Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, (August 10, 2008) Mt. 14: 22-33
There can be little doubt after reading the Gospels that Peter loved Jesus very much. His triple confession of his love for Jesus surely has to be among the most moving passages in the Scriptures. In this passage (John 21) Jesus asked Peter three times: “Simon, Son of John, do you love me more than these?” And three times Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” And three times Jesus then responded to Peter, “ Feed my lambs.” Peter was a very weak human being and had denied Jesus three times. But he did love Jesus greatly and because of this love Jesus placed this week human being over his new community, soon to be called the Church.
Peter’s great love for Jesus was one thing; his faith in Jesus was another. If Peter’s level of faith had matched his level of love, he would, as they say, have been in business. But unfortunately, it did not. How often Jesus said to all the Apostles, including Peter, “O you of little faith,”? And this also includes all of us. It is not hard to love Jesus. He is a very loveable person. But it is hard, very hard, to really put our faith and trust in him. Isn’t that a bit strange? How can we love so much and have so little faith in the one we love?
I dare say, if Peter had as much faith in Jesus as he had love for him, he would never have denied him three times in the courtyard. I believe it was out of fear that Peter denied that he ever knew Jesus. On that passion night the Jews were in a particularly bad mood. They were obviously finally going to fulfill their desire to kill Jesus and Peter was afraid they would do the same thing to him if they found out that he “was one of them.” So he denied three times that he ever knew Jesus to save his own neck.
How many times have we done the same thing? To save ourselves from being humiliated or lessened in the eyes of others, we do things we would never do ordinarily because of our love of Jesus. We are all capable of denying Jesus because our faith is weak. If it were as strong as our love, we (or Peter) would never have to fear the consequences of our sticking up for the ways and truth of Jesus.
Jesus, we love you much. We also have faith and trust in you but it needs strengthening. Like the man said in the Gospel when you cured his son, Lord, I believe; help my unbelief, help raise the weakness of my faith.
Monday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time, (August 11, 2008) Feast of St. Clare of Assisi
St. Clare, whose feast we celebrate today, was the first woman Franciscan. She was born in 1194 and died in 1253 in Assisi. Clare is the foundress of an Order of nuns called the Poor Clares. During Lent in 1212, she heard St. Francis of Assisi preach and she decided she wanted to do what he was doing, i.e., live a poor, humble life for Jesus Christ. And she didn’t just think about doing this, but on Palm Sunday she left her home and went to a small chapel, San Damiano, where Francis cut her hair and gave her a Franciscan habit to wear.
Soon some other women followed her and by 1215 she became the Superior of the Poor Clares. She and her sisters ate no meat, wore no shoes, had no money and observed silence most of the time. The Order began to spread throughout Italy and on further into France and Germany. Numerous miracles are attributed to St. Clare.
My favorite miracle story is the story of the Saracens invading Assisi and making an attempt to get into the convent where Clare and her Sisters lived. Clare carried the Blessed Sacrament to where the Saracens could see it and prayed to God to save her Sisters. Suddenly, that band of uncouth savages just up and fled the scene never to bother the Sisters again.
Clare was a sick woman throughout much of her life. She died on August 11, 1253, shortly after the approval of her Rule by the Holy Father. There is a monastery of Poor Clares in Bloomington, MN, where we Friars at the Franciscan Retreat House in Prior Lake, MN, are privileged to preside at Liturgy for them twice a week. It is a joy to be with these holy, happy women and to celebrate Eucharist with them. St. Clare gave the world a great gift in the Order she founded.
St. Clare of Assisi, pray for us.
Tuesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time, (August 12, 2008) Mt. 18: 1-5, 10, 12-14
In the Gospel selected for today’s Liturgy, the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” He called a small child over, placed the child in their midst and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes like this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”
If we want to be part of this Kingdom of heaven, let alone the greatest in it, we must “turn”; we must undergo conversion; make a U turn, and become like a little child. We all start out like little children because that is nature’s way. But we grow up, and in doing so we develop some ways and attitudes that we didn’t have when we were children and these ways and attitudes are not very conducive to the Kingdom of heaven. And so, we have to change, to turn, to convert back to the virtues of the child that we left behind in growing up.
We must learn to love again without prejudices or judgments that drive love away. We must learn to forgive those who happen to hurt us and not be resentful. We must have faith and trust in people and not in our own ways. We must be open and tolerant of others and of their ideas and opinions. We must be humble and willing to be happily in the lowest place.
I don’t know about you, but I still have a lot of changing to do according to the criterion of Jesus for being a member of the Kingdom of heaven.
Wednesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time, (August 13, 2008) Mt. 18: 15-20
After reading the Gospel selection for today, I began to wonder how to put the ideas of this Gospel to practical use in our daily living. I decided the first sentence of our Lord’s words to us today really should be followed for better living through better communication. Jesus said, “If your brother/sister sins against you, go and tell him/her his/her fault between you and him/her alone.”
What usually happens when someone hurts or offends us? First, we stop talking to them and promise ourselves we will never talk to them again. Second, we judge them in our own minds as being a big nothing. Third, we go and tell others what a big nothing so and so is. Fourth, we accept their apology and become friends again. Fifth, we wonder how we are going to undo all that we said and did in steps one, two and three.
A suggestion: Wouldn’t it be easier all the way around to just go to them and tell them they hurt you by doing such and such without judging them in any way? Just tell them how it made you feel and that you hope it won’t happen again? And then go on living? No anger, no judgments, no gossip, no hurting the reputation of another, no need to undo all you did the other way.
This strategy sounds easier to me than the other option. How about you?
Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time, (August 14, 2008) St. Maximillian Kolbe
St. Maximillian Kolbe was a Conventual Franciscan Friar of our own time who was canonized a Saint of the Church. It is possible!
Maximillian was born in Poland on January 8, 1894. He became a Conventual Franciscan and was ordained a priest in Rome in 1918. He had a great devotion to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and founded a sodality called the Militia of Mary Immaculate which he promoted throughout the world. Maximillian returned to Poland and during World War II was imprisoned by the Nazis in Auschwitz, Germany.
On August 14, 1941, he offered his own life in the place of another prisoner who had a family to care for. He died from an injection of carbolic acid. Maximillian was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 10, 1982.
I almost feel like I knew Maximillian Kolbe. I studied in the same Collegio in Rome where he studied. His room on the second floor of the Collegio was turned into a small chapel and it was there that those about to be ordained
priests practiced saying the Latin Mass before ordination. We also attended many meetings for the promotion of the Militia of Mary Immaculate and heard a lot about Maximillian and his cause that had been introduced for his beatification. All of this happened for me between 1954 and 1958, way before he was canonized a saint.
St. Maximillian Kolbe, pray for us.
Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time, (August 15, 2008) Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary celebrates the fact that Mary, as a very special woman in the economy of salvation history, received a very special privilege in being assumed body and soul into heaven at the end of her earthly life. Whether Mary died a temporal death or not is still a matter of theological discussion as death is the result of sin and Mary was preserved from all stain of sin from the first moment of her conception. Most theologians, however, are of the opinion that she did die a temporal death because her Divine Son, Jesus, did so.
Mary’s life, after the Annunciation by the Angel Gabriel, which informed her that she was to be the Mother of Jesus, was all about Jesus. I think it is safe to say that Jesus never left her thoughts. She was truly a faithful disciple of Christ. She belonged to Jesus all the way. Her “fiat” (be it done to me) bound her forever to her Son Jesus. She was his Mother and quite literally gave him to the world, to you and to me. We read in the first reading for today’s Liturgy that “she gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all nations.”
This solemnity of the Assumption reminds us that we too, like Mary, can be faithful disciples of her Son, Jesus. We too can belong entirely to him and because we belong to him we too can give him and his abundant life to others just as Mary did. We have received this life and we can give it to others through living the way Jesus wants us to live. We do this by showing by our example that we live the way, truth and life of Jesus. Mary was privileged to be the Mother of Jesus. You and I are privileged to be his sons and daughters through adoption. Let us pray that we may be worthy of such a privilege, of being an adopted son or daughter of God.
Saturday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time, (August 16, 2008) Mt. 19: 13-15
It is quite obvious from reading the gospels, today’s gospel included, that Jesus had a warm spot in his heart for children. And if we are going to follow Jesus, we are going to have to be warm and complimentary to all people, especially to the children. So often we complain about children in a negative way. They have too much energy; they make too much noise; they don’t put things where they belong; they don’t do this or that. I admit I am like this at times and need a little help in changing this. This is not the way it should be.
Children, like all of us, need to be affirmed. We all need to hear the words : I love you – I am proud of you –You did a great job — Thank you very much.
I have to remind myself often to do this and not be so critical of the children.