Hold Firm In Faith!

May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts!

From the readings this weekend, I am reminded of the true sovereignty of Jesus and that in order for one to experience Jesus’ saving power, one must approach him in humble, sincere faith.

The message in the first reading from Isaiah foretells that God will replace someone of royalty because he is corrupt and guilty of neglecting his responsibility to provide care for the people.  His replacement will be a servant of God and like a father to the people caring for them from the heart.  God will sustain him and establish his rule firmly because he strives to follow God’s law and fulfill justice.

St. Paul praises the wonderful, mysterious wisdom of God and expresses his recognition that God, as creator of all, has sovereign dominion over all things, but more importantly is moved by love.

Jesus asks the disciples “who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Out of all the disciples, Peter is the first to make his profession of faith in Jesus as Son of God.  Jesus recognizes that Peter’s faith is a gift from God and then Jesus establishes Peter’s faith as the foundation of the Church and extends to him the authority and responsibility to govern the Church with the promise that God will always sustain the Church.

As Catholics, this passage is a great comfort to us because we know that God, the source of all power and authority, has pledged that he will establish, protect, guide and sustain the Church forever.  We also hold firm faith that Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the Church is a reality and that the bishops and the Pope are sustained and guided by God’s spirit in the duty of teaching and governing the Church.  God fulfills this promise even when human beings fail, no matter if the one who fails is the pope, a bishop, a priest or a lay person.  God sustains the Church in being and God is fully active in all the sacraments beyond any particular clergy or lay person.

Every one of us is invited, like Peter, to have an intimate relationship with Jesus: to love and experience Jesus’ love.  Think about the forces that were part of the ancient world.  Fear, sickness, political oppression and corruption, subterfuge, riots, violence and war, widespread poverty, pagan worship of idols and false gods topped off with demonic possession were common tensions that people had to live with.  Jesus came as a healer, a teacher of truth, peace and justice and he showed God’s genuine love for the people.  Many of us need to experience salvation on a daily basis from all the oppressive forces that are in our lives.  Like Peter, we must come in sincere faith and ask Jesus for help.  We experience deliverance in different ways: through prayer, community fellowship, Word and the sacraments mainly.  But it is only through faith that we are able see and experience God’s presence in action around us and through us.

God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter

No Vacation From Vocation

Peace and grace to you!

This weekend Jesus took his disciples with him on a vacation from their usual ministerial activities.  The region of Tyre and Sidon would have been a place where they would have been noticed as Jews but the people of the region would not have known anything beyond that.

I remember my Clinical Pastoral Education summer in Denver Colorado at St. Anthony Hospital.  I had been to Denver plenty of times for visiting or various activities but never for an extended stay.  The course that I was taking was specialized and focused and I was an unknown to the instructors and other students.  I had made previous arrangements to stay at a near-by parish: Our Lady of Fatima.  The Pastor, Walker Nicholas, who is now the Bishop of Sioux Falls would frequently say to me: “there is no vacation from a vocation.”

I think that is what Jesus is showing the disciples and all of us today.  No matter where we are or what we are doing, as disciples we have an order of priority that places God first and witnessing to our faith by being responsive to other people.  It isn’t just at Church on the weekends; it must be true in our homes and everywhere we go—even on vacation!

To many, Jesus’ first response to the woman seems hard, like he is rejecting her.  This isn’t the Jesus we are accustomed to so it catches us off guard.  As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Jesus is challenging the woman’s beliefs in order to bring about in her a stronger, more certain faith in him and in God’s love and care for her.

As we go about our summer break or on vacation, watch for the moments when Jesus calls us to grow deeper in our expression of faith and act as his disciples.  We can’t compartmentalize.  It all has to flow from the one inner connection we have with Jesus.

God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter

Praying Through Challenges

May the grace of Christ console your hearts!

This weekend we are reminded of our need to pray through the many challenges that confront us in life.  Although God is always there to help us through them, we do not always remember or recognize God’s presence and nearness to us while we are in the midst of difficulties.

Elijah has had to face Jezebel and all the priests of Baal who oppose the one true God.  As God’s prophet, Elijah was familiar with opposition and difficulty but he had reached a point of loneliness and weariness that were so overwhelming that he asked God to end his life.  While he was lying on his mat waiting for death to come, an angel was sent to stir him to eat and then journey to the mountain to where God would speak to him.  As you already know, “going to the mountain” is a literary image used to convey that Elijah’s journey was spiritual which includes prayer.  In the midst of an overwhelming storm and violent natural forces, Elijah finds God’s presence with him in the still, small voice: in the quiet of prayer.

In the Gospel scene Jesus sends the disciples out on their own.  The wind and sea against them indicates that they are experiencing difficulties and challenges in their efforts to be disciples.  Meanwhile, Jesus takes time to pray and get face to face time with God: yes Jesus needed to pray!  Jesus walks across the water showing that union with God lifts us above torments, struggles and chaos.  As He draws near them, he is aware of their struggles.  Jesus extends to Peter the power to “walk on the water,” to rise above the chaos and confusion of the challenges but Peter loses his focus on Jesus and succumbs to sinking into human fear.  But, when Peter calls in need, Jesus saves him and raises him up!  Isn’t it amazing?  Elijah was saved by his cloak, a piece of cloth signifying his devotion to God and God’s providence, shelter and protection for him.  But we have something greater than what Elijah had: we have the name of Jesus!  We do not need anything but Jesus’ name for our salvation and when we call to him, he is with us immediately!  So when storms and tempests, challenges and difficulties arise in our lives, we call on the one who is always near and has power to save!

God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter


Peace and Grace to you!

This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration. In the first reading the prophet Daniel’s vision describes an experience of being present with God in heaven.  The language and imagery he uses conveys the Holy Trinity.  The Ancient One, the surging stream of fire and the Son of Man we all recognize as ways of referring to the Father, the Holy Spirit and Jesus the Son of God and Son of Man.  On the event of the Transfiguration, the disciples described Jesus as transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.  They would later recognize this event as a fulfillment of Daniel’s vision and a confirmation of Jesus’ identity as the written account in the Second Letter of Peter shows.   There is also hard evidence of Jesus’ splendor shining through his humanity in the Shroud of Turin.  Scientific analysis describes the imprint on the burial cloths of Jesus as not stains from natural elements such as blood or aloes and spices but rather from a brilliant flash of light.  Like a photographic negative.

The message in the Gospel is clear and simple:  This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, listen to him.  This statement and experience resonates with the event of Jesus’ baptism.  We all know that this two-fold revelation is God’s way of emphasizing the importance of believing who Jesus is, receiving his instructions, and putting what he teaches into practice.  Those who are baptized are also reminded of their own identity as God’s beloved Children.  Through Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, God has gifted us with a share in his own divine life and we are his message to the world as Jesus was.  It is expected that we always be mindful of this great gift and do our best to show God’s presence shining through our lives.  We are also reminded that, although this miracle of glory is hidden from our sight now, when we come to heaven, we will shine with this same Glory and splendor of Jesus.

May God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter