“Albrecht Altdorfer 016” by Albrecht Altdorfer – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.“ Mt. 16:24
Last weekend’s liturgy taught us about the need for a personal relationship with Jesus (“Who do you say that I am?” (Mt. 16:15). We are called to follow Jesus who is “the Christ” and we come to know Jesus through the grace of God. God wants to be in relationship with us. That is good news!
The Gospel for this Sunday picks up right where that one left off. In it we discover that entering into a personal relationship with Jesus does not take away the struggle of life or make life easy. The fact is that life is not easy. Suffering is a part of every life. Being a disciple of Jesus means taking up our cross, and accepting the suffering that comes our way.
It may seem like the good news from last Sunday suddenly takes a darker turn this Sunday. However, there is still good news here. In our suffering we are not alone. Jesus has entered into the place of pain and suffering in our life and in the world. He is found there. That is good news indeed. Jesus teaches us that, “… whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt. 16:25). When we “take up” the suffering that comes our way and allow it to be transformed by the loving presence of God we find the meaning of life! The good news is that Jesus redeeming love cannot be stopped. Where we think God is absent, Jesus assures us that He is there revealing himself to us. Thanks be to God!
Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood
Today I led a retreat for our parish and school staff. In preparing for the retreat I ran across this helpful article on forgiveness. I hope you find it helpful…
How to Forgive: 12 Steps (with Pictures) – wikiHow.
“Byzantinischer Maler um 1020 003” by Byzantinischer Maler um 1020 – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
“Who do you say that I am?” Mt. 16:15
This week’s liturgy invites us to ponder the question Jesus asks all of his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” As disciples of Jesus we each must answer that question for ourselves.
While no one can answer the question for us, the witness of other disciples can shed light on our own experience. For example, Jesus is…
Carpenter. Mercy. Crucified Lord. Christ. God-Man. Son of Man. Good. Risen Lord. Giver. Rabbi. Guardian. Gift. Leader. Redeemer. Anointed One. Messiah. Counselor. Suffering Servant. Savior. Holy One. Light. Love. Son of Mary. Son of God. Risen Lord. Good Shepherd. Master. King. Resurrection. Truth. Lord. Light. King. Miracle Worker. Deliverer.
Jesus is all of these and much more.
Yet ultimately, we only know who Jesus is when he reveals himself to us. “Blessed are you, Simon son of John, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 16:17).
Jesus comes to us in prayer and in the day to day experiences of our life. This week, pray for the grace to know Jesus better. The Father will reveal him to you as he did to Simon Peter.
Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood
A Carmelite nun in her cell, meditating on the Bible.
“The hard fact is that nobody finds time for prayer. The time must be taken. There will always be something more pressing to do, something more important to be about than the apparently fruitless, empty act of prayer.”Joan Chittister O.S.B.
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” (Mt. 15:27)
Prayer is the heart of the Christian life, but many of us have heart disease because we misunderstand what prayer is. It is easy for us to get caught up in the idea that prayer is about “feeling close to God”.” Like good consumers, we shop around for techniques or methods that will make us feel good during our prayer time. We want to “get something out” of our time in prayer. A little voice whispers to us, “With as hectic as my life is, don’t I deserve some consolation during prayer?”
And prayer can be a wonderful, joyful, peaceful experience. But it isn’t always that way. If consolation is our primary motive during prayer, we will be disappointed when prayer stops “feeling good.” At that point we may even stop praying altogether.
What we overlook is that prayer is often a struggle. The catechism has an entire section dedicated to “The Battle of Prayer.” A large part of prayer, just like in any relationship, is showing up.
In today’s Gospel the woman’s prayer (her conversation with Jesus), isn’t what we might expect. At first her request is met with resistance and harsh words. But she persists! Her persistence leads her to move beyond pleasantries and eventually into a deeper insight into Jesus’ identity. She recognizes who Jesus is: the Savior of all people; and her request is granted.
Our prayer life requires that same kind of persistence. Resistance in prayer can be an invitation to deepen our prayer life, rather than abandon it.
Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood
“Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter. (Mt. 14:30-31).
We cannot save ourselves. It is easy for us to think that we can. Our self-sufficiency is a fatal trap and a fundamental deceit. At times, we all give in to the lie that our good actions, our prayers, our deep faith, our great ideas… will save us. We believe that somehow God will be indebted to us or that we don’t need God.
And then something happens. It may be as simple as being unable to find a parking place when we are late for an appointment. It may be as serious as a diagnosis that leaves us shaken to our foundation. But whatever this “something” is, it makes us realize that we cannot save ourselves. We are not as strong as we think we are. No matter how good, clever, prayerful, or faithful we are we need a savior.
We cannot save ourselves.
And when this “something” happens, we cry out like Peter did. We are confronted with the storms of life that we cannot handle and our heart cries out in desperation. We see our weakness and our need. Our poverty moves us to seek the Lord. And immediately Jesus stretches out his hand. He can save us. He is the only one.
We cannot save ourselves. The good news is that Jesus can and will.
Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood
“When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.” (Mt: 14:13)
In today’s Gospel we hear about Jesus miraculous feeding of 5000 people.
Jesus has just heard about the death of his friend, cousin, and perhaps mentor, John the Baptist. His heart is filled with grief. Jesus withdraws to be alone and have some time to deal with his loss… but the crowd has other ideas.
Knowing Jesus as a miracle worker, the crowd seeks Jesus out. Their own needs lead them to seek Jesus’ help.
If it were me, I think I would have tried even harder to hide and find some peaceful place to grieve. I would have been so carried away by my own pain and loss that I would not be able to deal with the needs of the crowd; Jesus reacts differently. He is moved with pity, not for himself and his own loss, but for the crowd.
In the midst of his own pain and loss, Jesus reaches out to help others
There is a strange dynamic within grief and sometimes we get stuck there. We are consumed by the loss and can see nothing else. At these times, it is helpful to follow Jesus’ example and reach out to a friend or neighbor in need. We are all carrying our pain and grief and when we share that burden with others, reaching out to them, we grow as a community of faith.
If you are undergoing a transition or loss, consider reaching out to your parish community. Our Care Ministry program is here to walk with you with love and compassion. Contact the parish office or pick up a flyer in the back of church if you would like more information about Parish Care Ministry and the support they can offer.
Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood