Archive for the ‘21st Sunday’ Category

Blessed Are You 8-27-2017

Thursday, August 24th, 2017

They were surrounding him. They were simple people: his disciples, fishermen, people who did not think very much of themselves. People nobody thought very much of. Nobody ever asked their opinions. Nobody ever paid much attention to what they thought or felt. The people who mattered looked down on them. They smelled of fish. The smell came out of their hair and out of their clothing.
And now Jesus whom they had followed as their model, whom they had imitated like children, whom they were surprised to be allowed to follow, asked them, “What name would you give me? Who do you people say that I am?”
They could not believe their ears. It was impossible that he was asking for their opinion. That is why they started telling him what the scribes, the priests, the Pharisees, the political leaders, and the important ones were saying. They answered, “They say, those other ones say that you are John the Baptizer, others say Jeremiah, others Elijah, and again others, one of the prophets.”
Then he said, “But you, who do you say I am?” They looked at one another. Was he really going to pay attention to what they thought? Again they looked at one another. They nudged Peter, who was obviously their leader, and he said, “I know who you are, we know who you are. You are the Messiah, you are the Son of the Living God.”
And then Jesus said something strange. He said, “Peter, how blessed you are because you do not say that of yourself. What you said came from God, God in you.”
What Jesus said of Peter, he also said to us. I pray that we believe that Jesus is the Messiah. I pray that we believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I hope that is the reason we come together today.
That same God who was in Peter must be in us. We are charged with God’s spirit. We are full of the Son’s spirit. God is in us.
A lot of us have the bad habit of thinking of ourselves as totally negative, as non-participants in so many affairs, as in a sense, good-for-nothing. Just like the early disciples thought of themselves.
Others are important – others are leading the world. We forget the good in us – we forget God in us. We overlook our potential – our dignity.
I read about an African Bishop, who was described as a contemporary saint by TIME magazine. He was from Tanzania. Bishop Christopher said we need two types of confessional boxes in our churches, some at the right side and some at the left side. In the left ones, you confess your sins, getting as a penance to go to the right side with the obligation to confess honestly the good you did, the good in you, the God in you. That is what Jesus said of Peter. Blessed are you, Peter. God is with you. That is what I say to you. God is with you – in you. Don’t forget it! Live like you believe it. Blessed are you!

The Narrow Door 8-21-2016

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

A young man wrote a letter to a priest. He told the priest he could use the letter any way he wished. Except for a few minor changes, here’s what the young man wrote: “I was one of the top swimmers in my category in Canada. Then one day I let my friends talk me into experimenting with drugs. I got hooked, and soon my mental, physical, and spiritual health deteriorated badly…I knew I was all screwed up. I became lonely and terribly frightened. There was no one I could talk to. To make matters worse, I was in debt to drug dealers for over $3,000. I figured my only way out was suicide, so I went home and wrote this note: ‘Dear Mom and Dad, I am sorry to cause you this pain…please don’t grieve too much. If I had stayed alive, I would have caused you a lot more grief than by what I just did…I love you and the whole family. (signed) Christopher”
“I began to drink to overcome fear as I prepared to take my life. Then at the last minute something made me stop; I grabbed the phone and called a crisis center. I didn’t know it then, but my mother was praying like mad for me. A few days later I entered a drug rehabilitation program. Soon I regained my physical and psychological health. It was then that I started reading the Bible. The more I read it, the more peace and joy I felt. This led me to put all my trust in God.”
“Meanwhile, there developed in me this growing desire to learn more about Jesus and to get to know him better. It’s kind of funny. I must have prayed on my knees at least ten times – asking Jesus to come into my life – before I realized that he was already in my life…”
“All this happened about five years ago. Since then, God has blessed me greatly. I teach in a Catholic high school and I’m active in my parish community…I’m also still trying to learn how to open myself more and more to the love and mercy of God. Sincerely your, Chris”
That letter illustrates one of the points in today’s gospel: The door to God’s kingdom is, indeed, narrow. But that didn’t stop Chris from trying to enter. He struggled and struggled until he did. I wonder how many people (like you & me), would have had the courage to struggle as Christopher did.
Someone said there are three kinds of Christians: Tug-boat Christians, sail-boat Christians, and raft Christians. Tug-boat Christians are people who follow Jesus not only in sunny weather but also in stormy weather. They are people who follow Jesus not only when the wind and the tide serve them but also when the wind and the tide oppose them. They are people who go to Mass not because they have to but because Jesus said at the Last Supper, “Do this in memory of me.” (Luke 22:19) They are people who help other people not because they feel like it but because Jesus said, “Love one another as I love you.” (John 15:12)
Sail-boat Christians, on the other hand, are people who follow Jesus when the wind and the tide serve them. But when the wind and the tide oppose them, they tend to go in the direction they are blown. They are people who go to Mass when family and friends go. But left to themselves, they often miss. They are the people who ask, “How far can I go before I sin?” Rather than, “How much more can I do because I love?” They are people who tend to follow the crowd more then they follow the Gospel.
Finally, there are the raft Christians. They are Christians in name only. They don’t really follow Jesus, even when the wind and the tide serve them. If they do go in his direction, it’s only because someone pulls or pushes them. They are people who do Christian things not because they want to but because they have to. In short, they are Christians in name but not in deed.
The question set before us is this: Are we a tug-boat Christian, a sail-boat Christian, or a raft Christian? Are we tug-boat Christians? Do we follow Jesus in good times and in bad? Do we go with him not only through the wide door but also through the narrow door? Or are we sail-boat Christians? Do we follow Jesus only in good times? Or are we raft Christians? Are we Christians in name only?
These are some of the growth questions today’s readings set before us. No one can answer them for us. We must do that ourselves.