Welcome !

Greetings to all who love to wander along the paths of the Holy Scriptures! The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights of ordinary Catholics who have begun to delve into the mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully you will find these reflections inspiring and insightful. We are faithful to the Church, but we are not theologians; we intend and trust that our individual reflections will remain within the inspired traditions of the Church. (If you note otherwise please let me know!) Discussion and comments are welcome, but always in charity and respect! Come and join us as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures, which will lead us on the path into His heart, which "God alone has traced" Job 28:23.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

You Duped Me

Today's readings are taken from:
Jeremiah  20:7-9
Psalm 63:2-9
Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans  12:1-2
Gospel according to Matthew 16: 21-27

Jeremiah cried out to the Lord, "You duped me and I let myself be duped. You were too strong for me, and you triumphed.  All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me."  Jeremiah continues on to tell us that he is determined not to talk about the Lord anymore.  Jeremiah will be silent, but then the name of the Lord burns within Jeremiah and he must speak.

I asked myself and I ask you, have we been duped by the Lord? In a way I hope the answer is yes. Have we been seduced by Jesus to take up the mission of proclaiming the Word?  Do we stand up against the worldliness that can turn us into uncaring people, looking only for our personal gain and comfort.  Are we brave enough to speak out when needed and then accept the derision we might receive when we testify to our mission?  In many ways, we too can be prophets and then be willing to suffer the mocking and laughter that can follow. But in our hearts we can hold tight to the name of the Lord that indeed burns within us knowing that the Lord is always with us and within us.

As I reflected on the Gospel reading, I wondered if Peter too, felt that he had been duped. In the previous passages of Matthew, Jesus told Peter that he was blessed and that Peter would be the rock upon which Jesus would build His Church. Peter must have felt both fear and delight in hearing that he would be a vital part of the kingdom on earth.  Through God the Father, Peter had been able to proclaim that Jesus was "the Christ, the Son of the living God." Peter was probably both humbled and proud.

This week, as Peter hears more and more about what Jesus will endure for our Salvation, he must be horrified.  Jesus is the Son of God; things should be easy for Him.  Instead, Jesus will walk the path of humiliation, great suffering and death.  Peter rejects the possibility of a suffering Jesus and is sharply rebuked by Jesus.  Peter is compared to Satan; an obstacle to Jesus; perhaps tempting Jesus to take an easier path.  Jesus tells us, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it." 

And so Peter learns, as did Jeremiah, that the prophetic message may not be received with joy and happiness, but rather may be received with derision and even hatred.  We need to be careful not to conform to this age. We need to point out when power is abused; when our worth is defined by our wealth; when many people around us are deep into poverty and homelessness.  I'm not sure it is enough to live our lives in virtue and piety; maybe we need to take some action, speak out, etc.  I don't know what my next step should be, but I do know that when Jesus didn't know what to do next, He spent the night in prayer, asking His father to show Him what He should do next.  Maybe that's a good place for me to start.

Peace and Blessings,

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Keys to the Kingdom

Today's readings are taken from:
Isaiah 22: 19-23
Psalm 138: 1-2a,2b-3, 6-8
Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans  11: 33-36
Gospel according to Matthew 16: 13-20

I remember the first time I was given my own set of house keys. As a teenager, I needed to be able to unlock our front door for my younger brother and I on those days when my Mom was helping a neighbor in need. My Mom was a nurse and she often spent time helping an elderly neighbor who didn't have family nearby to care for them. I was really excited about those keys; I knew I was responsible for being sure not to lose them. Those keys meant that I was responsible for getting my brother and I safely into the house when Mom was helping elsewhere.

Receiving the keys is a theme for this Sunday's readings. The reading from Isaiah tells us of the removal of King David's steward Shebnah and the transfer of authority to Eliakim as master of David's palace. "I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open.” With the giving and receiving of the keys, great responsibility is given.

Then we "fast forward" to the Gospel of Matthew. Again we read about the giving of keys, this time to Peter. Jesus is giving authority to Peter, the rock. Peter has responded to Jesus' question: Who do YOU say I am, by answering, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Peter will become the leader of the New Covenant. "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." And so our Catholic, Apostolic Church was being born and Jesus says to Peter (and to us) "I will build my Church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Did you know that of all four gospels, only Matthew used the word CHURCH.

As I have been thinking about the authority given to Peter, I am drawn into the authority of our Church. Peter's successors will endure as long as the kingdom; through them we have teaching authority, forgiveness, the Church hierarchy, the Magisterium, etc. The earthly authority of the Church, comes directly from Jesus, the Christ. Sometimes, I get a bit frustrated with the institution, but I know that the authority of God works through our human frailty.

Therefore these words from the Our Father prayer are a beautiful reminder to me. "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." As Fr. Hamm said, "entering that kingdom on earth does eventually lead to entering the divine realm we call Heaven, but the authority given to Peter is a power that he exercises on earth."
And so together lets pray, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
Peace and Blessings,Judy

Sunday, August 10, 2014

But God was not in the Earthquake...Reflection for Readings for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 10, 2014

Do you see God in nature?  Do you see God in cataclysmic events?  I love to watch storms.  They are beautiful and terrifying, and wonderful to watch from the safety of indoors or from far away.  One hopes, sometimes desperately depending on the severity of the storm, that no one is hurt by the storm, and it is saddening to learn that property or homes were damaged.

At the mountain of God, Horeb,
Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter.
Then the LORD said to him,
“Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD;
the LORD will be passing by.”
A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains
and crushing rocks before the LORD—
but the LORD was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake—
but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was fire—
but the LORD was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When he heard this,
Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Of course God is present in all places, and in everything, so we know God was in the wind, was in the crushing rocks, and in the fire, but Elijah did not hear or see God in those events.  Elijah heard God in the tiny, whispering sound.  This is how God was speaking to Elijah.  Elijah learned to cut through the "noise" and hear the voice of God, not in the dramatic thundering surrounding the giving out of the commandments, but in the asking us to love one another through obeying his commandments to love one another as he loves us.  In the Gospel, Jesus walks through the noise of the storm, speaks, and through his speaking calms the storm and Peter's fearful spirit.

Aren't we the same way?  When tragedy strikes, when a so termed "Act of God" weather event destroys people's lives or homes, we do not hear God in the violence of those events.  We know that God loves us and wants good for his children, wants good for people of all faith and for people of no faith.   We know that God will come to our assistance, come to our aid in putting lives back together.  We hear God in the whispered healing of the agencies, friends and neighbors who come in to assist people getting back on their feet.   It is easy when one is a victim of a damaging storm or accident to ask God why.  "Why God, why did you let this happen to us?"  It is normal to ask and wonder, and a part of the process of coming to terms with an unwanted and unpleasant shift in one's life, an unfair hand dealt from the hand of life, and it is okay to ask God these questions.  Sometimes there are no good answers, sometimes what is is simply what is, and sometimes the answers come in time, through receiving and accepting the gentle ministrations of others who come along beside you, those who say "we know, we don't understand why either, but we love you and are here for you."   Those that like Jesus in the Gospel reading, reach out their hand to us and say "It is I, do not be afraid."  Sometimes the damage can be prevented in the future, as when we learn more about how to implement safer building codes, or improve our warning systems.

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.

Our faith life can go through storms, and there is a place of safe retreat.  When we have doubts or fears about God and our relationship with God, we too can improve our warning systems, "hide our face in our cloak", stop looking out at the storms of doubts and learn listen for God's quiet reassuring voice.  We find a quiet place of refuge to meditate on God's goodness in our lives, and draw strength from that "storm shelter".  As we grow and mature as Christians, as people of faith, we learn to be less afraid of the storms.  We learn to accept help from others when we lack faith ourselves.  We can see the warning signs and retreat safely into the arms of God, dodging the worst of the storm.  We can sit with God and watch the storm pass, notice its awesome and terrible beauty, pray that no one will be hurt by it, and stand ready to offer comfort and healing.

When we see others going through the storms of faith, like St. Paul in the passage from Romans, we can have great sorrow and anguish in our hearts for them, learn to empathize, even acknowledge the desire that we could take the storm's "beating" instead of them, and reach out our hands, be the hands of Christ for them as so many have been the hands of Christ for us.  When we turn our selves toward Jesus, turn our spirits inward to the quiet voice saying "this too shall pass, all will be well" and wait, we will find that eventually the storm does pass, and God was with us in the storm all along.

In Christ,

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Come and Eat! Be Satisfied!

A Reflection on Matthew 14:13-21 N.A.B.

By: Larry T

Servers rushing about, all kinds of rare and delicious foods piled high on serving platters; fine wines flowing freely; endless toasts, boisterous laughter, musicians, entertainment, and even dancing – it was a birthday bash – a royal birthday banquet.

At this banquet Herodias skillfully maneuvered Herod into ordering the murder of John the Baptist.

When Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been savagely murdered he tried to withdraw to a deserted place to be alone, but an enthusiastic crowd followed him. And when Jesus stepped from the boat to dry land the massive throng was there to greet him. He took pity on them and healed their sick. Ultimately this event concluded with a satisfying meal – Jesus’ banquet.

13 When Jesus heard of it, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.
14 When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.
15 When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”
16 [Jesus] said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.”
17 But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”
18 Then he said, “Bring them here to me,”
19 and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking  the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.
20 They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over—twelve wicker baskets full.
21 Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.
- Matthew 14:13-21 N.A.B.

The sharp contrast between Herod’s banquet and Jesus’ banquet is clear. At Herod’s banquet there was resentment, arrogance, scheming, and murder. It took place in a royal court. At Jesus’ banquet there was healing, trust, and sharing. It took place in a deserted location – like the wilderness in which ancient Israel was fed with manna and quail.

Reading that Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples should remind us of his institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper:

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.” – Matthew 26:26 N.A.B.

We might also recall that Elisha, the Old Testament prophet, fed a hundred men with twenty loaves of barley and a few fresh ears of corn.

42 A man came from Baal-shalishah bringing the man of God twenty barely loaves made from the first fruits, and fresh grain in the ear. “Give it to the people to eat,” Elisha said.
43 But his servant objected, “How can I set this before a hundred men?” “Give it to the people to eat,” Elisha insisted. “For thus says the LORD, ‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over.’”
44 And when they had eaten, there was some left over, as the LORD had said.
- 2 Kings 4:42-44

There are some parallels between Jesus’ banquet and Elisha’s banquet, but the number of people fed by Jesus is much larger than those fed by Elisha, a sign of Jesus’ superiority.

Still, the multiplication of fish and loaves of bread should point us beyond the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist to one more banquet, to the kingdom of God pictured by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah.

6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts
     will provide for all peoples
A feast of rich food and choice wines,
     juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines. -
Isaiah 25:6 N.A.B.

Reflecting on the feeding of the Israelites in the wilderness with manna and quail, Elisha’s feeding of one hundred men with twenty barley loaves and a few ears of corn, Jesus’s multiplication of five loaves and two fish for five thousand men not counting women and children, and Jesus’ institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper to Isaiah’s vision of the kingdom of God as a heavenly feast gives us a way of linking our present day experience of sharing in the Eucharistic meal to its rich biblical background, and our future hopes as God’s people.