Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19: 20-21
August 20, 2017
In a world in which those who are perceived as different seem to be at greater risk. God invites us to break down the boundaries that separate us from others. As we gather today, let us make this house, God’s house, truly a house of prayer and love for all peoples. Last Sunday Jesus chided Peter: “O you of little faith”. Today, Jesus praises a woman whose only “name” identifies her as an ethnic “outsider” and Israel’s classic enemy, a Canaanite: “O Woman, great is your faith!” Last week, the disciples reduced Jesus to unreality, a ghost. Today, despite Jesus’ silence, refusal, and seeming insult, the Canaanite woman calls Jesus “Lord” and even “does Jesus homage.” All this before Jesus heals her daughter, a miracle she’s not even present to verify. Thus, a double outsider (a Gentile woman) teaches Jesus’ disciples authentic faith. Moreover, she becomes a sign of the gospel’s universality. From this point on in Matthew’s Gospel, no one belongs under the Lord’s Table, much less away from it. But sometimes less welcoming sentiments echo within us: “There have to be limits...You can’t save the world, please everybody, befriend everyone...Some people just aren’t ready, willing, or open.” But with Jesus, all are welcome; for all of us, says Paul, are alike, made brothers and sisters by our shared streak of disobedience. If Jesus will have even us, then who are we to judge? Today’s Gospel raises a second question. Haven’t we each, at some time, met this silent Lord, who seems not to answer, or even harder to take, responds with a difficult word? The Canaanite woman teaches us patience, persistence, perseverance, and boundless confidence in Jesus’ personal love for each of us, appearances sometimes to the contrary. THE QUESTION OF THE WEEK: How patient is my prayer, how undaunted my confidence in Jesus’ personal love for me? How do I treat those who pester me for a share of my time, attention, love?
When we gather here each Sunday, we know where we will find God: in each other, in the Word proclaimed, in the Blessed Sacrament. Our readings today will challenge us to find God in other places and at other times in our lives. Perhaps as we continue our celebration today, our prayer can be for the vision to see and hear God in our lives outside St. Brendan Church. Whether we see the disciples’ boat as symbolizing the Church or our own lives, we can relate to Matthew’s image: a tiny boat, big waves, roaring wind, disciples left alone throughout the night. We can’t see Jesus or the shore we’ve left or the port we seek. When Jesus finally does appear, it’s in night’s deepest, darkest hours, and He seems unreal, “a ghost”. Seeking proof, we echo Peter’s challenge: “Lord, if it is you, if you’re really with us, do this, or that, or both”. Jesus’ question to Peter and us is quietly simple: “Why did you doubt?” Why, after centuries of winds and waves, do we fail to see the countless forms Jesus’ outstretched hand takes? Too easily impressed by life’s “special effects,” we, much like Elijah, can hardly hear the “tiny whispering sound”. Yet the sound is there, or rather, here. So is Jesus. “It is I,” literally, I AM, the Divine Name. I AM with you always,” Jesus promises, “until the end”. However perilous the waves or chaotic the wind, Jesus, right here, whispers in night’s silence, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid”. We have only to stay right here, in the storm-tossed but infinitely precious boat, the Church, the community Jesus never abandons. QUESTION OF THE WEEK: When was the last time I experienced God as really absent from my life? Really present? To who am I called to be Jesus’ outstretched hand of strength and support?
August 6, 2017 Today’s celebration only occurs on a Sunday once every six years or so. While we heard the Transfiguration Gospel earlier this year on the Second Sunday of Lent, today the context is different. Matthew’s Transfiguration that was proclaimed during Lent its “glimpse of glory” meant to assist our Lenten journey toward Easter rebirth. Now, just before summer turns to autumn, it provides encouragement for the longer-than-Lent pilgrimage and struggle of life itself. In the words that resound over Jesus today, we can hear the echo of the words that sounded on the day of our Baptism, when we were counted among the beloved of God. Let us pray today that we too will one day inherit the promise of resurrection and life in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is transformed before the eyes of the disciples. These simple gifts are spread before us. In joy we give thanks this day and pray for a transformation of these gifts as well as our lives. Each disciple must embrace Christ’s passion, our only pathway to the Transfiguration’s promise of human nature restored in Christ. Icons show the white of Christ’s robe spilling onto the robes of Peter, James, and John, the Master’s glory shared with His disciples. But these same disciples accompany Him to Gethsemane. Becoming light from and with the Lord requires that the disciples be burned by the purifying, transforming light of the Passion. In the second reading, Peter gives his eyewitness account of the Transfiguration, together with wisdom gained in the time since he came down from the mountaintop. He reminds us to attend to the Transfiguration’s glimpse of glory “as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts”. QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What peak experience do you hold onto, or what experience holds onto you? How does it help you when it is time bear your cross and share in Jesus’ passion? (Permission granted-World Library Publications 2017)
July 30, 2017
Today is about wisdom. Solomon and Jesus both agree that it is important to set our priorities to match what is most important to God. As we gather for worship today, let us pray for the wisdom to learn what it is that God wants for us and what God wants us to do, and for the grace to live our lives accordingly. Matthew’s community, like ours, featured varying personalities who had arrived by dramatically differing paths. For some, the Kingdom is a surprise discovery, “a treasure buried in a field;” for others, a prized acquisition, secured after a painstaking search, “a pearl of great price”. We even have a third group Matthew didn’t know, “cradle Catholics”. No wonder Jesus’ image of “a net thrown into the sea” rings true. So today’s Gospel repeats last Sunday’s caution. If we’ve forgotten we’re in that mixed haul and instead fancy ourselves qualified or empowered to separate its contents into Good and Bad, Jesus warns, judgment postponed, separation deferred, until “the end of the age,” and even then, not by us: “The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous”. What if God dared offer us Solomon’s choice? We’d day, “Bring on the bling! A long, happy life for me! A shorter life for this ‘special’ list I’ve been compiling for years”. Too harsh? Or too true? What do we treasure? “An understanding heart...to distinguish right from wrong?” We have before us a living treasure: God’s word, which can shape us to the image of our Elder Brother, and that Word made flesh in Jesus’ Body and Blood. Do you understand all these things?” Jesus asks. We may never understand all, but we can bring wisdom “new and old” to bear on life’s dilemmas. And consider the great wealth already ours: “predestined, called, justified, and glorified”. QUESTION OF THE WEEK: In a world divided by economics and education, social status and political opinions, race and religion, what can I do this week to bring people together? (Permission granted-World Library Publications 2017)
St. Brendan's Catholic Church of Clearwater, FL, located on Island Estates, is a loving, vibrant Catholic Church seeking for each and every member a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church.