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Posts Tagged ‘Peter’

Denial


Mark 14:22-26: Denial

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Denial in the life of a Christian is not an option.

The very rock upon whom Jesus builds the Church – Peter – denies that he was a companion of Jesus.  This is actually a good thing for all of us who are Christ’s twenty first century apostles.  If such a one shows weak knees and nauseous stomach when called to witness . . . then so may we.  The glory of this story is that when the Resurrected Christ asks Peter: Do you love me?  (John 21), we see Peter rise to the challenge: Yes, Lord, you know that I do.  After this encounter with his resurrected teacher, Peter dedicates the rest of his life to the dangerous work asked of him by this Lord.  Can we not do the same, even at a cost to our reputation and our finances?  What do we fear?

It is so difficult to step out of the mold everyone expects and into the behavior our Lord calls from us.  It is so frightening to leave all comfortable habits behind and embark on a new, spiritual response to our Lord.  Yet it is such a privilege to witness to this Lord who loves us beyond all measure.

It is a gift to take up the cross we are given to move toward the light.  It is a gift to be called into the difficult work of conversion.  Yet each time we feel the queasiness, the headache, the dry mouth, the unwilling spirit, we might remember Peter.  Perhaps it also helps to remember that there is work to be done . . . and that not all are called . . . and that not all respond . . . even when given the second opportunity.  As a sign that we are Christians, we are to take heart as we heft the unwanted cross to our shoulders . . . and we are to encourage one another as we carry our burdens back to the Lord, who will then add them to the weight he already carries.

Denial in the life of a Christian is not an option.

And so we pray, Dear Lord . . .

Grant us the confidence we will need to lift our crosses and follow you.

Grant us the courage we will need to step out of our comfort zone when we follow you.

Grant us the understanding we will need to the value our suffering in a way that transforms us and others.

Grant us the stamina we will need to see the hope in your cross.

Grant us the love we will need to allow ourselves to be open to your guidance as we carry our crosses with you.

Amen.


Image from: http://ymiblogging.org/2012/05/odj-one-meal-one-body/

Written on September 23, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

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The Catholic Letters: Universality

Friday, October 4, 2019

The New American Bible explains the inclusion of the letters of James, Peter, John and Jude in the canon of the New Testament saying that “early Christians saw the New Testament as the depository of apostolic figures to whom they are attributed”.  That being said, there is ambiguity about the authorship of some of these letters; however, they were all written during the early “apostolic age” and as such are important to us – the apostles of the twenty-first century.  What lessons can we take from them?

Scholars tell us that these letters demonstrate the true meaning of the word catholic.  They underscore the idea that Christ came for all.  Christ heals all who seek him.  Christ loves allChrist answers all who call upon him.  So it follows that if we are Christ we, too, must have a universal view of humankind.

When I think of James, I love that he reminds us to be doers of the word and not sayers only.  We cannot be saved by faith alone.

When I think of Peter, I remember that his letters did not make much sense to me until I had suffered greatly.  Peter, Cephas the Rock, writes so beautifully of the way to suffer properly, of how to make our suffering holy and thus unite ourselves with Christ through the cross so that we become co-redeemers with Christ.

John’s letters, and in particular the first two, are beautiful anthems to love.  They are surfacing as first readings at Mass this week and I am always struck by how they amplify the message of John’s lyrical Gospel, and how they give us a clear understanding that God is love and that love is God.

Jude’s one simple letter tells us how to live in a Christian community, how to beware of false teachers, and how to admonish one another properly.

Taken together or separately, there is much to be gained by sitting with a commentary and an epistle or two on a quiet afternoon to understand the allegory and the message meant for us . . . the modern apostles.

We seek God.  We seek union and intimacy with God.  This cannot be done unless we follow in the footsteps of those who shared bread with the Master.  Jesus came as God’s expression of love to us, his creatures.  He comes to us each day in the persons with whom we interact.  He calls us to be the universal church.

God seeks us.  He seeks union and intimacy with us.  This cannot be done unless we allow our hearts to be open to the potential planted in us.  We go to Jesus each day as we demonstrate our faith by loving God our creator fully.  We go out to Christ each day as we unite with Christ, becoming co-creators of love.  We become the universal church.

Jesus, breath of God, abide with us as we rise, become us as we go about our day, dream with us as we put our head upon the pillow at night.  Jesus, we seek you even as you seek us.  Amen.


Adapted from a reflection written on January 11, 2008.

Image from: https://jooinn.com/old-letter-rolls.html

Investigate the Letters of the New Testament at: http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/SFS/an0400.asp

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Acts 11: Step by Step

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

El Greco: The Apostles Peter and Paul – The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia

I sometimes become discouraged when the world seems narrow, cruel and bleak.  I sometimes feel as if my hopes and prayers are looking in all the wrong places for all the wrong solutions.  I sometimes cannot believe that I have understood what God has in mind.  So much in this world does not make sense.  And this is when I turn to Acts and the stories of the fledgling church for it is here that God’s will for us is so clear.  It is in these chapters and verses that we witness an incredible burgeoning of Spirit and an amazingly tenacious church.  A small band of ordinary people begin an extraordinary movement.  I wonder if they would succeed in the world we know today.

Patience, perseverance, boldness.  These are the marching orders for Christ’s fledgling Church, his new and blushing bride.  Many new members are joining and the persecutor Saul has become the advocate Paul.  The first major breach has occurred and now step by step (verse 4) Peter gets to the heart of his message: The resurrection is not only meant for the Christ; it is a gift given to each of us by the Creator . . . and our first step toward this gift is our baptism in the Spirit.  Peter explains the message he received from God in a vision and wraps up his thinking with one on my favorite verses: Who was I to hinder God? 

The Church undergoes persecution in Antioch, the place where the followers of Jesus were first called Christians.  Stephen has been stoned and is the Church’s first martyr.  Barnabas continues as a loyal preacher of the Story, adding members to the Church.  Step by step, with patience, perseverance, and boldness, these early founders move gently but firmly as they form Christ’s Bride – the Church.  Prayers are answered.  Miracles happen.  Prayers are asked and answered, although not always understood.  The Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways.   I need to remember these lessons when I feel deserted, overwhelmed or lost.

Often we should not really be able to recognize an answer to prayer if it came.  Maybe the Holy Spirit was using our little prayer for some much larger purpose, of his own, and his prayer may be answered even if our little prayer seems to remain unnoticed.  It is in God’s hands from start to finish, and we must accept that and not try to wrest it from him.

  Father Simon Tugwell, O.P.  Dominican priest, author of books on theology and spirituality, member of Dominican, Historical Institute, MAGNIFICAT  Meditation, May 15, 2010

We are cogs on the wheels of Christ’s Church at work and we have the freedom to choose how we go about completing our daily rounds.  We can choose to churn in place and stubbornly hold up the works, or we might move as we are asked.  Who are we to hinder God? 

We are part of the great fire that Christ brought to earth and we may fling ourselves at our work, burning out like a spark that leaps out into the night sky to extinguish itself quickly on the damp ground.  Or we might choose to stay close to the heart of the flames when banked for the night to hunker down when fuel is low, hugging close to the origin, joining with the other faithful embers who lie together, glowing and waiting through the dark and cold . . . to spring to life again with new wood and the coming of the morning light and wind.  Who are we to hinder God? 

Patience, perseverance, boldness.  These are the marching orders for Christ’s embattled and struggling Church, his faithful and hope-filled bride.  Who are we to hinder God? 


A re-post from May 7, 2012.

Image from: http://www.hermitagemuseum.org/html_En/03/hm3_3_1_2a.html

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation for the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 3.15 (2010). Print.  

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1 Chronicles 23: The Levitical Classes

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

A re-post from April 3, 2012.

Aaron

Catholics in the Archdiocese of Baltimore recently received a letter from the Archbishop letting us know that the clergy were aware of the shortage of priests and they understood that the laity would be taking more authority in their parishes.  It seems that the Levitical classes of this church have so isolated themselves as a group that this fact is just dawning on them.  Those of us in the pews have seen this coming for quite some time.  Priests can barely genuflect, seminarians are scant, and more of the daily running of the parish is overseen by lay people.

There is an interesting article in the NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER (April 15, 2011) describing the “hidden exodus of Catholics from their faith”.  Thomas Reese writes: “Any other institution that lost one-third of its members would want to know why.  But the U.S. bishops have never devoted any time at their national meetings to discussing the exodus.  Nor have they spent a dime trying to find out why it is happening.  Thankfully, although the U.S. bishops have not supported research on people who have let the church, the Pew Center has”.  Then Reese describes the report results.  They are fascinating.  http://ncronline.org/news/hidden-exodus-catholics-becoming-protestants What do the people want?  They ask that liturgy be more pertinent.  They ask for more opportunities for Bible study.  I cannot find a reason that these requests go unanswered.

As I pray, I juxtapose David’s acknowledgement of his own mortality and his good shepherding of the people with the apparent benign neglect of present day Catholic Church leaders.  And I do what I always do when I am perplexed . . . I go to God.

In today’s Gospel we read about Judas’ betrayal of Christ.  This seems significant to me.  In a perfect world, spiritual leaders actually tend to peoples’ souls rather than to their own needs.  In our world, the closest to us are often those who betray us most quickly . . . and always this kind of unfaithfulness cuts deeply.

The MAGNIFICAT Morning Prayer is full of guideposts for those who are betrayed by those closest to them.  This also seems significant.  We cannot suppose that just because people wear the trappings of office that they perfectly fulfill the duties they are bound to perform.   In a perfect world, our spiritual leaders concern themselves with real people in real time . . . and they are aware that they lead by serving.

Psalm 55: My heart is stricken within me . . . and so I must trust God with my fears.

John 13:21: Jesus was deeply troubled . . . so I cannot be upset with my own turmoil.

Jeremiah 20:10: Yes, I hear the whisperings of many: “Terror on every side! . . .  Yet God is with us always.

Job 19:19: All my intimate friends hold me in horror . . . Still I remain faithful to God. 

We know the story of Peter’s denial of Christ and his later confession of faith when the Resurrected Jesus asks, Do you love me? (John 21)   We know that Christ offers Peter this opportunity for conversion and opens the door to newness, honesty, and a deeper fidelity than had before been possible.

Our question on this Holy Tuesday is this . . . Does our love in Christ and for Christ call us to forgive all those who have harmed us in big ways and in small ways . . . even as Christ has forgiven us?


Image from: http://webspace.webring.com/people/up/pharsea/PeopleOfGod.html

For more information on Aaron, and the Levites, go to: http://eastonsbibledictionary.com/a/aaron.htm and http://eastonsbibledictionary.com/l/levite.htm

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 4.19 (2011). Print.  

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Matthew 17:1-8: Transfigured

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Raphael: The Transfiguration

I love this story because it is so indicative of how we humans behave.  When we see something beautiful we want to capture it.  When we feel something exhilarating we want it to possess it.  When we witness something powerful we want to hold it forever.  Peter, James and John see Jesus transformed, radiating brilliance.

In Mark’s version (9:2-8) and in Luke’s story (9:28-36) we hear again about the brilliance of the whiteness, the flashing of light, God’s voice booming out that he is pleased with Jesus.  We understand that Jesus holds a conversation with Elijah and Moses about his own exodus to come.  Mark tells us that the apostles were frightened.  The apostles suggest to Jesus that they erect tents; Lord, it is good that we are here.  If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.  Luke adds about Peter: He did not know what he was saying.  So many times when we witness a miracle we do not comprehend what is really happening.  Our perspective is too narrow, our view too limited.  We want to hold and keep the present beyond its purpose.  We fear the future and regret the past.  The present, we tell ourselves, is something we can control.  And so we try to hold on to a transfiguration that is meant to be a transition to something new.  We trust what we know . . . and we fear what we do not.

I am amazed that God continues to accompany us when we are so tiny beside his greatness, so stingy beside his mercy, and so self-centered beside his generosity.  I am thinking of a prayer I have just read in Phyllis Tickle’s THE DIVINE HOURS: PRAYERS FOR SPRINGTIME (255): Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves.  Keep me both outwardly in my body and inwardly in my soul, that I might be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul”.  We want so much to draw out our happiness so that it might last forever.  We yearn to capture serenity and hold it fast.  We wish that sadness and loss were experiences we did not have to suffer; and when transfiguration comes we want to remain in it . . . not noticing that once we have been transformed we must go forth to transform the world.

As we approach Holy Week and the miracle of Easter when Jesus suffered, died and rose again to bring us the gift of eternal life, let us follow Jesus along with James and Peter and John to the top of our own high mountain to experience the vision of dazzling whiteness and the gift of transfiguration; and let us celebrate.  How glad and how grateful we must be that Jesus did not follow the suggestion of his friends and remain on the mountain forever in a state of bliss.  How blessed and how graced are we that Jesus abides with us each day calling us to our own transfiguration.  How good and how gracious is our God that he visits us – his little children – constantly and faithfully . . . to grant us miracles in our sorrow, light in our darkness, and peace in all our adversity.


A re-post from March 28, 2012. 

Image from: http://www.3pipe.net/2011/01/giovanni-bellini-st-francis-in-desert.html

Tickle, Phyllis.  THE DIVINE HOURS: PRAYERS FOR SPRINGTIME. New York: Doubleday, 2001. Print.

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Acts 8:4-40Magic or Mystery

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Avancino Nucci: Peter’s COnflict with Simon Magus

Written on March 10 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

In today’s Noontime we have the juxtaposition of Simon the magician – who uses sleight of hand and deceit to lure in an audience – with Philip the apostle – who allows the Spirit to work through him to call others to Christ.  Which are we today?  Who are our friends, family, companions and colleagues?  What do we expect from our world?  How do we interact with all of God’s creatures and God’s creation?

Following the martyring of Stephen, the apostles scatter.  This brutal act which was meant to stifle the Spirit only carries it out into the world.  As always, God turns all harm to good . . . if we prepare ourselves to receive God’s gift of grace.

We might examine our conscience as we move into our Lenten journey.

You thought you could obtain God’s gift with money . . . Pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you . . .

Do I want to know the truth even when inconvenient?

Peter said . . . your heart is not right with God . . .

Will I accept critique, even when it is delivered unkindly?

How can I understand [the Gospel] unless someone guides me . . .?

Am I willing to listen more than I talk?

The crowds listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did . . .

Do I consistently create time and space for God in my life no matter the circumstance?

Now those [apostles] who were scattered went from place to place . . .

Am I willing to proclaim the good news even when joy eludes me?

Philip proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus . . .

We cannot purchase or earn God’s grace in any way.  God’s grace is not a trick that fools the eye or ear.  God’s grace is the action of Spirit that moves within and through us.  The proper response to this gift is our gratitude, our fidelity, and our willingness to build the kingdom with all who are likewise called by God.

We may be tempted to worry only about ourselves and we may want to think that our relationship with God is with God alone.  We find out, once we begin to listen well, that we are to act in concord with one another despite and even because of our differences.  God’s great oneness is not a monolith but a kaleidoscope variety of his creatures and creation.  Once we begin to notice what attracts us to God, once we begin to discern our reason for seeking God . . . we will know if we are looking for magic to solve our problems . . . or the Spirit that transforms us into faithful kingdom builders.


A re-post from November 10, 2011.

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Magus

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Zechariah 10The New Order

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Written on February 17 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

The Golden Calf – Exodus

The teraphim are household idols, used for divination but incapable of true healing, redemption, comfort or transformation.  Those who have relied on wealth and influence will no longer hold power; change is in the wind.  Those who have been led by false shepherds will be visited by the true king; a rout by a new king’s soldiers is predicted.  Those who have wandered aimlessly, searching for the true shepherd will be brought back; the exiled will return home; the faithful will be rewarded.

In the Old Testament readings at Mass this week we hear again the story of Noah.  God sees how wicked man has become and he regrets having created him.  Later he promises to never destroy his creatures again.  In the New Testament readings we have seen the supreme patience of Jesus as he continually instructs his followers in the ways of the New Kingdom, the New Covenant, and the New Promise.  There is a New Order . . . yet they struggle to understand.  He even rebukes Peter (Mark 8:27-33) and scolds the others for not understanding his feeding of thousands from a few fish and loaves (Mark 8:14-21).  These humans God has created seem to believe more in their teraphim than in their God.  And we are so like all of these people.

So we pray . . .

Lord God in heaven, Lord God on earth, Lord God within us, Lord God among us, open our eyes that we might see your new order as you opened the eyes of the blind beggar in yesterday’s Gospel (Mark 8:22-26).  Open our minds and hearts so that we might better hear your call to newness.  Open our lives to you so that we might better understand the new order of your world.  Teach us to cease lusting after money and goods.  Instruct us in your new way.  School us in the ways of the gentle heart and eager mind.  Remind us to throw out our tiny household gods and rely firmly and only on you.  Visit us with your Spirit.  Continue to walk with us as Christ.  And harbor us who wander as wretched sheep in the safety of your enormous arms.  We ask this each day and every day . . . as we strive to remember who you are . . . and how much you love us.  Amen. 


A re-post from September 6, 2011.

Image from: http://www.perplexicon.net/2009/12/false-gods-and-theologians/

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Mark 8:1-11Nothing to Fear

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Gospel writers tell us that Jesus feeds thousands from a few fish and several loaves of bread; yet we store up food and goods against the fear that we will one day be without.  Famine grips the horn of Africa and the people who live there wait on the generosity of others; and despite the abundance in which others live, these images stir some to sharing and others to hoarding.  In either case, we fear that we will one day be without.   Today’s Mass readings deal with the intense fear that seizes us when cataclysm strikes and we fear the worst.  The homily we heard at Mass today was moving.  Father reminded us that although we seek physical signs of God’s presence . . . we do not see the markers God constantly posts along the route of our journey.  Fear has the effect of eliminating sight and reason.

In 1 Kings 19:9a-13a, Elijah hides in a cave, fearing that Queen Jezebel’s men will find him and execute him in the same way she has put to death other prophets.  God calls to Elijah that it is time for him to come out of his hiding place.  Go and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.  And Elijah hears the Lord not in the tumult of the storm or the crashing of the earthquake, but in the whisper of the gentle wind.

In Romans 9:1-5, Paul bears witness to God’s presence even though he suffers great anguish.  Rather than succumb to fear, Paul continues to tell the good news story that Christ is risen and present.  He persists in responding to God who first called him in the bolt of blinding light in Acts 9 when he says to him: Get up and go into the city, you will be told what you must do.  Paul finds God in the blinding light.

In Matthew 14:22-23, the apostles become frightened during a storm that threatens to swamp their boat.  Jesus walks toward them over the water and says: Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.  Peter gets out of the boat to walk toward Jesus but doubt overtakes him and he begins to sink.  Immediately Jesus reaches to pull him to the water’s surface.  Peter finds God in his willingness to risk the dangers of the storm-tossed waters.

God is constantly telling us that we need not be afraid . . . yet we cannot hear the voice for the cacophony of the world.

God is constantly showing us that God is with us . . . yet we cannot see God for the blinding confusion of the world.

God is constantly proving to us that God wants to heal and rescue us . . . yet we cannot feel God’s presence for the fears that we harbor.

Our daily experiences frighten us and so we ask God to give us a sign that God is present . . . forgetting that God already is.  God feeds us daily.

We allow the details of living to stir up so much fear that we can no longer hear or see or touch the goodness and providence of God . . . and still God says to us: Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.  

We fret over minutiae, we become anxious about events that are too overwhelming for us to handle, anxiety overtakes us . . . and still God says to us: My heart is moved with pity for you have been with me many days now and have come a long distance . . . do not be afraid for I am always with you . . . I will sustain you . . . you are mine . . . there is nothing to fear. 


A re-post from August 7, 2011.

Images from: http://mtoliveluth.blogspot.com/2010/06/whisper-of-gods-love.html 

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John 21:1-14: It Was Already Dawn

Friday, April 13, 2018

James Tissot: Jesus Appears on the Shore

In this second week of Eastertide, we continue to find new life in the Easter miracle of our resurrection as we re-visit the Gospel readings for the Easter Octave. Today we return to the Sea of Tiberius with Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John and two other disciples. Discouraged, frightened, needing employment, or wanting to go back to familiar rhythms and themes of life . . . we do not know why these followers return to the waters of Galilee. But we do know that this is where they encounter the risen Christ. It was already dawn, John tells us.

This imagery reminds us that when we believe our night of suffering and striving is endless, we – like these disciples – will look up from draining work to discover that it is already dawn. Perhaps we – like these disciples – meet Jesus when we are at our lowest. Perhaps we are the two unnamed disciples who take up nets and oars with our comrades to shove out into deep waters to see how we might survive. Perhaps we believe our lives have brought us disappointment again. First, there was the death of Jesus, and now we have been fishing through the night yet have caught nothing.  Unexpectedly, a stranger calls out to us from the shoreline, urging us to cast our nets once more . . . but on the starboard side of the boat.

This is how it happened . . . When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. (NABRE)

How could this possibly matter, we wonder? What difference can it make to change the side of the boat? We have strained ourselves to the limit and we have no more strength.

They did what he said. All of a sudden there were so many fish in it, they weren’t strong enough to pull it in. (MSG)

With this, Peter leaps from the boat and we question his actions as he flails his way to the shoreline; yet it is there – when the dawn is upon us – we realize that Christ has been with us all along.

When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”  (NABRE)

We see that Jesus is already baking fish on the open fire, but we add our own fish from the new catch, finally understanding that we are to join Christ in his work. A memory flickers through our minds of the 3 fish and 5 loaves that Jesus divided so that five thousand might eat. And as we settle around the warmth of the fire to take in this meal, we realize our work, we hear Christ’s call. Despite our discomfort with the unfamiliar, we know that we must return to Jerusalem to continue the discipleship Jesus has begun in us.

Regardless of our fatigue, we lean into our nets again. In spite of deep waters and dark nights, we leap from our small boat to thrash ashore so that we might share a meal with Christ. Although we have thought our suffering and fears went unnoticed, Christ has been with us, waiting with baked fish and bread to erase our exhaustion and nourish our hope. And suddenly the night slips away . . . . almost without our noticing . . . for it is already dawn.


When we compare other translations with the ones in this post, we begin to understand that despite the length of the night and the frustration of the work, Christ invites us to join him in our own renewal.

To read Matthew’s accounting of how Jesus feeds 5000, read Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-34, Luke 9:12-17 or John 6:1-14. Matthew (15:32-39) and Mark (8:1-9) also describe the feeding of 4000. 

Images from: https://www.dominicanajournal.org/burning-coals-for-breakfast/ and https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/cooking-steckerlfisch-over-an-open-fire-high-res-stock-photography/56298235

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