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As we remember St. Monica today, I find myself thinking of her model of parenting. As with every saint, there are unique paths to holiness. That path might be through a great intellect, such as St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Bonaventure, or many other Doctors of the Church. The path might be through a great self-discipline, such as some of the early hermits. Perhaps the path is through tremendous prayer life or charity. I would suggest that parenting was the path for St. Monica.
St. Monica clearly did all that she could to lead her children to Christ, and she never stopped praying for the conversion of her most famous son, whose feast day we celebrate tomorrow, St. Augustine. The Office of Readings today provides an excerpt from St. Augustine’s Confessions where the great saint recalls a conversation with his mother days before she died. Their conversation reflected their conscious awareness of God’s presence – a presence St. Augustine refers to as one of the great titles of Christ – Truth.
Here is the first point for today’s parents, to create an atmosphere of faith within the home. Parents have a unique role and responsibility to raise their children in the faith, to lead their children to Christ. How many conversations does a parent have with a child through the course of a lifetime? How often does faith enter into those conversations? How often does the parent help the child to ask questions about God’s will in their life, and encourage their child to grow in knowledge of God through their knowledge of Scripture, through prayer, through the Church by regularly receiving the Sacraments?
A little further on in this conversation between these mother and son saints, we hear that they were speculating on what the life of the saints is like as they share the joy of eternal life. This is a close point to the first, but slightly different. Parents have a unique role to play in the life of their children in creating what I would call a ‘Catholic environment’ in the home. This can be done by making sure that the various liturgical seasons are recognized by family traditions in the home.
My mother had a particular gift for creating this Catholic culture, through music, food, decorations, prayer, active participation in our parish, and yes, conversation. All of my siblings have many fond memories of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and the many family traditions that were a part of each of these seasons, and the critical role they played of teaching and re-enforcing the faith in the home. Creating a Catholic culture in the home is a vital (and can by a lot of fun!) role of parenting.
St. Augustine goes on to share in this morning’s segment from the Confessions how such conversation and faith over time led both of these great saints to desire less and less worldly things, and further strengthened the desire and longing for the things of heaven. And this leads to the final point for consideration of parenting today.
One of St. Monica’s final requests to her sons was that after she died, she cared not where her body was laid to rest. Her only thought was that her sons remember her at the altar of the Lord. Parents today would do well to help their children grow in their belief and understanding that eternal life is the ultimate goal of every believer. Our life upon this earth is a ‘pilgrimage,’ a life of faith, a journey to the ultimate goal of heaven. Parents are responsible when they help their children understand that through sin we run the risk of losing this eternal life with God and the saints. Why else would this holy woman ask her sons to continue to pray for her after she has died? While in this life we certainly believe in and rely upon God’s mercy, but a faithfully mature Catholic never takes that mercy for granted, nor presumes the mercy of God while living in this world with little attention to God’s commandments.
As we all know, St. Monica and the power of her prayers are credited with the conversion of St. Augustine. Many parents today are concerned about children who no longer practice their faith. So, parents, never stop praying for your children. Know that Mary, the great ‘mother of the Church’ never ceases to pray for us. Also seek the intercession of St. Monica in your own prayer for your children. Never doubt the power of God to actively intervene for the good of those we love!
As the prayer of St. Monica led her son back to God and ultimately to discover his vocation as a priest and bishop, and even a great Doctor of the Church, so may the model of life and prayers of our parents today help their children discover God and His Truth in the person of Jesus Christ. As each of the children of the Church discover the presence and love of God in their lives, may they also come to know God’s will in their unique vocations, that God may continue to bless the Church with many more holy men and women, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, priests and religious for the building up of God’s Kingdom and the renewal of His Church.
When the numerous day journeys into the diocese begin, it is a clear sign that summer has reached its end. The fact that some snow flew already in the higher elevations this Saturday also indicates that Autumn and old man Winter are not far off!
Friday afternoon I left Cheyenne to join this year’s gathering of men for the Wyoming Catholic Men’s Retreat in Centennial, Wyoming. I’m told there were approximately 55 men signed up for this year’s retreat. The location had a large two story lodge with a large room upstairs for presentations along with a few sleeping rooms and a kitchen and dining hall on the main floor. Sprinkled throughout the woods were several cabins and a shower / bath house where the majority of participants were getting settled in to their rooms. A few of the braver souls pitched tents as a light rain began to fall.
Around 5:00, I along with Fr. Steve Titus and this year’s retreat director, Deacon Vernon Dobelmann, celebrated Mass with the participants. The group is blessed with some pretty good musicians and the spirit of the group revealed itself quickly in the quality and volume of the signing. These guys clearly came to pray and open their hearts to the Lord. Following Mass, I joined the men for a meal, and then departed up the mountain to Ryan Park where I would spend the night in a cabin with one of our priests, Fr. Sam Hayes.
Wyoming has been experiencing perhaps one of the best year’s for moisture in memory of most people. After a great winter snow pack, the rains have continued through the summer. Rain fell in the mountain Friday night and Saturday morning, and I’m told there was even some snow in some of the higher elevations around the state. On a brisk break in the weather Saturday morning, Fr. Sam and I took two four wheelers up into the Medicine Bow National Forest for a little sight seeing. There were clear blue skies when we left the cabin, but the clouds quickly moved back in and the temps dropped to about 50 degrees and we were hardly back in the cabin an hour and a half later when the rain began again.
Needing to be in Wamsutter for a 4:00 Mass Saturday afternoon, I drove the highway through the Snowy Range to Sarratoga. From there I made my way north to I 80 and West to Wamsutter.
St. Anthony in the Desert is the name of our Mission Church there, and there is a Mass celebrated once a month. This church was provided by Catholic Extension Society in 1980, and it sits in the corner of a parking lot just off of I 80. The area around Wamsutter is one of the largest natural gas fields in the country. It is a very small community, fairly isolated from the nearest towns in either direction.
However, about 20 people showed up for Mass, and we had a very nice visit and celebration. After visiting a while after Mass, I continued west to spend the evening with our two priests at Holy Spirit in Rock Springs. This parish serves not only St. Anthony in The Desert, but also St. Christopher in Eden and St. Vivian in Superior.
Following dinner with Fr. Glen and Fr. Emilio and a good night sleep, I was scheduled for the 8:00 Mass in Eden. The drive to St. Christopher is about 40 minutes NW of Rock Springs. Here again, the people gathered for Mass with their bishop. There were close to fifty people in attendance. This mission serves primarily the people who live in Eden and Farson. This mission church was built in 1957. There is no running water, no parish hall, just a nice block built church. Despite the lack of space, there was a table set up in the back of church that was filled with baked goods and coffee to be served following Mass.
There were a number of young families, and quite a few young children running around following Mass. Much of the conversation revolved around the communities hopes to add on to the existing church in order to provide a hall, restrooms and some classrooms for religious education. Once again, it was a nice visit with some down-to-earth people.
One stop left to make, I headed back to Rock Springs. Fr. Glen and I had another brief visit before he celebrated the 11:00 Mass. Between the two priests and myself, there were nine Masses this weekend for the two churches in Rock Springs (one parish) and the three mission churches. About noon I began my journey back towards Cheyenne with a stop in Superior for a 1:00 Mass.
Superior once boasted a population of nearly 5,000 people I’m told until the local Union Pacific Coal mine closed around 1960. Now the population is around 280, and there is a Mass once a month at St. Vivian. Today, about thirty people showed up, many of them coming from Rock Springs. There is so much history in these local communities, and the people love to tell their family connection to the Church and the community. I was also hoping to see some of the wild horses that are in the nearby desert, but they did not cooperate today.
So, after making several stops over the past three days, it is good once again to be home. Now, it is time for a little stroll, and then some rest.
It’s amazing to me how the truth of the Scriptures continually ‘open’ with each passing year of one’s pilgrimage in this life. Once again today, I ‘heard’ a new ‘reality’ of God’s Kingdom while reading the Gospel. Jesus shares another parable of the Kingdom of heaven with us: “The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.”
A key element of the Kingdom involves invitation. God continually invites us into a loving relationship, a life-giving union with himself. This is another way of saying that God desires this union with every human person. I also like the element of the ‘wedding feast’ in today’s Kingdom parable. Indeed, our union with God draws us into the banquet of life – a banquet that alone suffices to truly fulfill the deepest longings of the human person – a banquet that satisfies like no other worldly pursuit.
The new insight gained with today’s Kingdom parable has to do with the reality of ‘resistance’ that is a part of embracing and expanding God’s Kingdom. Notice how those invited to the ‘banquet’ refuse the invitation. Some ignored the invitation while others even use violence against the ‘messengers’ to the point of killing some of them.
How often do we allow ourselves to think: “It should not be so difficult to lead a holy life. Why is it so hard for me to be faithful to God? to love God?” Today’s parable of the Kingdom indicates that resistance is something inherent in both the individual person’s efforts to respond to God’s invitation to a communion of love and in the world’s openness to the advance of God’s Kingdom.
This inherent ‘resistance’ is simply our participation in the ‘fallen nature’ of our human condition. We want to think that ‘love should be easy,’ when in reality, it requires regular perseverance, personal sacrifice, fierce fidelity. Jesus Christ is the model of such love and fidelity, and his love reveals also the painful reality of the struggle true love entails.
So, let us be renewed this day by God’s Word and the Banquet of the Eucharist. Let our own discipleship be ‘braced’ with the reality of resistance, and forged with the greater reality of love.
For God has sprinkled us with clean water, cleansed us of our impurities; He has given us a new heart and a new spirit, that we may live by his statutes. He has claimed us as His children, that He may be our God. (Ezekiel 36:23-28)
In other words, God gives us all we need to overcome our resistance to His love. He has given us His Son and the fullness of His Spirit.
I and the staff of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne welcome Donna M. Adler to the position of Legislative Liaison and Communications Director for the Diocese. Donna comes to us from her law practice in the Chicago area with additional expertise in Catholic theology. In her new role, she will work to assist me in expressing clear positions on matters of public policy important to the Roman Catholic Church in the state of Wyoming. Dr. Adler looks forward to her imminent move to Cheyenne and her immersion in the life of the community.
We are very pleased with the addition of a faith-filled woman of Dr. Adler’s background to our diocesan team. Donna will provide a needed energy and expertise to help us build a positive working relationship with the Wyoming legislature. Her presence and work will greatly enhance our mission of bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ into the public square.
Donna will begin her ministry in the Diocese of Cheyenne on September 15, 2014. Please join us in welcoming her to Wyoming.
Isaiah: my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
Psalm 67: O God, let all the nations praise you.
Romans: St. Paul is sent to the Gentiles.
Matthew: To the ‘foreigner,’ Jesus says: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”
Jesus, though at first glance, seems harsh and unresponsive to the Canaanite woman, is actually busy in his role as Teacher and as Savior of the nations. His silence in the face of the Canaanite woman’s request is meant to elicit faith from her. Is she there simply because she has heard of this man Jesus and the miracles he performs, and wants him to perform a healing for her daughter? Or is she there because she, too, has come to believe in him as the Son of God?
Likewise, Jesus is also in this moment teaching his disciples about the universal nature of his ministry. By granting this Canaanite woman her request, Jesus signals that faith in him is not limited to Israel; God’s mercy and love extends to all people. Thus, they will eventually be sent to all nations to proclaim the Good News and to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
How do today’s readings apply to us?
Christ put his life at the service of the Father’s will, and came into the world as the Bread of Life, that all who come to believe him might live. St. Paul put his life at Christ’s disposal, and was sent to the Gentiles. The Disciples put their life at Christ’s disposal, and were sent to all the nations to proclaim the Good News. Do we see the implication in these statements for us?
We, too, are to grow in faith in Jesus Christ.
We, too, are sent in the name and love of Jesus to others.
How many of us, like the Canaanite woman, have come to Christ? Have we come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? Have we been brought into the life of Christ through the sacraments of the Church?
Now to the heart of the matter: What are we doing with this Life Christ has shared with us? Has our ‘vision’ of this Life been corrupted by today’s hyper individualism and consumerism in that we see this Life as ‘just for me?’ Do I live this Life in Christ only when it is convenient, or across the spectrum of every moment and aspect of my life? In short, is the Life of Christ something passively at work in me, or have I given my life completely over to Christ?, as Christ gave his to the Father and the apostles gave their life to Christ?
Has my heart become hard and cold to the presence of Christ within me, so that this Font of Life which is Christ has become like a frozen water pipe which no longer flows? Or, have I freely given adherence to Christ and his truth that this Font of Life breaks forth from me so that I am a life-giving stream to those around me?
What does adherence to Christ look like?
The Prophet Isaiah today tells us: we join ourselves to the Lord, we minister to Christ, we love the name of Jesus, we are servants of Christ and his Church, we remain faithful to the new and eternal covenant Christ created by pouring out His blood.
The Prophet Ezekiel tells us to adhere to Christ is to live a life of virtue:
- one who does what is right and just
- who does not raise his eyes to other gods or idols or place false hope in worldly things
- who is faithful to God and faithful to one’s spouse and family, faithful to one’s promises
- who is just in business affairs – who oppresses no one and takes not from another
- who gives food to the hungry and clothes the naked
- who refrains from every form of evil and conducts his or her affairs with honor
- who lives by God’s ways – God’s commandments (see Ezekiel 18)
Such a person is just, is virtuous, and lives a life pleasing to God; a life that shares in the fullness of life Jesus promises to those who believe and trust in Him.
Is my faith in Christ like the mustard seed growing in the life of others, giving shelter to all? Is my life like the yeast mixed into a batch of dough that extends the Life of Christ and the Kingdom of God to my family and friends, co-workers and neighbors?
The fundamental answer to these questions boils down to love. If we love, then we are another Christ. When we love, Christ is a part of everything that we do. When we love Jesus, we experience a deep communion with God. When we keep the great commandment to love God with all our hearts and our neighbor as our self, then our love extends the communion we experience with God to others. When we love, our love creates unity among others; a unity that overcomes all fears and divisions. When we love, our life expands beyond our self and extends the love of Jesus to others. (See A New Way, p. 76, Chiara Lubich)
The Opening Prayer in Mass this morning speaks to this reality of love:
“O God, who have prepared for those who love you good things which no eye can see, fill our hearts, we pray, with the warmth of your love, so that, loving you in all things and above all things, we may attain your promises, which surpass every human desire.”
We are all sons and daughters of one God, which means we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. May our life in Christ lead us to deeper union with God, greater friendship with Christ, thus enabling us to be agents for healing divisions and building unity, communion, wholeness. In short, let us give our lives completely to Christ, that He may send us in His name to further God’s Kingdom on earth.
Today we celebrate the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother body and soul into heaven where she now enjoys the title as Queen of heaven and earth. Mary’s assumption into heaven reveals that as her life on earth was lived for God, giving birth to Christ, she now knows and lives the fullness of Life in Christ. As we honor our Blessed Mother today, our own hope is renewed that as she followed the Risen Christ to eternal life, we shall share in this Life of God when our earthly days are complete.
Today, faith informs us anew that Heaven is our origin, Heaven is our final goal, Heaven is our focus during this earthly pilgrimage.
God shared with Mary from birth the grace of knowing the Life of Christ. Mary lived in this fullness of grace all her days, and because of her faith and fidelity, was spared death. I believe one could say she was spared death because the grace of Life in Christ was hers, and therefore she was capable of being immediately assumed into heaven body and soul.
Though not in the same manner as Mary, we too, are given this grace of Life in Christ through Baptism. Mary’s earthly life teaches us how to live according to this grace, so that we live according to the fullness of grace – not looking to be filled with anything else. Mary’s Assumption renews and assures our hope that as we live in Christ, we too, shall share in His resurrection; in the eternal life of God.
Hail Mary, full of grace, teach us this wisdom of living in union with Christ.
As Mary lived her life in constant union with God, we learn that this is God’s desire for each of us. St. Bernard of Clairvaux teaches that two great evils will always be at work to diminish if not destroy this union of the soul with God: 1) an improper love of the things of this world, and 2) an excessive love of self.
The more we cultivate this interior life and union with God the more it is manifest in our exterior life. The more we strive to live and cultivate virtue, such as faith, hope, and love, the more this light and life of Christ will be visible to others around us. Likewise, the more we ignore the life of God in our daily, exterior life, the more the life of Christ and union with God diminishes in our soul – and we find ourselves straying further from our final goal of heaven.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you; teach us how to live in union with God.
In the Book of Revelation we read today of a ‘woman clothed with the sun…she was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth…birth to a son… now have salvation and power come and the Kingdom of God.” As every woman who has ever experienced childbirth knows, giving birth to a new life is painful.
Our Blessed Mother gave birth to the world’s savior. She gave birth to the fullness of God’s Kingdom, and she knew pain and sacrifice, none greater than watching her Son give birth to our Life of grace as he gave His life on the cross. Just so, we shall experience pain in giving birth to the life of Christ in us. We shall experience challenge and struggle as we labor to give birth to God’s Kingdom here in this world, in these days.
Christ has told us the reality of being his disciples, namely, if you are going to follow me, you must daily take up your cross. The key is to follow Jesus; to keep our eyes on Christ. If all we focus on is the pain and sacrifice, the Kingdom of God will always be beyond our grasp. But, when, we as Mary, keep our focus on God’s promise – the promise of the Kingdom of God – then we are motivated to live a virtuous life. We have the belief and hope to live the abundance of life that is ours in Christ. Then, we shall know the power of God which is capable of doing immeasurably more that we ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)
Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.
Mary, we turn to you this day asking for your intercession that we may live as true children of God. Help us believe as you, that God’s word to us will be fulfilled. Help us as you, to see the great things that God has done for us. Grant that as we experience God’s mercy in our lives, we may extend mercy to all of our brothers and sisters. Help us be the hand of God that fills the hungry with good things, to be those who come to the help of our brothers and sisters, and so extend the Kingdom of God. Mary, Pray for us, that we may live in such a manner that is worthy of sharing in the fullness of God’s Kingdom for all eternity. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Monday evening, August 11, 2014, a very diverse group of religious leaders gathered in the Cathedral rectory in Denver. A special ‘Thanks’ to Archbishop Aquila for gathering these faith leaders. I was grateful to be a part of the evening.
What ensued was a brief discussion of our concern for all that is transpiring in the Middle East, especially with regards to the rise of ISIS (Islamic State In Syria).
ISIS is conducting some of the worst sins against humanity sins the holocaust of WWII. Persecution, eviction from homes, forcible conversions to Islam, mass murder, indiscriminate killing, is now methodically carried out against Christians, Muslims and ethnic groups. Along with this genocide is a destruction of culture, as ancient churches and mosques are destroyed, along with priceless ancient texts and works of art. In short, a way of life that predates Christ is being destroyed.
Recognizing that people of faith cannot sit silently while such atrocities are perpetuated, this group of religious leaders decided to speak out, calling for concrete action from world and religious leaders to address the deteriorating conditions in Iraq as well as throughout the Middle East.
The leaders included members of the three revealed religions, Jewish, Christian and Muslim. We all agreed that the most powerful ‘weapon’ we can bring to the urgent need of all of the people involved in this conflict is our prayer. Recognizing that we are all ‘Children of Abraham,’ and believers in the One, Same God, we came together to pray for peace. As children of One God, we are all brothers and sisters.
After an hour long visit with each other, we entered the Cathedral, where a standing room only crowd gathered, representing the same diversity of believers, to pray for peace. As the religious leaders processed in, we arrived at the sanctuary, where there stood three podiums. Upon each of these stands were placed a Quran, the Torah, and a Book of the Gospels.
One religious leader from each of the three major traditions read a passage from the Sacred Word, once again followed by an English translation. Archbishop Aquila read a Gospel passage and then offered some moving remarks about our powerful contribution in these days through our prayer, advocacy, and concrete offering of practical assistance to those who have had to leave home and all worldly possessions behind.
The prayer service was deeply moving, and a strong reminder that for people of faith, prayer is strong medicine. The evening was also for me a wonderful experience of God the Father. Jesus taught us to call God Father, ‘our Father.’ When praying with people who do not share our belief in Jesus Christ, but do share faith in the God of all creation, created a tremendous sense of unity, which must be the ‘unity’ Jesus prays for. (John 17: 11)
My dear friends, let us pray for peace! Let us work for peace! Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
Today, for the second consecutive year, married couples gathered at St. Patrick in Casper to celebrate marriage. It is so humbling to be with these men and women who have remained faithful to each other and their promises of love over the years.
With the Sunday readings speaking about the importance of faith and keeping our eyes on Christ, these husbands and wives have lived that faith, and experienced God’s fidelity in their striving to be faithful to one another.
The first reading from the Book of Kings finds the great Prophet Elijah faithfully living in union with God, while being persecuted for challenging the People of Israel to live with greater integrity their covenant relationship with God. Elijah is rewarded for his fidelity to God when the Lord reveals Himself in the midst of the Prophet’s turbulent flight from those seeking to take his life.
Marriage is about the same union with God. St. Bernard of Clairvaux speaks about the two great evils that seek to destroy this union of the soul with God: a misguided love of the world and an excessive love of self. (1 Peter 2:11) (Sermon 1 on Song of Songs) Marriage in many ways is the great antidote to these pitfalls. Any couple that is going to make marriage work understands the need to put selfish pursuits aside, to live for their spouse and family, and to continually practice charity in all aspects of life.
The permanency of Marriage reflects the fidelity of God. Marital love mirrors the love of God which is eternal; always faithful. The union of the couple mirrors / reflects / participates in the human longing for union with God. The love of a husband and wife mirrors the mystery of Christ’s love for his bride the Church, and the Church is the sacrament of endless union with God.
As man and woman are different – far greater is the difference between God and the human person. As man and woman are joined in holy matrimony – and the two become one flesh – so did God join Himself to humanity through the Incarnation – and Christ takes to Himself his bride, the Church.
In other words, marriage is intimately rooted in God’s love. The complimentarity of man and woman symbolizes the complimentarity of the human and divine. As God’s love generates new life, so does marital love.
To all who participated in today’s celebration, and to all the husbands and wives who are working diligently every day to remain faithful to their promises of love, the Church says not only ‘congratulations,’ but ‘Thank you!’
The two ‘senior couples’ with us today were celebrating 68 years of marriage. They are pictured below.
Today the Church recalls the profession of faith of St. Peter, by which Peter takes his place in the rank of apostles as the first among equals. So powerful is this profession of faith that Christ used it as the foundation upon which He would build a Church. Not by coincidence, the first reading of today’s Mass is from the Prophet Jeremiah (31: 31-34) where the Prophet informs the people that God will make a new covenant with the people of Israel.
A new covenant is necessary, because the people have been unfaithful to the first covenant. Recall that the first covenant was written on stone and given to Moses, who instructed the people according to the law of God. The Prophet Jeremiah tells us today that the law will no longer be written in stone, but upon the hearts of every person. As if the law of God written upon every human heart is not personal and intimate enough for God to be our God and for us to be His people, He deemed to make this covenant even more personal, loving and intimate.
God in His Providential love chose to humble Himself and take on our human condition, to be born of a virgin, to live among us. How is it possible that the God who created all things would take on our human flesh in order to redeem all things? Such is the mystery of God. This is a Mystery not so much to be solved, as to be lived by faith.
Jesus in the Gospel today (Matthew 16: 13-23) asks the apostles: “Who do the people say that I am?” After hearing their numerous responses, all of which fail to capture the fullness of this Mystery, Jesus asks more personally: “Who do you say that I am?” Peter gives voice to this powerful Mystery: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
Jesus’ response to Peter indicates that this Mystery is a matter of faith by telling him: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” However, every person has access to this Mystery, to this Truth, because God has written this law upon our hearts. Knowledge of God, of His laws, and knowledge of Christ is accessible to every human person.
Jesus comes to reveal the fullness of God’s Kingdom and the fullness of God’s truth (law.) This is a very important teaching of our faith. This law of God written upon our hearts is not only meant to guide us in our earthly life, but is meant to lead us to faith in Christ. Because God is so intimately within us, indeed at the very ‘heart’ of our being, we cannot separate God, nor his law, nor our faith from any aspect of our life. A fully human life is one that integrates this law of God into every aspect of life. The law of God is not limiting or restricting, but rather opens us to the fullness of life.
Let us follow the faith of Peter in renewing our faith in Christ today. As Christ built His Church upon Peter and his profession of faith, let us rebuild our today’s society with our faith in Christ, which is always an expression of God’s law, written upon every human heart.
The disciples of John the Baptist, after burying John, went to find Jesus to tell him of John’s death. Upon hearing this news, Jesus withdraws by boat to a deserted place. Reaching this place, Jesus discovers that the crowds have preceded him. His heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. This is Good News for us as well. Jesus knows our needs. Jesus longs for us to come to him.
John’s disciples went to Jesus in their distress…
Vast crowds went to Jesus in their need…
In just these two scenes, we see the words of the Prophet Isaiah fulfilled: “Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life.” (Isaiah 55:1-3) The same truth is heard in our Psalm today: “The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.” Psalm (145)
These passages call each of us to recognize our deepest needs. In short, these scriptures challenge us to be honest about our dependency upon God. Even though most of us sitting here have enough to eat, and enjoy the basic necessities of life, every one of us still need Jesus. Most often, ‘self-sufficiency’ itself creates its own poverty, in that we are tempted to think we no longer need God, and when this thought creeps in, we are indeed the poorest of men.
Matthew’s parables on the Kingdom of Heaven teach us that Jesus Christ is the true ‘treasure’ of life, and that those who discover Christ and grow in relationship with him are the ones truly enriched. (Matthew 13) Luke’s Gospel warns against self-sufficiency, against storing up the goods of this world as if they can provide for all needs. Jesus says to those who rely upon such possessions: “Fools, this very night your life will be required of you. And all these things you have acquired, who will they belong to?” (Luke 12: 19-20)
The greatest fortune one can possess is God’s love, and this love is found in its fullness in the person of Jesus Christ. Once we are aware of God’s enduring love for us, the only thing that further enriches us is sharing that love with those who are in need.
St. Paul asks a great question in our second reading today from the 8th chapter of his letter to the Romans: “What can separate us from the love of Christ?” He goes on to pose many of the serious threats to the human condition as if these alone were sufficient to deprive us of Christ’s love: “anguish, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or the sword?” If our focus is rooted solely in the things of this world, then, indeed, any or all of these challenges would make us believe there is no God, or minimally, no God who loves us. This is one of the great philosophical challenges to the existence of God: “How can there be so much violence in the world? How can so many bad things happen if there is a good and loving God?”
Jesus Christ who took on our human flesh and lived in the world as one like us in all things but sin is the evidence that our God is not a distant God. Our God is not a God who does not care. Quite the contrary! Jesus Christ experienced everything that you and I experience. He knew hunger, pain, disappointment, temptation, sadness, joy, friendships and love. He knows everything of our human condition except sin – and even for our sins, he gave himself up to death. This is why nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Even if we choose to remain selfish and sinful, Jesus continues to love us, always hoping that we will come to our senses, and come to him.
In the Gospel today, faced with a crowd of over 5,000, Jesus tells his disciples to feed them. Here is a true test of faith in Christ’s divinity; in his power to act beyond the confines of this world. It is very similar for us today, because Jesus tells us the same thing when he sums up the commandments with the new commandment to love God and to love our neighbor.
The disciples answered Jesus very pragmatically: “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” Surely none of us present here today would think that we could feed ten percent of the population of Cheyenne with just five loaves and two fish!
Notice what Jesus does: “looking to heaven…” Here is our first clue that Jesus is acting with divine power, with the love of God that created the entire universe from nothing. Without a doubt, the same God who creates everything from nothing can do plenty with five loaves and two fish. This same God of creative love can also do plenty through each of us who recognize our dependence on God and place our faith in Jesus Christ.
But how have we been infected with the same practical, pragmatic attitude of the disciples? Today’s Gospel is challenging our own belief in the divinity of Christ and the ability of God’s powerful love to act within our own lives. First, we are to open our lives to this love of God. Do we have the faith that is capable of believing that despite the events that tempt us to ‘feel’ God does not love us, we trust that God’s love will prevail in all things? This is the faith that helps us to persevere and to act based upon our faith, and not upon our feelings and emotions. It was Jesus’ trust in the Father’s love that provided the power for him to work the miracle of feeding the 5,000.
Once we open our life to this creative and powerful love of God in the person of Jesus, then we are to act as Jesus who acts in our life. We are to channel that same powerful love in our compassion for those in need. We are to abandon the poverty of unbelief if we are to be enriched with the treasure of faith. And once we have been made rich in the person of Jesus, we are to share our wealth and love with the worldly poor. In such acts of charity, we are further enriched, for to such as these belongs the Kingdom of Heaven.