faith
Today’s gospel presents a theology of profound significance and consequence. On the surface it appears that Jesus is having a bad day! Here we find a Canaanite woman begging Jesus to bring peace and healing to her daughter’s life. Who could refuse such a request? Jesus’ response is both harsh and rude. He tells the woman that he was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and virtually refers to her as subservient by using an image of a dog. Why would Jesus do such a thing? Jesus was responding as a Jew to this Canaanite woman. The Canaanites had been the public enemies of the Jews for 1000 years – there was a lot of animosity between them. However, this woman’s persistence and faith triumphs over this tragic estrangement. Jesus’ heart is moved with compassion at the sight of this woman’s faith. The gift of faith transcends the exclusive nature of Jesus mission.
The mission of Jesus is redefined in this encounter. Jesus brings healing to the world of the non-Jew. This act opens the world to the economy of salvation. Jesus recognizes that faith can be relevant others. The compassion that Jesus has for this troubled child and her mother moves him beyond the boundaries of an institutionalized faith and starts to tear down the walls of indifference and discrimination. Up to this moment, Jesus brought the message of the gospel to Israel, but now he realizes that faith could exist outside of Judaism. The people of Israel had always been known in the realm of faith and monotheism as the “chosen people” or “elect” of God. It was to Israel that God revealed himself and sent the patriarchs and prophets to establish covenants and relationship with Him. Israel was promised the Messiah who would lead them out of bondage into freedom. Jesus the Christ, as Messiah, comes into the world and offers radical freedom –– freedom from sin and world oppression by believing in his name. Although his message is delivered to the House of Israel, in today’s gospel we discover Jesus’ message could not be contained to Israel any longer because the whole world had begun to cry out for Him.
The message of the gospel frees us from discrimination and encourages us to respect people from every walk of life. The event of the Canaanite woman reminds us that we cannot box God in, but that we must recognize that God is at work in the world in many remarkable ways. Even though our Church contains within its history and tradition the fullness of truth, this in no way is meant to exclude others. Indeed, every Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, etc., is not excluded from the kingdom. Rather, all Christian denominations and other faith traditions possess something of the spirit of truth which demands a respect and dignity from all of us. As the prophet Isaiah said, “Observe what is right and do what is just…for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
Lord, let us clearly see people of other faiths as a gift to be embraced. May we be united one day around one table, sharing the one bread and the one cup. Let us work together for the common good of humanity. May those who are estranged learn to let go of earthly pride to join hands in friendship. Encourage our Mother, the Church, to lead and show us the way so that discrimination and hatred will be no more. Amen.
How is Jesus shaped by the world in which he was raised?
What does the encounter with the Canaanite woman teach you about God’s initiative of salvation?
How has institutionalized faith been abused in the past?
In what way does this gospel challenge people’s approach of making absolute the truths about a particular faith?
How do you allow the gospel to shape your life?
Name the ways in which the institution of the Church reflects the gospel and shapes your life?
How are you being called to reach out to those who live outside your faith experience?
Wisdom of the Fathers
“Throughout history, to the present day, there is found among different peoples a certain awareness of a hidden power, which lies behind the course of nature and the events of human life. At times, there is present even a recognition of a supreme being, or still more of a Father. This awareness and recognition results in a way of life that is imbued with a deep religious sense….. So, too, other religions which are found throughout the world attempt in different ways to overcome the restlessness of people’s hearts by outlining a program of life covering doctrine, moral precepts and sacred rites.
The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions…..”
– Nostra Aetate, paragraph 2 (Pope Paul VI)
August 7, 2011
Ninteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a
Psalm 85: 9, 10, 11-12, 13-14
A Gentle God
The world of faith contains endless possibilities. For thousands of years, humanity has grappled with faith’s complexity. Even today, countless millions continue to fill our churches, synagogues, temples, shrines, and assembly halls, desiring to be transformed by the world of transcendence. People sometimes go to extraordinary means to find God or meaning for their lives. The answer is not always what we think –– sometimes it is staring us in the face. In order to find God and the purpose for our lives, we must listen to the teachings of scripture and the wisdom of the Church, and then look deep within ourselves.
In our first reading from the Book of Kings, Elijah was told by the Lord to go outside the cave because the Lord would be passing by. Elijah was probably expecting the Lord’s presence to be part of a mighty encounter. On the contrary, Elijah experienced the Lord in an unexpected way –– in the whispering of the wind. God came to Elijah in a gentle way. Likewise, Jesus comes to the disciples in the midst of a stormy sea offering them gentle reassurance. In the gospel, Jesus comes to his followers in an unexpected way. He defies science and its laws of gravity and physics by walking on the water. Not only were these people frightened because of the storm, they were also frightened by the sight of Jesus walking on the water. Jesus tells them not to be afraid. Caught up in this transcendental moment, we find Peter wanting to be one with Jesus in the whole experience, but he does not have the faith or the power within him to walk on the water. Why? Peter is distracted by the strong wind and the dangerous waters around him and lacks faith. Jesus recognizes Peter’s weakness and stretches out his hand to save Peter, bringing him to safety.
God makes himself known to each of us in unexpected ways. He is very much a God of surprises. We do not necessarily have to go to places of pilgrimage, holy shrines, churches, mountain tops or beaches to find him present (even though God is always in those places). God is present in the vulnerability of love that exists between spouses and is found in the struggles of family life. Wherever people actively engage in works of charity and mercy, God is also there. God can be found in the midst of the poor, the sick, imprisoned, and the lonely. The Lord is always present to us in the “storms” of our lives always with an outstretched arm, ready to save us. Even though we may lack faith when we are faced with hardships, God is always ready to redeem and save us. Jesus’ words to the disciples are words that should resonate with us when we struggle: “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.” In short, the Lord is a God of all seasons who can be found in every time and place. It is up to each one of us to discern His presence and follow His will.
Lord, you are present to us in the whispers of the wind, calling us forth to follow your will. When the storm clouds of life cast their shadow upon us, we humbly ask that you protect us with an outstretched arm. O Lord, be in all things, through all things and above all things. May you transform our world with your tender love and mercy.
What surprises you about the encounters with God in the readings today?
What is significant about Jesus walking on the water?
How does Jesus quell the fears of the disciples?
How do you relate to Elijah’s experience of God?
Name the ways in which you have encountered God in the “storms” or turmoil of your personal experience.
How does Jesus offer you courage?
Wisdom of the Fathers
“In our times a special obligation binds us to make ourselves the neighbor of every person without exception and of actively helping him when he comes across our path, whether he be an old person abandoned by all, a foreign laborer unjustly looked down upon, a refugee, a child born of an unlawful union and wrongly suffering for a sin he did not commit, or a hungry person who disturbs our conscience by recalling the voice of the Lord, ‘As long as you did it for one of these the least of my brethren, you did it for me’ (Matt. 25:40).”
Gaudium et Spes (Church in the Modern World) paragraph 27.