Introduction: We might call this Sunday “Power Sunday” because the main theme of all three readings is that God is the Source of all authority. God shares His authority with elected civil rulers to serve the people and with the Pope and the other Church leaders for the material and spiritual welfare of His children.
Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading, taken from Isaiah, tells us how God hates unfaithful and selfish officials. He removed the proud “master of the royal palace” from his office, taking from Shebna the power and responsibility of which he had proven unworthy, and gave both to the humble and faithful Eliakim. The robe, the sash, and the keys are the insignia of this office. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 138), David thanks God for having raised him from lowly origins and given him authority as king over the people of Israel. In the second reading, St. Paul praises God for the depth of His wisdom, knowledge, and correct judgments, asserting that He is the Source of all authority on earth and in Heaven. Today’s Gospel passage shows us how Peter confesses Jesus as his Lord and Savior and how Jesus, in turn, approves Peter’s words and gives him teaching and ruling authority in his Church. Thus, Jesus establishes a “Magisterium” in his Church to serve the spiritual and physical needs of the Church members. By Jesus’ statement, “I will give you the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven,” he gives Peter and his successors the power to bind and to loose (make laws; exercise authority) in the Church, and the assurance that their decisions will be ratified in Heaven.
Life messages: 1) We need to accept and experience Jesus as our Lord and personal Savior: First, we should accept Jesus as the Son of God and our personal Savior. This means that we are accepting Jesus as our Good Shepherd, our Divine Savior and our Redeemer. Next, Jesus should become a living experience for us – as our God protecting us and providing for us in our life’s journey, loving us, forgiving us, helping us, and transforming our lives and outlook. This is made possible by our listening to Jesus through the daily, meditative reading of the Bible, by talking to Jesus through daily, personal, communal and liturgical prayers, by offering our lives on the altar with Jesus whenever we participate in the Holy Mas, by receiving him in holy Communion, and by leading exemplary lives as we cooperate with His grace. Our personal experience of Jesus will also lead us to praise and thank God in all the events of our lives, both good pleasant and painful, realizing that God’s loving hands are behind everything.2) We need to surrender our lives to Jesus, our Lord and Savior. That surrender requires that we freely give all areas of our lives to Jesus and radiate to all around us Jesus’ sacrificial agápe love, unconditional forgiveness, overflowing mercy, and committed service. The joy, the love, and the peace that we find in Jesus need to be reflected in the way we live our whole lives. We also surrender our lives to Jesus by rendering humble, loving service to others with the strong conviction that Jesus is present in every person.
OT XXI [A] (Aug 23) Sunday: Is 22:19-23; Rom 11:33-36; Mt 16:13-20
Homily starter anecdotes: (Is there any Biblical basis for using anecdotes? Mt 13: 34: All this Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable.”
#1: “Who do you think I am?” In 1896, after fifteen centuries, Athens renewed the Olympic Games. You can imagine how proud the Greeks were to host the first modern Olympics. The Greeks were by far the most successful nation in terms of total medals (forty-six), 26 more than the U. S. Nevertheless, their number of first-place finishes (10) was one fewer than the Americans who gained 11. The last competition was the marathon. Greece’s entrant was named Spyridon Louis, a water carrier with a little military training, and not much competitive background. He learned endurance by transporting mineral water from his village to the city. When the race started, Louis was far back in the pack of marathoners. But as the miles passed, he moved up steadily. One by one the leaders began to falter. The French hero fell in agony. The hero from the United States had to quit the race. Soon, word reached the stadium that a lone runner was approaching the arena, and the emblem of Greece was on his chest! He even slowed down for a glass of wine. As the excitement grew, Prince George of Greece hurried to the stadium entrance where he met Louis and ran with him to the finish line. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greece_at_the_1896_Summer_Olympics). — In this sports tale, we have something of the history of the human race. Jesus Christ started from way back in the pack. He was born in relative obscurity, never had many followers, commanded no army, erected no edifices, wrote no books. He died young, was buried in a borrowed grave, and you’d think he’d be quickly forgotten. But, no! His reputation has grown, so that today Jesus is worshiped on every continent, has more followers than ever before and sixteen times has been pictured on the cover of Time magazine, while Jesus’ sayings have been translated into more than 200 languages. Consider: Socrates taught for forty years, Plato for fifty, and Aristotle, forty. Jesus Christ only taught for three years. Yet which has influenced the world more, one hundred thirty years of classical thought or three years of Christ’s? In the Library of Congress there are 1,172 reference books on William Shakespeare, 1,752 on George Washington, 2,319 on Abe Lincoln, and 5,152 on Jesus Christ. Perhaps H. G. Wells best summed up the runaway difference in interest. “Christ,” he wrote, “is the most unique person of history. No man can write a history of the human race without giving first and foremost place to the penniless teacher of Nazareth.” As Emerson once noted, “The name of Jesus is not so much written as PLOUGHED into the history of the world.” Today’s Gospel challenges us to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior as St. Peter did at Caesarea Philippi. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
# 2: “Who is Jesus?” In his teens, C.S. Lewis was a professed agnostic. He was influenced in his conversion to Christianity by reading G.K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man, and through the influence of two of his Christian friends. After his conversion, he wrote a number of books defending Christianity. During the Second World War, in his famous BBC radio talk, “Mere Christianity,” he said, “I am trying to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Jesus: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who is merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic, on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg, or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.” — If we accept Jesus as a moral teacher, then we must necessarily accept Him as God, for great moral teachers do not tell lies. (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
#3: “Suppose Jesus were to come here.” Without the 19th century essayist Charles Lamb, William Shakespeare would be “missing in action.” It was Mr. Lamb’s essays that snatched the 17th century playwright from undeserved obscurity after he had been famous for Andy Warhol’s fifteen minutes. One night, Lamb and his guests were chatting about the Bard over Spanish port and Cuban cigars. “Supposing,” someone asked Lamb, “Shakespeare were to stroll into our dining room at this moment.” The essayist replied, “We would raise a glass of port to the great man.” “Supposing,” said another, “Jesus were to come here.” Lamb answered, “We would all get down on our knees.” — There is the essential difference between the Man from Nazareth and all other great people you can think of. “The Christ is God, and all others, no matter what their deeds, are but fools who strut on the stage for a brief time and then exit.” (Fr. Gilhooly) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
#4: “I am the governor of this state.” When Christian Herter was governor of Massachusetts, he was running hard for a second term in office. One day, after a busy morning chasing votes (and no lunch), he arrived at a church barbecue. It was late afternoon and Herter was famished. As Herter moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken. She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line. “Excuse me,” Governor Herter said, “do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?” “Sorry,” the woman told him. “I’m supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person.” “But I’m starved,” the governor said. “Sorry,” the woman said again. “Only one to a customer.” Governor Herter was a modest and unassuming man, but he decided that this time he would throw a little weight around. “Do you know who I am?”he said. “I am the governor of this state.” “And do you know who I am?”the woman said. “I’m the Lady in Charge of the Chicken. Move along, Mister.” —This is a short, and simple, and humorous story about two people viz. Governor Herter and the Lady in Charge of the chicken, each trying to exert authority over to the other by telling – ‘who I am.
Introduction: We might call this Sunday “Power Sunday,” because the main theme is the handing over of the “Keys” which open and shut, representing authority in the Church and in the Kingdom. In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges us to know him personally and to serve him and love him as Lord, and he wants from each one of us our total, whole-hearted response.
The Scripture readings summarized: The first reading, taken from Isaiah, gives a detailed description of the investiture of a royal court official. The robe, the sash, and the keys are insignia of this office. The Lord God, through Isaiah, tells Shebna that the keys of authority will be taken away from him, the unfaithful, proud “master of the royal palace.” In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 138), David thanks God for having raised him from lowly origins and given him authority as King over the people of Israel. In the second reading, St. Paul points out that God is the Source of all authority on earth and in Heaven. Today’s Gospel passage, giving the Petrine promise of Mt. 16:16-20, defines Catholicism. Here, Jesus reveals his plan to build his Church on the strong bedrock foundation of Peter, to whom he will then give the Keys of teaching and governing authority in the Church. Thus, Simon Bar-Jona receives a new mission symbolized by a change of name, Cephas (Peter), the rock (petros), on which Jesus will build his Church which the power of evil cannot overcome. Peter will be given the Keys of the Kingdom and the power to bind and to loose (make laws; exercise authority) on earth, decisions which Heaven will ratify. Thus, Jesus commissions Peter, giving him authority and leadership in the Church.
The first reading (Is 22:19-23) explained: Chapters thirteen through twenty-three of Isaiah record oracles in which the prophet Isaiah pronounces God’s judgment against various nations. In chapter twenty-two, Shebna, the proud, unfaithful royal official, is severely criticized and told by the Lord God, through Isaiah, that he will have to yield to a replacement named Eliakim: “I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station.” The reason for the degradation of Shebna, the “master of the royal palace,” (the most powerful person next to the King), was that he had tried to immortalize himself by beginning to construct his own tomb in a lofty place on the mountain. The Lord demands faithfulness to His way and His word. Hence, Shebna was removed from his position of controlling access both to the city and to the king
The “master of the royal palace” proudly carried the “key,” an iron bar of considerable size, on his shoulder during state occasions. This “key” symbolism recalls Eliakim’s installation as “major domo” (second in command to the king) in King Hezekiah’s palace. The reference to the “key of the house of David” in this text prompted some Fathers to see in it a Messianic prophecy, foretelling the removal from power of the leaders of the Chosen People of the Old Testament, and the transfer of that power to Christ, who in turn would hand it on to Peter as head of His Church. The robe and the sash indicate that Eliakim has been invested with authority. The key symbolizes jurisdiction, and the tent peg is a sign of stability. This passage prepares us for today’s Gospel, Matthew 16:13-20, in which Jesus grants Peter “the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.” The “key of David” connects with Matthew’s “keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.” Isaiah emphasizes the charismatic dimension of authority, stating that it is Yahweh who gives certain individuals the charism of leadership. “Isaiah foretells that the keys to David’s kingdom would be given to a new master, who would rule as father to God’s people. Jesus, the root and offspring of David, alone holds the Kingdom’s keys (see Revelation 1:18; 3:7; 22:16). (Dr. Scott Hann). The purpose of authority in the Church, or of authority at any level, is not to control the lives of others, but rather to help them to seek the values that will bring them lasting joy, both in this changing world and in the next.
The Second Reading (Romans 11:33-36) explained: Paul praises the wisdom of God and His inscrutable ways of bringing salvation to all people. Paul marvels at the Divine Goodness, Wisdom and Knowledge. He emphasizes the wisdom of God (described in chapters 9-11), which allowed the Jews to reject Jesus and called a few Jewish believers, like Paul, empowering them to evangelize the Gentiles. When the Gentiles had been converted, some of the Jews might be impressed and accept Christ themselves. These Jews would attain salvation through the example provided by the Gentiles. The result would be the salvation of the whole world – a good greater than the election of Israel. Thus, the ancient promise of God to Abraham would be fulfilled. With this in mind Paul exclaims, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are His judgments and how unsearchable His ways!”
Gospel exegesis: Two questions and the answers. In Matthew and Mark, Jesus asked certain questions about his identity. This incident took place at Caesarea Philippi, (presently called Banias), twenty-five miles northeast of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus asked a question in two parts. The first question: “What is the public opinion?” The apostles’ answer was, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” John the Baptist was so great a figure that it might well be that he had come back from the dead. Elijah, the greatest of the prophets was believed to be the forerunner of the Messiah. [“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes” (Mal 4:5). In 2Esdr 2:18 the promise of God is: “For thy help I will send my servants Isaiah and Jeremiah.”] The phrase “one of the prophets” suggested that Jesus had a ministry like that of the former prophets. When the people identified Jesus with Elijah and with Jeremiah, they were, according to their lights, paying him a great compliment and setting him in a high place, for Jeremiah and Elijah were the expected forerunners of the Anointed One of God. When they arrived, the Kingdom would be very near indeed.
The second question: “What is your personal opinion? For the first time in their relationship Peter, speaking for the other disciples, declared publicly: “You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God.” Peter was the first apostle to recognize Jesus publicly as the Anointed One (also translated Messiah or Christ. Christ is the Greek word for the Hebrew word Messiah). Peter was saying that Jesus is the Christ, the anointed one of God, Immanuel, the Salvation of God — God who became Man to save sinners! It is evident that Jesus was well pleased with Peter’s answer. Jesus first pronounced a blessing upon Peter, the only disciple in the Gospels to receive a personal blessing. “Blessed are you, Simon son of John!” Next, Jesus confirmed Peter’s insight as a special revelation from God. “No mere man has revealed this to you, but my Heavenly Father.” However, Jesus was quick to explain to the disciples that he was not a political Messiah. He was, rather, a Messiah who must suffer, die, and be raised to life again.
The promise: “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.” Ever since Pope Stephen I (254-257), used this text against Cyprian of Carthage to defend Roman primacy, these verses have been among the most disputed in the New Testament. Historically, they have been central to issues of authority in the Church, especially of the authority of the episcopacy and of the Bishop of Rome. Jesus’ promise to Peter is the Catholic basis for the position of the Pope and of the Church. The Church teaches that Peter was given the keys which admit a man to Heaven or exclude him from it, and that to Peter was given the power to absolve or not to absolve a man from his sins. In other words, Jesus gave to Peter the authority to determine what courses of action would be permitted or forbidden in the Church. It is further argued by the Catholic Church that this power given to Peter has descended to all the Bishops of Rome throughout all ages, and that it exists today in Pope Francis, who, as the direct successor of Peter, is the head of the Church and the Bishop of Rome.
The Magisterium of the Church in the First Vatican Council defined the doctrine of the primacy of Peter and his successors in these terms: 6 “We teach and declare, therefore, according to the testimony of the Gospel, that the primacy of jurisdiction over the whole Church was immediately and directly promised to and conferred upon the blessed Apostle Peter by Christ the Lord. For to Simon, Christ had said, ‘You shall be called Cephas’ (John 1:42). Then, after Simon had acknowledged Christ with the confession, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Matthew 16:16), it was to Simon alone that the solemn words were spoken by the Lord: ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in Heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and what you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven’ (Matthew 16:17-19). Then, after His Resurrection, Jesus conferred upon Simon Peter alone the jurisdiction of supreme shepherd and ruler over His whole fold with the words, ‘Feed my lambs … Feed my sheep’” (John 21:15-17). […]
The keys of Heaven and the binding power. The wording has its roots in Isaiah 22:22, (today’s first reading): “I will place on Eliakim’s shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open.” Eliakim thus became the steward of the house, responsible for opening the house in the morning, closing it at night, and controlling access to the royal presence. According to Jewish historian Josephus, “The power of binding and loosing was always claimed by the Pharisees. Under Queen Alexandra the Pharisees became the administrators of all so as to be empowered to banish and readmit whom they pleased as well as to loose and bind.” (http://www.canapologetics.net/peter_and_papacy_2.html) So here, in the New Testament, we see Jesus handing over these “keys” to the Kingdom of Heaven, to one of the apostle’s, Peter. We notice the similarities and differences between this passage and the one from Isaiah. Where Eliakim has the key placed on his shoulder, Jesus hands the keys to Peter; Where “he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open,” Peter is told “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.” The Anchor Bible commentary, an Interfaith work (Catholic, Protestant and Jewish scholars), says this: “By conferring the power to bind and loose upon Church leadership, Jesus authorizes it to interpret the Scriptures and establish norms for Christian behaviour (vol. 1).” One final quote comes from a primary Protestant authority, Martin Luther, who, five years after the Reformation, declared “So we stand here and with open mouth stare heavenward and invent still other keys. Yet Christ says very clearly in Mt 16:19 that he will give the keys to Peter. He does not say he has two kinds of keys, but He gives to Peter the keys He Himself has and no others. It is as if He were saying: “Why are you staring heavenward in search of the keys? Do you not understand I gave them to Peter? They are indeed the keys of Heaven, but they are not found in Heaven. I left them on earth. Don’t look for them in Heaven or anywhere else except in Peter’s mouth where I have placed them. Peter’s mouth is my mouth, and his tongue is my key case. His office is my office, his binding and loosing are My binding and loosing” [Martin Luther, “The Keys,” in Conrad Bergendoff, ed., trans. Earl Beyer and Conrad Bergendoff, Luther’s Works, volume 40, (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1958), p 365-366.] In this role, Peter was the first to preach Christ, and he did so to three thousand people at Pentecost (Acts 2); he became the spokesman to the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15). “Bind and loose” also concerns doctrine and ethical conduct, declaring certain actions as either forbidden or permitted. Later Christian tradition extended this principle to include the power to forgive or retain sins (18:18; John 20:23). In Mt 18:18, Jesus extends this authority to the whole group of disciples, saying, “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven.” Catholics believe that Peter’s authority passed from Peter to the Popes who followed him. “In giving those Keys to Peter, Jesus fulfills that prophecy, establishing Peter – and all who succeed him – as holy father of His Church. His Church, too, is the new house of God – the spiritual temple founded on the “rock” of Peter, and built up out of the living stones of individual believers (see 1 Peter 2:5)”. (Dr. Scot Hann).
Guarantees given to Peter and his successors: The Catholic Church teaches that by giving Peter the “keys” along with the promise that all his decisions would be ratified in Heaven, Christ gave Peter the power of freedom from error when he was officially teaching the universal Church. In other words, Peter received primacy in the Church and the gift of infallibility in his official teaching on matters of Faith and morals. The first Vatican Council defined this Dogma, and the second Vatican Council reconfirmed it. As the Church was to continue long after Peter had died, it was rightly understood from the beginning that those privileges given to him which were necessary for the successful mission of the Church, were given to his lawful successors – the Popes.
The most disputed text –“Upon this rock I will build my Church”: Origen interpreted the text to mean that Peter is the type of every true, spiritual Christian on whom the Church is built. The “Eastern” Church interpreted the rock as the Faith of Peter, so that the Church is built on the Faith of believing Christians. The Roman or pontifical interpretation which dates from the fourth century is that rock is Peter, and the promises made to Peter apply also to Peter’s successors in the Petrine ministry. Since Vatican I, this has been the normative interpretation for Roman Catholics. The Middle Ages gave the Christological interpretation, according to which Christ is the Rock (see 1 Cor. 3:11, 10:4). Non-Catholics argue that there is no evidence that Peter’s ministry would be successive. However, the whole context and meaning of the imagery from the beginning to the end show it to be a ministry that must be successive. First of all, the image of the rock is, by its very nature, a timeless and everlasting image. That’s why the image of the rock was chosen. That’s how rocks are. They’re there to stay. Then, in Matthew 16, Jesus himself says that the steward’s ministry will have an eternal dimension. He holds the keys to the Kingdom of God and the gates of hell will never prevail against it. Finally, the image of the shepherd, as we have seen, is an eternal one because God himself is the ultimate Good Shepherd. If the Rock, the Steward, and the Shepherd are eternal ministries, then for it to last that long, the ministry given to Peter must be successive. How could this eternal ministry have died out with Peter himself and still have been eternal?
Authority for service: In a dramatic return to the Spirit of the Apostolic Church, the participants at the Second Vatican Council affirmed the teaching of Jesus, in that Authority is always to be exercised as a service and in a collegial manner for the building up of the community (Dogmatic Constitution on The Church, # 27). Following Vatican II, a number of ecumenical dialogues have resulted in more of a consensus among Christians concerning authority in the Church. The Anglican, Roman-Catholic International Commission issued a document entitled “An Agreed Statement on Authority in the Church“(1977). According to this commission, the model of authority in the Church is not political, sociological, structural or juridical but rather one of koinonia, viz., a union based on mutual loving service in the truth of Christ, activated by the Holy Spirit, in order to create community with God and all persons. Similar statements by the Lutheran Catholic Dialogue remind contemporary disciples of Jesus that all Christian authority is rooted in Christ and in the Gospel, a word of power from God (Romans 1:16) which is proclaimed by various witness-servants who are given a share in the authority of Christ, the Witness-Servant-Model for us all.
Life messages: 1) We need to accept Jesus as our Lord and personal Savior: Jesus is not merely the founder of a new religion, or a revolutionary Jewish reformer, or one of the great teachers. For Christians, he is the Son of God and our personal Savior. This means that we have to see Jesus as the Good Shepherd, the Savior, and the Redeemer. He is our beloved Friend, closer to us than our dear ones and a living experience, who walks with us, loves us, forges us, helps us, and transforms our lives and outlook. We have to give all areas of our lives to him. He must have a say in our daily lives, and we must radiate all around us his sacrificial agápe love, unconditional forgiveness, overflowing mercy, and committed service. The joy, the love, and the peace that we find in Jesus should be reflected in the way we live our lives.
2) We need to experience Jesus as our Lord and Savior and surrender our lives to him. The knowledge of Jesus as Lord and personal Savior should become a living, personal experience for each Christian. This is made possible by our listening to Jesus through the daily, meditative reading of the Bible, by our talking to Jesus through daily, personal and communal prayers, by our offering our lives on the altar with Jesus whenever we attend Holy Mass, and by our leading a Sacramental life. The next step is the surrender of our lives to Jesus by rendering humble and loving service to Him in Himself and in all others, with the strong conviction that Jesus is present in every person. The step after that is to praise and thank God in all the events of our lives, both pleasant and painful, realizing that God’s loving hands are behind everything.
JOKE OF THE WEEK:
1) “But how did the other ear get burned?”: On Sunday morning, a man showed up at Church with both his ears terribly blistered, so his pastor asked, “WHAT happened to YOU?” “I was lying on the couch watching a ball game on TV while my wife was ironing nearby. I was totally engrossed in the game when she went out, leaving the iron near the phone. The phone rang, and keeping my eyes on the TV, I grabbed the hot iron and put it to my ear.” “How dreadful,” gasped the pastor. “But how did the other ear get burned?” “Well, you see, I’d no sooner hung up and the guy called back!” He just didn’t get it. Lots of folks never get it, never understand how life really works, even at the simplest levels. That’s why Jesus is pressing his followers — and us — so insistently in today’s Gospel: “Do you understand Who I AM,” he asks, “and what My being here means for you?” (Msgr. Dennis Clarke)
2) “But on the other hand..” Three of the clergy—a Lutheran, a Catholic, and an Episcopalian—ended up at the Pearly Gates one day. It was St. Peter’s day off, so Jesus was administering the entrance exam. “The question is simple,” he said. “Who do you say that I am?” The Lutheran stepped forward and began, “The Bible says . . . ” but Jesus interrupted and said, “I know what the Bible says; who do you say that I am?” The Lutheran said, “I don’t know,” and fell through a trapdoor to that other place. The Catholic stepped forward and began, “The Pope says . . . ” But Jesus interrupted him and said, “I know what the Pope says; who do you say that I am?” “I’m not sure,” said the Catholic, and promptly fell through the trapdoor to that other place. Jesus turned to the Episcopalian and asked, “Who do you say that I am?” The Episcopalian replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” Then, just as Jesus smiled and gestured for the Pearly Gates to be opened, the Episcopalian continued, “but on the other hand…”
USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK:
1) Navarre Bible commentaries for Sundays & weekday readings: Click on https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/dailyword-weekahead
And then click on Daily Word Week Ahead
2) A comprehensive guide to Catholic Internet resources: http://www.catholicusa.com/
6) Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant: https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066
22- Additional anecdotes:
1) “To draw out all his savings?” A teacher was giving her students a lesson in logic. “Here is the situation,” she said. “A man is standing up in a boat in the middle of a river, fishing. He loses his balance, falls in, and begins splashing and yelling for help. His wife in her riverside house hears the commotion, knows he can’t swim, and runs down to the bank. Why do you think she ran to the bank instead of calling for help?” A girl raised her hand and asked, “To draw out all his savings?” In today’s Gospel, the disciples are faced with a similar situation – like being in class when the teacher asks a very important question. We want to seem intelligent so we blurt out an answer – not always the right one – but an answer nonetheless. In today’s Gospel lesson Peter blurts out an answer that is theologically correct, inspired, and amazing. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
2) Mount Rushmore National Memorial: When one thinks of South Dakota, one thinks of Mount Rushmore. Carved into the mountainside by Gutzon Borglum are the heads of four of the great leaders of the United States. It’s ironic that this monument is in the heart of an area sacred to the Lakota and Dakota people whose ancestors possessed the land centuries before George Washington’s family came to America. Thousands of Americans visit Mount Rushmore each year. Many come away with flags, patriotic symbols and T- shirts reading, “God Bless America.” Perhaps they feel a rush of pride and make resolutions to be better Americans in the future. Let us remember that Christians are part of the Rock. Jesus built his Church on the Rock of Peter as a reward for his great confession of Faith in the Divinity of Christ. The members of the Church are given a new face on the same Rock, the face of Jesus, as they proclaim his love, mercy, and forgiveness in their daily lives. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
3) “But I know who she is and I know who I am:” Every day Tim would go to the nursing home and visit her. Each time she would ask Tim who he was and why he was visiting her. And each time Tim would explain who he was and why he was visiting. He would tell the story of all the children and grandchildren, all the activities and all the news of his family. And while he was feeding her lunch each day, he would gently remind her that he was married for 52 years to the same woman and that woman was she. Then each time she would smile brightly as if told for the first time. That woman was Margaret, and Margaret suffers from Alzheimer’s disease; she moves in and out of reality. Tim tends to her each and every day and before he leaves, he caresses her gently, kisses her and tells her that he loves her dearly, knowing well, that tomorrow he will have to repeat the whole routine over and over again. His friends plead with Tim as to why he continues to put himself through this. They tell him, “She doesn’t even know who you are any more.” And he would always respond in the same way, “But I know who she is, and I know who I am.” — The reality of our lives is that we are known by our actions. How we treat one another is how we first know who we are for ourselves and that is how others come to know us. It is our actions that we will be known for. And that is what Jesus asks today, “Who do people say that I am?” Do I know Jesus? Do I know who I am? (John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
4) Who is this Jesus? Where do we find Him? In his book, Pray from Where You Are, James Carroll recalls something many of us remember from our childhood. Every Sunday, the comic page of our newspapers used to carry a series of printed games. One of everybody’s favorites was a picture showing some scene, like a family enjoying a picnic in a park. Printed beneath the picture were the words, “Can you find the man hidden in the picture?” You’d look and look, and at first wouldn’t see anything that looked like a man. Then you’d turn the paper this way and that to get a different view of it. Suddenly, from the edge of a fluffy white cloud you’d see an ear. Then, from the green leaves of a tree you’d see a mouth, and so on, until you’d see an entire man’s face smiling out at you from the picnic scene. Once you saw the man, that picnic scene was never the same again. For you had found the hidden man. You yourself had seen the smiling face. It’s the same way in our own lives. We Christians know by Faith that there is a Man hidden away in every scene of daily life. And that Man’s name is Jesus. Once we find Jesus, up close and personal, no scene in our lives is ever the same. That is part of the message of today’s Gospel. (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
5 Confusion most confounded: Just take the world of medicine. Anyone confused the way I am? Does it seem to you that one study is always negating the finds of the previous study? Hormone replacement therapy is great. No. Hormone replacement therapy causes cancer. Saccharine causes cancer; NutraSweet is good. No. NutraSweet causes cancer and Saccharine is good. LowCarb/HighFat is the best diet. Whoops, no, we meant to say NoFat/LowCarb is the best diet. Being slightly underweight is best. No. Being slightly overweight is best. Stock market recommendations and economist’s predictions are equally confusing. Watch Fox’s Saturday morning stock market analysis. The experts end up calling each other’s advice ridiculous, completely wrong, amazingly erroneous, and downright stupid. Same thing happened at Caesarea Philippi where Peter declared Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of the living God. Jesus congratulated him as the spokesman of God the Father’s revelation. At the same time Jesus warned his disciples not to tell this truth to anyone. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
6) What is in a name? In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet says to Romeo, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” The Journal of the American Medical Association did a study on the names of people in the medical profession in the United States. Doctors’ names included: Needle, Probe, Lance, Ligate, Drill, Scope, Bolt, Pin, Croak and Klutz. On the up side, we find physicians named Fix, Cure, Heal, Brilliant, Able, and Best. Our vet’s name is Dr. Fish. There is an Episcopal priest in New York City named Donald Goodness. Do names make a difference? Can a person’s name determine his or her destiny? If you had the choice, would you pick Dr. Brilliant or Dr. Klutz? Many actors will take a stage name because their real name is considered unattractive, dull, or amusing for the wrong reason, or because it projects the wrong image, or is considered too “ethnic.” Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus, who gave Simon a new name, Peter, made him the bedrock foundation of his Church. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
7) Film –Shoes of the Fisherman: When the Italian pope dies in the latter part of the twentieth century, the Cardinals debate who will succeed him. Some want a conservative pope, while others feel that modern times call for a different approach so that the Church can speak to the real needs of the people. The conclave elects a Slavic cardinal who was imprisoned for twenty years by the Communists. He becomes Pope Kiril I. He feels constricted by Vatican protocol, so he ventures out one night to meet the real people of Rome. He also relates with theologians in difficulties with pastoral kindness and understanding. At his papal coronation, he gives away the tiara. He tries to negotiate an accord between the warring nations, China and Russia, and he says he is ready to sell the treasures of the Vatican to alleviate starvation in China. When Morris West’s novel, Shoes of the Fisherman, first appeared in 1963, it was regarded as prophetic. When John Paul I died in 1978 after barely a month in office, the Polish Cardinal, Karol Wojtyla, was elected, and Pope St. John Paul II is considered to have been one of the chief influences in the collapse of the Soviet Union. Morris West was even more prophetic than people realized. Shoes of the Fisherman takes past perceptions of the papacy and papal authority and looks at them in new ways. Like Pope Kiril in the film, Pope St. John Paul II traveled outside Rome and tried to enter into dialogue with everyone. He exercised spiritual authority and tried to show that the role of the papacy was for service, especially in the political and economic arenas. The film shows the end of one era and the beginning of a new one. Shoes of the Fisherman continues to challenge audiences to understand the papacy more deeply. Shoes of the Fisherman was almost a blueprint for the papacy of Pope St. John Paul II. The film expresses a different yet converging definition of what ‘Church’ means and what authority and service entails. (Peter Malone in Lights Camera….Faith!) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
8) Pray TV and the dog Spuds MacKenzie: The ABC television network carried a program titled Pray TV. Actor John Ritter played the role of an evangelist. Incredibly, some 22,000 people called local television stations wanting to pledge financial contributions to Ritter’s work. These figures were verified by various telephone companies who had monitored and logged the incoming calls. Just after a scene in which the evangelist said, “We need your prayers,” a fictitious toll-free number was flashed on the screen. Many viewers around the country tried to phone the number to offer prayers and money. It pays never to underestimate the gullibility of the American people. Characters in soap operas tell horror stories about viewers who confuse the actors with the roles they are playing. In 1968, when actor Leslie Nielsen played a brutal sheriff in the television film Shadow Over Elviron, he received more than two hundred poison pen letters, mostly from women. Some of these were shockingly vulgar. Even Spuds MacKenzie, the dog on certain beer commercials, receives an average of five thousand letters a month. Not the trainer, not the sponsor, not the agent, not the handlers – the dog herself receives the fan mail! Winston Churchill once was congratulated on the size of a crowd that turned out to hear him speak. He said the crowd would be twice as large if he were being hanged. Jesus wasn’t really that concerned about what the masses were thinking about him. He knew that some in the crowds cheering him would later shout the loudest for his crucifixion. So, he wasn’t really all that concerned when he asked, “Who do men say that I am?” However, he was concerned when he turned to his disciples and asked them, “And who do you say that I am?” Jesus’ plan for the salvation of the world lay with this small group of men. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
9) “You are the Christ.” Fr. Herbert O’Driscoll uses a wonderful image to explain the structure of the Church. His idea is to look at all of the last 20 centuries as rings of time, or as concentric circles of time. Today’s Christians, in the 21st century, are in the outermost circle, farthest away from the center – which is a Cross. We are brought into the circle, into the Faith, in large part because somewhere, somehow, someone in the circle just before ours took us by the hand and said, “Come,” and so drew us in. That is one very important reason why we are here. That person was able to do this for us because someone had taken him or her by the hand and had drawn that person in. And so it went, back through all the centuries until we reach the hands that had actually touched the mark of the nails. In this way, Christ builds his Church. We constantly re-live this Gospel story. When we say to Jesus, “You are the Christ,” he says to each of us—“You, too, are Peter, you too, are a rock, and with you, also, I am building my Church.” What happened to Peter continues to happen and actually includes us. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
10) Peter Johnson the Rocky: It is said that Winston Churchill never liked talking to subordinates. He always wanted to go to the top because he figured that was the only way he could get any action. So, as the story goes, when Churchill went to heaven, he met St. Peter at the gate and said, “Who are you?” When Peter said, “I’m St. Peter,” Churchill said, “To hell with you, get God!” How did poor Peter get this job in the first place? It all started with the story recounted in this text when Jesus renamed him “Rocky” and gave him the keys to the Kingdom. Actually he called him Cephas, an Aramaic nickname meaning rock. Its Greek counterpart is Petros which also means rock. Thus, on that day at Caesarea Philippi about 20 miles north of the Sea of Galilee, Simon Johnson, as he was known to his fishing buddies and his family, got a new name — Rocky. Rocky was the big one, bigger than the boxer by that name: Marciano or the character Sylvester Stallone played in the movie called Rocky and all its sequels. I can just hear him calling the other disciples with a tough Brooklyn street kid accent, “Hey you’se guys, let’s go get some fish.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
11) “Catholic Church” or “universal church”: A woman was talking to her Presbyterian minister, taking him to task for using, in praying the creed during a worship service, the words, “I believe in the holy, catholic church” instead of saying “universal church” or something similar, because, she said, it was “not Presbyterian.” “Well,” the minister replied, “you don’t mean to say that you believe that the only way you can get to Heaven is by being a Presbyterian, do you!” She thought a minute and said, “No, not really. But no genteel person would think of going any other way.” [B. Clayton Bell, Moorings in a World Adrift: Answers for Christians Who Dare to Ask Why, (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1990) p. 87.] (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
12) “The powers of death (Gates of hell) shall not prevail against it.” There is a story about a poor guy who died. Much to his surprise he was sentenced not to Heaven, but to Satan’s domain. Before he was admitted, however, he was interviewed by Satan himself. “It’s pretty bad down here, isn’t it?” asked the man. “Not at all!” said Satan. “You’re surrounded by people who know how to enjoy! Each day we have a theme. Monday, for example, is Party Day! We party around the clock. Tuesday is Alcohol Day! An open bar, take all you want! Wednesday is Tobacco Day! The finest Havana cigars, all the best cigarette blends.” The guy begins to brighten up. He says, “I’m sold. Let me in!” They let him in the gate and he promptly falls into a fiery pit where he is prodded by a nasty looking thing with a pitchfork. “Hey,” he cried, “what happened to those Theme Days?” “Today is Thursday,” Satan giggles with glee. “Thursdays, we tell lies!” (The Jokesmith). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
13) “The powers of death shall not prevail against it.” No. 2 Elaine Pagels is a distinguished professor at Princeton University who studies and knows a lot about the human phenomenon of religion. She begins her book, Beyond Belief, with an unusual anecdote and a very powerful witness. On a bright, cold Sunday morning in New York, she interrupted her daily run by stopping in the vestibule of a church to get warm. Two days earlier, her two-and-a-half-year-old son had been diagnosed with an invariably fatal lung disease. Two-and-a-half years old. Barely born and already dying. Imagine the pain in her heart, if you can. But here is how she describes that scene in the Church that day: “Since I had not been in Church for a long time, I was startled by my response to the worship in progress–the soaring harmonies of the choir singing with the congregation; and the priest, a woman in bright gold and white vestments, proclaiming the prayers in a clear resonant voice. As I stood watching, a thought came to me: Here is a family that knows how to face death…Standing in the back of that church, I recognized, uncomfortably, that I needed to be there. Here was a place to weep without imposing tears upon a child; and here was a heterogeneous community that had gathered to sing, to celebrate, to acknowledge common needs, and to deal with what we cannot control or imagine.” (http://www.uccseb.org/Sermons/2004/March%2028,%202004.htm ) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
14) “God does not always settle accounts in October.” There is a story about an irreligious farmer who gloried in his irreligion. He wrote a letter to a local newspaper in these words: “Sir: I have been trying an experiment with a field of mine. I plowed it on Sunday. I planted it on Sunday. I harvested it on Sunday. I carted the crop home to the barn on Sunday. And now, Mr. Editor, what is the result? This October I have more bushels to the acre from the field than any of my neighbors have.” He expected applause from the editor, who was not known to be a religious man himself. When he opened the paper the next week, there, sure enough, was his letter printed just as he had sent it, but underneath it was the short but significant sentence: ‘God does not always settle accounts in October.’” Let us ask ourselves, when did we last show ourselves disciples of Jesus, or witness him in public? (Gerard Fuller in Stories for all Seasons; quoted by Fr. Botelho). V
15) Under Rock and Key: Late one evening, Jerry lost the key of his moneybox and went down on fours looking for it outside. His neighbors joined him in searching under streetlights until all were exhausted. “Where did you lose the key?” asked a concerned friend. “Inside my house,” replied Jerry. “Then why are we looking for it outside?” “Because” explained Jerry, “there is better light outside than inside my house!” We often look for keys in wrong places, and, ironically, the keys to understand today’s readings is a Key of the House of David in the first reading, and the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven in the Gospel. On April 24, 2005, at his installation as Pontiff, Benedict XVI described himself as “weak servant of God” showing deep awareness of being “servus servorum Dei” (servant of servants of God). Likewise, on October 22, 1978, when Pope St. John Paul II began his ministry, he said “Open wide the doors for Christ!” It is heartening that those who hold the Keys are aware of their responsibility to serve and open Church doors for the Spirit’s action. (Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Gospel Deeds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
16) “I am a Christian. I refuse to give up my Faith.” Neo-martyr Michael Paknanas was less than twenty years old, and he worked as a gardener in Athens in the 1800s. The Turks, who enslaved Greece at the time, were trying to convince him to give up his Faith. When flattery and wealth failed to persuade him, they put to use some of their more convincing standard missionary work by torturing the teenager. When all the tortures proved to be futile, the executioner was preparing to behead the young man, but at the same time he was feeling some compassion for him. So he began cutting his neck slowly with the sword by administering very light blows, while asking the martyr to reconsider. The martyr’s response? “I told you, I am a Christian. I refuse to give up my Faith.” The ax-man struck with another light blow to make some more blood flow, to possibly convince him. The martyr repeated, “I told you, I am a Christian. Strike with all your might, for the Faith of Christ.” This totally aggravated the executioner. He did exactly that, and St. Michael was sent to the Heavenly mansions. These are the people who understood who Jesus is, and what his place is in their lives. (Fr. Bobby Jose). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
17) “There are five things you need to know:” There is a beautiful story about the pencil. The pencil maker took the pencil aside, just before putting it into the box. “There are five things you need to know,” he told the pencil, “before I send you out into the world. Always remember them and never forget, and you will become the best pencil you can be. One: You will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in someone’s hand. Two: You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, but you’ll need it to become a better pencil. Three: You will be able to correct any mistakes you might make. Four: The most important part of you will always be what’s inside. And Five: On every surface you are used on, you must leave your mark. No matter what the condition, you must continue to write.” The same applies to each one of us too. When we find an answer to Jesus’ question (“Who do you say that I am?”), we will be able to make ourselves useful to our contemporaries. We have to undergo the process that the pencil undergoes. One: We will be able to do many great things, but only if we allow ourselves to be held in God’s hand, and allow other human beings access to the many gifts we possess. Two: We will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, by going through various problems in life, but we’ll need it to become a stronger person. Three: We will be able to correct any mistakes we might make. Four: The most important part of us will always be what’s on the inside. And Five: On every surface we walk through, we must leave our mark. No matter what the situation, we must continue to do our duties to the best of our abilities. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
18) Ready to Serve? Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross was a former professor of psychiatry at the University of Chicago. She wrote a best-seller called Death and Dying. The book grew out of interviews with hundreds of people who had been declared clinically dead and then revived. Repeatedly these people report that during their near-death experience they underwent a kind of instant replay of their lives. It was like seeing a movie of everything they’d ever done. How did their instant replay affect these people? Did it reveal anything significant? Commenting on this, Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross says: “When you come to this point, you see that there are only two things that are relevant: the service you rendered to others and love. All those things we think are important, like fame, money, prestige, and power, are insignificant.” Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus gave authority to Peter and his successors in his Church to serve God’s people. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
19) “Pioneers of Persuasion” In his book The Image Makers, William Meyers has a chapter called “Pioneers of Persuasion.” One of the stories tells how an ad executive, Rosser Reeves, used carefully spliced television commercials during the 1952 presidential campaign to sell General Eisenhower to the public “like a tube of toothpaste.” Ever since then, professional image makers and marketing experts have been employed to package political candidates in a glamorous way so that they will appeal to the voters’ emotions. To be successful today, office seekers have to be as concerned about their image as about the campaign issues. Appearance and performance on television are as important as one’s experience and programs. — In the Gospel today, it seems that Jesus, too, was worried about his public image. “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” he asks his disciples. In response, they give sort of the latest Gallup poll readout of their day: “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” But as we read further, we see that Jesus was not interested in his popularity rating. He is interested in the more profound question of his essential identity. “Who do you say that I am?” Moreover, Jesus is not aiming so much at finding out who he is -he knows that already – but is leading his disciples to discover this for themselves. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
20) God Has His Own Reasons to use His authority and power when He wants: : Annick Theuroueville, a 20-year old French girl who had been paralyzed from birth, took part in a Rosary pilgrimage to Lourdes on October 7, 1975. In her wheelchair, she joined the procession of more than 40,000 pilgrims, and then bathed in the pool fed by the original stream Our Lady had Bernadette find, and use to drink and wash in, some distance from the grotto. After bathing, she complained of being very tired. At three o’clock the next morning, she awakened in her hotel room. On a sudden impulse she got out of bed and walked. Apart from painful efforts to use crutches, she had never in her life done this. The other pilgrims at the hotel were amazed to see Annick come down the stairs for breakfast. Doctors who examined her on October 8 could find no medical explanation for her recovery. Of course, the medical bureau at Lourdes is very cautious about pronouncing cures miraculous. Conclusions are reached only after several years of observation. Naturally everybody was interested in asking Annick’s own reactions. Many knew that she had long since accepted her disability as the will of God. “It means joy” she answered, “but also sadness. For I ask myself, why me and not the others?” …Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? (Romans, 11:34. Today’s second reading). (Father Robert F. McNamara) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
21) To really know is to be transformed by what one knows: The following story shows that a simple, receptive heart is necessary for truly knowing Christ (cf. Anthony De Mello, The Song of the Bird, New York: Image Books, 1984, p. 112). We are witnesses of Christ. Our personal transformation testifies to his saving presence in our life. A dialogue between a recent convert and an unbelieving friend: “So you have been converted to Christ?” “Yes.” “Then you must know a great deal about him. Tell me: what country was he born in?” I don’t know.” “What was his age when he died?” “I don’t know.” “How many sermons did he preach? ”I don’t know.” “You certainly know very little for a man who claims to be converted to Christ!” “You are right. I am ashamed at how little I know about him. But this much I know. Three years ago, I was a drunkard. I was in debt. My family was falling to pieces. My wife and children would dread my return. That’s what Jesus did when I turned to Him and asked for help.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony L/20
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 45) by Fr. Tony: email@example.com
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