Sunday, August 13, 2017

Walking on Water

From our friends at Catholic Exchange,




One of the most famous stories of the New Testament is the one about Jesus walking on the water.  If there is any gospel story we never tire of hearing, this is it.
The lake is rough. Though several of the apostles spent most of their life in a boat, they’re still worried.  But when they see a phantom walking towards them on the whitecaps, they get really scared.  Then the figure speaks and they recognize a familiar voice–it is the Lord!
Remember the old saying “fools rush in where angels fear to tred?”  Well here goes Peter: “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you across the water.”  The Lord takes him up on it.  “Come!” he says.  So Peter gives it a try.  The first few steps go great and he’s pumped.  But funny thing–when the Lord told him to come, he neglected to calm the wind and the waves.  And as Peter, far from the security of the boat and the company of his buddies, finds himself buffeted by strong gusts and swirling waves, fear gets the best of him.  He begins to sink.  Remembering that Jesus is not too far off, he has the sense to cry out “Lord save me!”
The Lord fishes him out and then gently rebukes him.  Jesus doesn’t say that Peter has no faith.  After all, he had more faith than the other eleven—at least he stepped out of the boat.  But Jesus’ statement is telling: “how little faith you have!  Why did you falter?”
I think we love this story because we can so easily relate to it.  In various moments of pious enthusiasm, we surrender our lives, our will, and our future to God.  “Just tell me Lord, what you want me to do and I’ll obey.”  And then He surprises us a bit by taking us up on our offer.  Undaunted, we respond to the call.  It could be to the sacrament of matrimony which entails lifelong fidelity and generous openness to children.  It could be to priesthood and religious life which involve celibacy and obedience to a superior.  Or it could be to a degree program, or a tour of duty in the armed forces.  We often embark on our journey amidst fanfare and congratulations.  Then the harsh reality of the everyday grind sets in.  Next come unexpected road hazards.  No sooner is a child born with serious medical problems then you lose your job.  A model child turns into a rebellious teen who seems to reject all of your values, including your faith.
If we are honest, most of us notice butterflies flying inside our stomachs amidst such circumstances.
Does trust mean immunity from feelings of fear and discouragement?  No.  Jesus himself experienced anguish and dread in the Garden of Gethsemane.  But notice that he was not deterred by it.  He did not hesitate or falter as Peter did and as we usually do.
“Little” faith means immature faith.  Faith, to be mature, must be tempered with courage, also known as fortitude.  Courage only is manifested in the face of danger.  If there is no danger, no threat, no trial, then there is no possibility of courage.  Mature faith means believing more in what you can’t see than in the terrifying things you can see.  It means keeping the eyes of your heart fixed on the master of the wind and waves even as you feel the spray in your face.
The most frequently repeated phrase in the gospels is “Do not be afraid!”  The Lord is not speaking to our emotions here, since you can’t command emotions.  He is speaking to our will.  We must make a conscious decision not to allow fear to paralyze us.  Peter sank because he stopped walking.  Faith means to keep walking even when your knees are knocking.
This is offered as a reflection upon the readings for the 197h Sunday in Ordinary Time, liturgical cycle A (1 Kgs 19:9, 11-13), Psalm 85, Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:22-33).  It is reproduced here with the permission of the author.

Homily

Greetings to all my brothers and sisters in Christ! How pleased the Lord must be to see so many of His children obeying the precept of the Church, to observe Sunday as a day of obligation.

Today's three readings share one common denominator. During the First Reading from the First Book of Kings, [1 Kings 19:9, 11-13] we heard that Elijah had gone to a cave at Horeb, the mount of God, where he stayed for 40 days. Why was Elijah at the cave? He was hiding there because Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, had sent a messenger to inform him of her intent to kill him.

During the Second Reading, [Rom. 9:1-5] we heard how Saint Paul was saddened by Israel's unbelief and rejection of the Lord. Expressing the great love that he had for his own countrymen, Paul was willing to undergo the worst possible fate, being cut off from Christ, if such could possibly save those that he loved.

During the reading from the Gospel of Matthew, [Mt. 14:22-33] we heard that when St. Peter started walking on the water towards Jesus, he became frightened and began to sink. Consequently, he called out to Jesus, "Lord, save me!" [Mt. 14:30] This is the common denominator! "Lord, save me!"

Elijah, fearing for his life, he called upon the Lord to save him. The Israelites, while they too wanted to be saved, they rejected Jesus and the only Mediator between God and man. And Peter, fearing for his life during a moment of human weakness, he too called upon the Lord to save him.

They all called upon the Lord to save them. Our forefathers called upon the Lord to save them. Our grandparents called upon the Lord to save them. Our parents called upon the Lord to save them. And most of us will call upon the Lord to save us if we have not done so as of yet.

In view of the fact that everybody is bound to call upon the Lord, the question is, "Will the Lord answer our call?" Allow me to elaborate on this subject.

Some time ago, a couple asked for my urgent prayers. I was told that, while both were fully employed, being in severe debts, they risked losing their homes, everything they had worked for. They needed a miracle, a quick fix for their problem. They did not believe that their prayer, "Lord, save me!" would obtain a miracle. And so they came to me to intercede on their behalf, hoping that the Lord would hear the prayer of a priest versus their personal prayer and that the Lord would have mercy on them.

We all prayed and the Lord answered their prayer intention. The Lord saved them, but not the way that they wanted to be saved. They only wanted the Lord to provide for their physical needs. Instead, the Lord provided for their spiritual needs. After losing everything, their house, their land, their vehicles, after having been humiliated before their family and friends, after having declared personal bankruptcy, after having put an end to their wasteful spending, their high class living and their endless partying, they rented reasonable accommodations, settled down to a normal life and finally found the Lord Jesus in their lives.

When they had everything, they did not need Jesus. They had the great "ME," the "My way Lord or no way!" They never prayed. They did not have time to worship. They never received the Sacraments of eternal life. They had three goals: fame, wealth and the flesh. What a good life! At least they thought so, until their worldly kingdom came grumbling down.

The Lord saved them! He opened their eyes. Once blind, now they could see. He made them realized that while they were abundantly blessed, they showed no appreciation whatsoever for it. They were walking on the wide road of perdition.

The fate of this couple is not uncommon. Many of the rich people have no time for God. They are too busy managing their wealth. How often do we hear today of parents complaining that their children are living common-law? They do not practice their faith. They are walking the wide path of life, living a life of mortal sin, partying, doing drugs, neglecting their children, many of the grandchildren are no longer baptized, and so on.

What we see today is the fruits of a society that lacks morals, a society that has placed employment and fame before the family life, a society that has remained silent to the immoralities that were breeding all around them. Now, the people are crying out, "Lord, save me!" Do we honestly believe that the Lord will save such a society? Is this the kind of life that the Kingdom of God is all about? Certainly not! To save this generation, the Lord must sanctify it! He must destroy this society in order to rebuilt it in His holy ways!

Yes, the couple that lost everything, it suffered for awhile. But in its suffering, it found life in Jesus Christ. Its suffering was a blessing in disguise! Suffering was the means towards salvation!

Sometime ago, I was reading a piece of prose that is called, "Secrets of the Cross." I would like to share it with you because I found it to be spiritually rich.

Secrets of the Cross

"An earthly day without its afflictions
Would surely appear to be a heavenly day.
Crosses come and go as showers and downpours,
Light and heavy, most abruptly and unforseen.
To the majority of the faithful believers,
Crosses appear to be ongoing nuisances,
Their existence not worthy of being present.
Yet, all what God has permitted serves a purpose!
Although often disguised during their occurrences,
Their intentions are subsequently revealed.
While your crosses may appear to be a burden,
Consider the spiritual benefits to your soul,
Ascertaining what you have gained from them.
If you are blind to the personal progress
That has been derived from your trials,
Then, you have failed to see the hand of God,
Silently and wisely guiding you in life,
Nurturing you as a parent teaches a child.
For every cross holds a secret behind it!"

What possible secret can a cross hold? What holy qualities can we gain from bearing a daily cross? Consider some of these virtues: charity, [pause] chastity, [pause] compassion, [pause between each one] decency, faith, fear, fortitude, friendship, generosity, honesty, hope, humility, justice, knowledge, love, modesty, obedience, patience, peace, piety, prudence, purity, respect, servitude, solitude, submission, temperance, trust, and wisdom.

Next time, when an affliction crosses our path, rather than saying, "Lord, save me!", we should consider saying, "Lord, what do you want me to learn from this cross?" Then, once we have learned the spiritual lesson that the Heavenly Father allowed to be placed before us, having understood why the finger of God has touched our lives, the affliction should go away. Having been strengthened in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be then able to continue in our spiritual growth. We will be ready to welcome the next affliction in order to learn the next lesson so we may all become great saints on earth as we will be in Heaven.

Prayers for Today

Lord Jesus, help me to trust you always and to never doubt your presence and your power to help me. In my moments of doubt and weakness, may I cling to you as Peter did. Strengthen my faith that I may walk straight in the path you set before me, neither veering to the left nor to the right.

  Father, I believe in you with all my heart. I trust in your infinite goodness and mercy. Thank you for so patiently guiding me along the pathway to everlasting life. I love you and offer all that I have and all that I do to you, for your glory and the salvation of souls.

 Lord Jesus, you called Peter to walk on water. As long as he believed in you and your power he was fine, but his doubt got the upper hand. Strengthen my faith so that I can be obedient to you. Help me when the wind and the waves are fierce, and the inclination to doubt asserts itself. Help me to stay on top of the water!

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1st book of Kings 19:9a.11-13a.
At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah came to a cave, where he took shelter.
"Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by." A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD--but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake--but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was fire--but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Psalms 85(84):9ab-10.11-12.13-14.
I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD –for he proclaims peace to his people.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.

The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and salvation, along the way of his steps.



Letter to the Romans 9:1-5.
Brothers and Sisters: I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the holy Spirit in bearing me witness
that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart.
For I could wish that I myself were accursed and separated from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kin according to the flesh.
They are Israelites; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises;
theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Messiah. God who is over all be blessed forever. Amen.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 14:22-33.
After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side of the sea, while he dismissed the crowds.
After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone.
Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. "It is a ghost," they said, and they cried out in fear.
At once (Jesus) spoke to them, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."
Peter said to him in reply, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water."
He said, "Come." Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
But when he saw how (strong) the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!"
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
After they got into the boat, the wind died down.
Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, "Truly, you are the Son of God."

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Prayer and Getting to know God

Yesterday at mass the priest's word struck home with me. I am currently under going cancer treatment and getting ready for surgery at the start of September. Yes when you get the word from your doctor you have cancer your whole world gets turned upside down and more.
 The one thing I noticed is my spiritual health also changed. Instead of prayers everyday I have noticed that they have turned more to prayer and conversation with God. Covering everything and the prayer becomes stronger. Now what does this have to do with what our priest said in his homily?
 Well he struck a chord with me when he said we might think we get to know God with our daily prayers but he said the true glory of God is revealed when we suffer.
 I thought about this for a moment and it is so true for the most part we go through our lives and our prayers are usually a form of thanks to god for what he has given us or prayer to have success in something be it a job interview in our marriages or maybe praying for success in an exam at school.  But when we get hit with something severe, illness, death of a loved on then all of a sudden our prayers become more of conversing with God such as why is this happening why did this happen and we demand or look for answers from God. We start talking with God and reflecting what he has done for us kind of take inventory with him trying to figure out what it is he has planned for us.
 To me through these misfortunes in life leads us to different level of our relationship with God. It puts us to where we are at his mercy and we have to put our trust in him and be with him and live with him as his grand plan unfolds. I just wonder if we have this closer more intimate relationship with God from the start how much better off we would be spiritually?

Homily


"This is My Son, the Beloved: listen to Him!" [Mk. 9:7] What powerful words! In these few words, God the Father commands each and everyone of us to follow the Lord Jesus.

Welcome my brothers and sisters in Christ to today's celebration of the Holy Mass that commemorates the "Transfiguration of the Lord." May the grace of God kindle your hearts as you listen to the message of this special feast that echoes the glory that awaits the children of the Lord in the eternal Kingdom of Heaven.

Today's First Reading from the Book of Daniels [Dan. 7:9-10, 13-4] is prophetic in nature. Many of the words that are found in this book are paraphrased in chapter one, and chapters four to six of the Book of Revelation.

The words written by Daniel are an account of his dreams and visions in the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon. [Dan. 7:1] As some of you may be aware, in the days of the Old Testament, God frequently used dreams as a means of communication to reveal to the worldly mind of the person the knowledge of what his spirit had seen or heard during prophetic dreams and visions. In this Bible passage, the spiritual experience of Daniel revealed the coming of the Messiah who would be given dominion and glory and kingship.

As we have heard, the vision of Daniel begins to unravel itself with the Ancient One taking His Throne. Here, the Ancient One is symbolic of God the Father. It is important to remember at this point that Daniel was talking about the Blessed Trinity when such knowledge had not yet been revealed to the world.

To the best of his human ability of describing spiritual things in worldly terms, Daniel perceived the clothing of God as being as white as snow and His hair as pure wool. [Dan. 7:9; Rev. 1:14] What Daniel was describing was the fact that God, the heavenly beings and the surrounding all shined like a brilliant white light. The Holy Bible teaches us that "God is Light." [1 Jn. 1:5; 1 Pet. 2:9] "And the city, (His Kingdom), has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light..." [Rev. 21:23] "Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever." [Dan. 12:3]

Try to imagine this, walking in the midst of extremely brilliant light while being able to perceive the surrounding without experiencing pain to your eyes. Is it not difficult? If some of you have been surrounded by floodlights while visiting a photographer or while on a stage, you will recall the brilliance of the lights, how you were sweating, and how your eyes were weakened. In Heaven, it is different. While the light of God is brighter than a thousand suns, in spiritual form, we will not feel any heat, nor will our eyes be weakened. For we will not be restricted to the human weaknesses of our physical bodies.

Daniel continued by explaining that the Throne of God was like fiery flames. A stream of fire issued and flowed from the presence of God. [Dan. 9:7; Rev. 4:5] An endless number of angelic beings served God, ten thousands times ten thousands. [Dan. 7:10; Rev. 5:11] In this superb gathering of all of God's creations, the court sat in judgment and the books were opened. [Dan. 7:10]

At that moment, Daniel "saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him." [Dan. 7:13; Rev. 5:16]

At this point, "to Him," the Lord Jesus, "was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and His kingship is one that shall never be destroyed." [Dan. 7:14; Rev. 4:11, 5:12-3]

To have a spiritual understanding of what this passage of Scripture is telling us, it is necessary to remember that God the Father is of a formless nature. All Biblical references to His Divine manifestations are as dreams, visions, voices, or a burning bush as Moses experienced.

In this reading, God the Father is perceived as a brilliant light, a light that is without form. In today's First Reading, God the Father reveals His incarnation through Jesus Christ who resurrected in His glorified spiritual form. All power, glory and honour was given to Jesus because He is God manifested in His visible glorified form. As Jesus said, "The Father and I are One." [Jn. 10:30] "Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father." [Jn. 14:9] Before the coming of Jesus, even in Heaven, no one had ever seen God. What the angels were witnessing was a fiery Throne. Now that Jesus had been revealed as the Messiah, the Son of God and the sacrificial Lamb, His was the everlasting dominion as the King of kings.

Today's alternate Reading revealed the fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel. Peter told the faithful that the disciples were not following cleverly devised myths when they preached the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He, James and John had been eyewitnesses to the majestic glory of the Lord Jesus when He was transfigured before them, His clothes becoming dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. At that moment, Elijah and Moses appeared.

In his preaching, Peter was convinced beyond any doubt that Jesus had received honour and glory from God the Father. He had heard God the Father say, "This is My Son, My Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." [2 Pet. 1:17] "Listen to Him!" [Mk. 9:7] Because of his personal presence on the high mountain during this majestic event, the prophetic message of Daniels was more fully confirmed. It was not hearsay. Peter saw and heard what he was reporting to the others.

Condemning the false prophecies of those days, Peter commanded those who had been converted to Christianity to pay attention to what he was saying. They should be as lamps shining in the dark place. In a land where false messiahs flourished, Christians were persecuted and killed, the elders of God's people of the Old Testament were opposing the teachings of Jesus, etc... Those who were converted were encouraged to persevere in their living faith in Christ as lights in the world until the final day of earth when Jesus, the Morning Star, shall return to judge the living and the dead. The love of Jesus should progressively grow in their hearts in the hope of the reward that awaits them.

What was the purpose of the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus on the high mountain? Why did this event take place in the presence of Peter, James and John?

The Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus on the high mountain before these witnesses was an affirmation to them as writers of the Holy Bible that Jesus was God. He was the awaited Messiah. He had been chosen by God the Father to rule as the King of kings over the eternal Kingdom. To Him was given all power, glory and honours. 

Over and above this, the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus was a reflection of the fullness of the glory that awaits the resurrected bodies of those who persevere in their living faith. "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, we will not all die, but we will all be changed. The trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." [1 Cor. 15:51-2]

"Christ is the first fruits of those who have died." [1 Cor. 15:20] "For those whom God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son in order that He might be the firstborn with a large family." [Rom. 8:29]

My brothers and sisters in Christ, God the Father said, "This is My Son, the Beloved: listen to Him!" These Words represent today's message to each and everyone of us! Through our obedience to God as lights in the darkness of this world, we are assured through Christ that by following in His footsteps, we will be transformed into eternal glorious beings of light. This week, let us reflect upon this! Are we walking as lights in the world? Do we want to be eternal glorious beings of light as shining stars in the Kingdom of God? Let each and everyone of us listen to our hearts, and if necessary, amend our lives accordingly so we may become sons and daughters of the Almighty Lord God!

ENTER INTO PRAYER — FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION OF THE LORD

Found this at Spiritual Direction. Liked it so much I decided to share with you.

Enter into Prayer – Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord
for post Enter into Prayer on the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord
If I were to ask you to define prayer, how would you define it?  Many people would answer that prayer is talking to God, plain and simple.  I think it’s safe to say that while many Christians say prayers, it’s also true that many Christians do not truly enter into prayer.  There’s a big difference between saying prayers and entering into prayer.  Saying prayers is good; entering into the experience of prayer is life-changing.
In this extraordinary gospel [of the Transfiguration], notice that Jesus takes Peter, James, and John away, up a high mountain to be with him. He takes them away, out of the noisiness and distractions of their world. And it is only when they are in a place set apart for this encounter that they experience his glory. Jesus brings them to a place where they can enter into this experience, to be enveloped by it. And no doubt, they are changed by this experience, as we hear in the exclamation of St. Peter, “Lord, it is good that we are here.”
We see in this gospel a paradigm of prayer.
  1. First, Jesus takes the initiative (“Jesus took Peter, James, and John”). Anytime we are moved to pray, it is always the Lord who prompts us. It is always his grace acting in our hearts that draws us to pray.
  2. Second, Jesus leads them up a high mountain. If you’ve ever hiked, the greatest moment is when you reach the summit of the mountain to experience the beauty all around you. That is what prayer is supposed to be: allowing God to take us more and more into his presence to experience his beauty and his love.
  3. Third, they hear God speak (a voice came from the cloud). Prayer is not simply about us talking to God; it’s about allowing ourselves to hear the voice of the Lord speak to us.
  4. Fourth, Jesus touches them and tells them to rise. When we enter into prayer, Jesus touches us and the experience of prayer is meant to bring about a resurrection in our lives, meaning that it is meant to lead us to live a new life.
Notice, this paradigm of prayer has nothing to do with the apostles sitting down and simply talking to God or asking God for things. In fact, this experience they have on the mountain is all about what happens to them. Listen to what spiritual author Ruth Burrows [a Carmelite nun] writes,
“Prayer has far more to do with what God wants to do in us than with our trying to ‘reach’ or ‘realize,’ still less ‘entertain,’ God in prayer…. What we think of as our search for God is, in reality, a response to the divine Lover drawing us to himself. There is never a moment when divine Love is not at work… This work is nothing other than a giving of the divine Self in love. The logical consequence for us must surely be that our part is to let ourselves be loved, let ourselves be given to, let ourselves be worked upon by this great God and made capable of total union with Him.” [from Essence of Prayer]
You see, prayer is not primarily about talking to God; it is, rather, all about what God wants to do in us. And what he wants to do in us is nothing less than transform our lives. This is why we need to enter into the experience of prayer rather than just say prayers for, as Ruth Burrows says, prayer is about letting ourselves be loved, letting ourselves be worked upon by the Lord. Peter, James, and John experience this transformation on the mountain. You and I can experience this transformation if we enter into prayer. [And, this] is the opportune time to go deeper in prayer.
I want to encourage each of you, enter into prayer and let the Lord love you; let the Lord touch and transform your heart. Don’t let your prayer simply be about words and speaking and trying to reach God; let your prayer be about Jesus enfolding you in his presence, bringing you into a deeper awareness of his infinite love for you.

Walking on Water

From our friends at Catholic Exchange , Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D.   One of the most famous stories of the ...