9 August 202019 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
19 Ordinary Time

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - A Cycle - Matthew 14:22-27

A teacher shared today's Gospel of Christ calming the storm with her nursery class in England. School was finished. There was a blizzard outside. The teacher tried to get the youngsters to their homes. As she struggled through the snow, she heard a boy say to his buddy, "We could use that chap Jesus right now." (William Barclay)

Jesus has just fed 15,000 with WONDER bread and rainbow trout. They want to make Him president and insure free daily catered meals. This retired priest advises it beats standing over a stove. He turns thumbs down on the job offer.

Jesus nixed the proposal to move into the Jewish Oval Office. Yet, the apostles thought it sensible. The problem with revolutionaries is not that they want to burn palaces. Rather, they want to move into them. (Wilfrid Sheed) They wanted Christ to become Top Man. They would ride with Him in stretch limousines and have cell phones. There would be no more sleeping on the hard ground but in five star hotel beds with Swedish mattresses. They would cease eating junk food and take their meals in gourmet restaurants. Their Dom Perignon champagne days would have begun and not a day too soon.

The only time Jesus met with politicians, His hands were tied and His back clotted with blood. (Philip Yancey) The Nazarene picked off their naked greed and wanted to scotch it and not with Chivas Regal. He ordered His people to break camp and go to the other side of the lake. He would disperse the 15,000 and spend the night in prayer in the mountains. He needed to touch base with His Father. He enjoyed solitude. But how little He found! How He must have longed for the laid back days of Nazareth. But the last year of His life had begun. It would be all downhill. It was time to get His house in order.

The twelve balked. They were too close to winning the Lotto. Jesus had to twist their arms to make them leave. But they still delayed at the shore. They were hoping He would change His mind and accept the presidency. They could envision Peter as vice-president, Judas as treasury secretary, young John as secretary of state, etc.

Finally they pushed their large boat into the waters. They set sail for the western shore, which was 7.5 miles away. Hurricane winds came out of the north from the Golan Heights. Fishermen today will tell you with alarm they still do. What should have been a tranquil journey became a roller coaster ride. They were terrified. Instead of eating lobster, they would be eaten by lobsters. They were saying with that Brit boy but more intemperately, "We could be using that chap Jesus right now."

Up on the mountain, Jesus saw that His followers were about to become unwilling guests in Davy Jones locker. He forgot His problems. To His Father, He said, "Excuse me, Abba. This is action time." This Gospel catches the very essence of Jesus. Human needs surpass all other claims, even prayer, every time out. He has responded to the wishes of people for twenty-one centuries through His followers. He has no intention of stopping today unless of course we have.

As He walked across the wild waters, He spoke the spine-chilling line, "Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid." Our Leader told us an astounding seventeen times in the Gospels not to be afraid. Notice today it is not advice. It is a command.

Jesus came on board. We know how the story ends. The apostles were in sheer shock. Job (8:9) had taught them, "Only God walks on water." Had there been a trauma unit about, the apostles would be patients. The day had been saved by the Master once again.

Despite Christ's command, many are troubled by conditions in the Church. Scandals afflict us. We hear of pedophilia among priests. The faith of our Christian company plummets like the stock market on a bearish day.

But this Gospel reminds us the Church has found itself in hurricane seas from day one. When we find ourselves breaking into a cold sweat over the latest scandal, we should remember those lyrical words of our Lord, "Courage. It is I. Do not be afraid." He will come to us walking on the waters. All we have to do is allow Him into our boat.

It is an historical fact, proved by countless thousands in every generation that when Christ comes, the storm becomes a calm, the tumult becomes a peace, and we pass the breaking point and we do not break. (Unknown)

Incidentally, next time you feel perfect, try walking on water.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
19 Ordinary Time

Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time: He Calls Us to Walk with Him on the Water. 

I want to start this week at the beginning: “In the beginning God created heaven and earth.” Now that is really the beginning. We learn from Genesis that on the first day God created the heavens and earth and then created light to overcome the darkness. On the second day, we learn that the earth was covered in water. God created land and separated the seas from the land. He conquered the seas.

To the ancient people, the seas represented chaos. Fishermen and sailors, then, as well as now, know all too well the sudden turmoil caused by rough waters. If you ever saw the movie, The Perfect Storm, you would understand why the water is associated with chaos. Think back to the horrible Asian tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands. I experienced a terrifying blizzard when I was in Boston at the beginning of my priesthood. Since the Boston area is on the water, tremendous damaged was caused by the sea. I used to show people homes in the Revere and Winthrop area that had their second story windows destroyed by waves.

The sea hits us in the front, the back, the left and the right. There is no escaping it when we are in the middle of it. That is chaos.

But God conquered the seas. And Jesus walked on the water. He continues to walk on water. He walks on the chaos of our lives.

That is one of the messages of today’s Gospel reading. No matter what chaos there is in the world and in our lives, Jesus walks on it. He conquers the chaos.

Jesus conquers the chaos that is caused by things that our beyond our control. Life itself is chaotic. Just when all is seems to be calm, a loved one suddenly dies. All of us have experienced this. We did not cause the chaos, but we do suffer from it.

Jesus conquers the chaos, even that chaos which we ourselves cause in our lives. Many of us have made bad choices. Many of us have sinned. Many of us suffer the results of our sins or the sins of others. For example, a person finally recognizes that he has gotten into a relationship which is destroying his family and destroying himself. He returns to his family, but the damage has been done. He and his family suffer the results of his sins.

It makes no difference whether we caused the chaos or whether we suffer from the chaos caused by others. Jesus still walks on the water. He conquers the chaos. Then, do you know what he does? He calls us to walk out onto the chaos and walk towards him. “Come Peter.” Peter walked on the water. At least for a bit.

That is what Jesus does for us all. He walks on the chaos of our lives, and then calls us to come and join him. He gives us the strength to walk on water.

And what if we fail? What if we blink, and sink like Peter did? “Don’t be afraid,” the Lord says. He is there to reach down and lift us out of the water, out of the chaos, just as he lifted Peter out of the water, out of the chaos of his life.

The Lord knows that we are not saints, not yet anyway. He knows that we are weak. He accepted Peter, that loud lout, that well-meaning coward, and turned him into the Rock of the Church. He takes us as we are and walks with us on the water. He only asks us to have the courage to put our faith in Him. He gives us the strength to join Him in conquering the chaos.

Where is the chaos in your lives, in my life? Is it sickness or death? Is it chemical dependence? Is it some other addiction? Is it turmoil in your marriage or your family? Where have the seas raised up to chaotic dimensions? Wherever that chaos is, please remember, that there is nothing, no chaos that is too great for Jesus to conquer. And there is nothing too devastating for us to conquer with Him.

He walked on the waters, and He calls us to walk with Him.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
19 Ordinary Time

Not Color Blind but Color Blessed

(August 9, 2020)

Bottom line: We stand in awe of what God did in forming the Jewish people and we rejoice that in Christ we can become grafted on to that race. And that race is color blessed.

Today St. Paul refers to "my own people, my kindred according to the flesh." He is referring, of course to the Jewish people. Before talking about what the Jewish race means to us, I'd like to say a word about the issue of race today.

Pastor Rick Warren wrote: "Some people say, 'When I look at people, I don't see race. I don't see their color.'" Pastor Warren responds, "There's a word for that: liar! Nobody is colorblind when it comes to race. And God doesn't want you to be colorblind. He wants you to be color blessed."

That struck a cord with me. When I went to Stanwood High, we weren't exactly white. More a pale pink. I am happy our society has become color blessed. One of the great things about Hispanic ministry is the mixture of races and colors. Here at St. Mary of the Valley, we are color blessed.

At the same time - and this is going to surprise many people - the Bible does not identify people by skin color. I've read the Bible through several times and I can think of only two places where it makes a reference to a person's skin color. The Bible really is color blind!

The Bible identifies people by their culture. We see Ethiopians, Babylonians, Greeks and so on. The Jewish people interacted with them not as people with different skin color, but as different cultures or "nations".

The story of the Bible is about God forming a people of his own - the Jews or Israelites. St. Paul says this about the Jewish race: "They are Israelites; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever."

Wow! Wow! Some think it's unfair God showed so much favoritism to the Jews. Well, along with great blessings came great suffering. In Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye complaints to God: "I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can't You choose someone else?"

The Jewish people have a unique place in human history. But you know something? The amazing thing is that you and I can become joined to the Jewish race. St. Paul says that we Gentiles, we non-Jews, are like "wild olive branches" who have become grafted on to that Jewish trunk. We take our nourishment from those Jewish roots.

Next Sunday we will get a little preview when Jesus encounters a non-Jewish woman, a Caananite to be exact. It's pretty interesting so don't miss it.

For today we stand in awe of what God did in forming the Jewish people and we rejoice that in Christ we can become grafted on to that race. And that race is color blessed. It includes you and me - and people from every tribe and nation. Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
19 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
19 Ordinary Time

Today we consider a text that is crucial to the Church’s understanding of itself. The words of Jesus addressed to Peter, ‘You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.’ I suppose this is one of the most famous puns in the whole of history, Peter meaning rock. But that aside, the claims that the Church has made based on those few words are very great indeed. And they have provoked a good deal of criticism and have been an obstacle to many.

The claims are these: that Jesus gives authority to Peter and his successors to lead the Church, that the Holy Spirit will keep the successors of Peter free from error in matters concerning faith and morals, and that being in communion with the successors of Peter (i.e. the Popes) is essential to being a member of the one true Church of God.

We must remember the context in which these words of Jesus arise. Peter has just made an extraordinary confession of faith in response to Jesus’ question ‘Who do you say that I am?’ Peter’s reply, as we all know so well, is, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’ Jesus then declares that this extraordinary statement of faith was directly inspired by God the Father.

So clearly Peter is important, indeed vital, to the work that Jesus was to accomplish. It is clear also that leadership for the Church, for the followers of Jesus after he returned to his Father, was needed and it was the intention of Jesus that Peter should fulfil this role.

An important question arises, one that has caused problems for Orthodox and Protestant Christians for centuries, it is simply this: How is this ministry of leadership to be exercised? Among Catholics those taking a very high view of the Papacy have claimed that the Pope has immediate and overall authority in the Church. While most Protestants would reject any such claim completely out of hand, Orthodox Christians would give the Popes as the successors of Peter a primacy of honour. However, they would see his special role as something that ought to be exercised collegially in communion with all the other bishops.

Historians have noted that the Pope’s authority within the Catholic Church has actually increased over the years. While he has always had the ‘last word’ in important matters of faith he has not always exercised the same level of jurisdiction that he now possesses. For example, these days it is the Pope who appoints almost all of the Bishops wherever they might be. But this was not always the case because for many centuries Bishops were elected or appointed locally, especially in those areas where communication with Rome was difficult. Archbishops usually had to have their appointments confirmed by Rome, but this could take years or even decades because it was something that had to be done personally and involved the Archbishop going to Rome to collect the pallium.

Then there is the question of the Holy Spirit keeping the successors of St Peter free from error in matters of faith and morals. Certainly down through the centuries the Pope’s have been exactly that, the ultimate moderators in matters of doctrine. They have played a crucial role in keeping the faith of the Apostles intact despite all kinds of changing circumstances and new challenges. But again this area is not without its difficulties and our closest brothers, the Orthodox, have some problems with certain areas of what they perceive to be new articles of faith such as purgatory, the filoque clause in the Creed and most of all the 1870 definition of papal infallibility.

And within our Church there is a particular area where many people in the West have found difficulties with the teaching of the Popes and that is on the Church’s attitude towards artificial contraception. The problems associated with these areas which we can describe as authority and faith have obviously had their impact upon the other important role of the successors of Peter, their role as the touchstone of unity. It might appear as if this crucial aspect of the Petrine Ministry has been badly compromised over the centuries and for evidence of this we only have to look at the many divisions among the Christian Churches.

You might think that by now the role of the Popes is so defective that the whole enterprise is flawed and useless. But far from it! Yes, there are some difficulties, as I have pointed out. But if we reflect on what things would be like for Christianity without the Papacy then we quickly realise that it has actually provided outstanding leadership and has heroically maintained the faith of the Apostles for the last two millennia.

And some of those things which I have characterised as difficulties prove to be prophetic stances which contain an important message for the people of today. Which other authority in the world witnesses so well to the values of marriage and family life? Who else speaks up for chastity, purity and fidelity? Who speaks out against the widespread acceptance of promiscuous lifestyles? Who else has the courage to question the wisdom of the widespread reliance on artificial methods of contraception?

We see then that the role of Peter and his successors has shown itself to be a guiding light for all Christians despite the fact that at some points in history there have been movements to completely reject the Petrine ministry. In the modern world even members of those denominations furthest away from Catholicism, when they take their blinkers off, have to acknowledge that the teaching and witness of the Papacy is something that cannot be simply sidelined for it has proved to be one of the most important guides for anyone wanting to live an authentic Christian life today. We should be proud of the Papacy and recognise that it is one of Christ’s great gifts to the Church. But also we should not be surprised that there are some difficulties on this great pilgrimage of faith that the People of God is engaged in.

Christ knew the quality of the man he was choosing. That Peter deserted him after his arrest was no surprise to Jesus, but then so did almost all the other Apostles. He knew better than anyone how Peter was impetuous on the one hand and indecisive on the other. But Christ deliberately chooses the weak to confound the strong. When it comes down to it what have the Popes got? Nothing much, except faith and the promises of Christ. Their power is not based on wealth or weapons because the authority that they wield is not of the worldly kind. Their task is to simply and straightforwardly proclaim faith in Jesus Christ as the one true Saviour of the World. This is the only kind of leadership that the Church could ever want or need. So we are proud of the Papacy, glad to be Catholic, and inspired to be faithful to Christ and his Church.

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