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FIRST IMPRESSIONS - 21st SUNDAY (A) - August 24,2014

Isaiah 22: 19-23; Psalm 138; Romans 11: 33-36; Matthew 16: 13-20

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

Today’s gospel was also used for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul at the end of June. Should we go back in our files and update what we preached then? No, not at all. Even the same scripture passage takes on a new meaning in a different setting. That’s why we can’t pull out old homilies from the past to preach again now. It’s not "the same old passage" – it’s always new, ready to speak a fresh message to our eager ears at this point in our lives and in the history of the world.

This text is well rooted in our Catholic teaching for the primacy of the pope, the Bishop of Rome. Protestants would see in it the stress on Peter’s faith, the "rock" on which Christ has built his church – the rock on which God builds, stone upon stone, a community of Christ’s followers.

So often we hear people describe themselves as "spiritual but not religious." They profess spiritual values and may even have private practices, but do not want to belong to any "formal institution." But today’s text is about the church which is essential to Christian faith. It is not just a gathering of people who think and act the same way. Jesus is very specific: he will build his church, protect it against the forces of evil from within and without that intend to destroy it – or discount it as having little value for the "spiritual person." Jesus intended the church to continue the mission God sent him to accomplish: to preach the reign of God now present and to come.

As Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem continues the tension with the authorities is intensifying. So, he "strictly ordered" the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. There will be a time for that after he accomplishes his mission and the Spirit comes upon the community at Pentecost.

The three Synoptic Gospels, Matthew Mark and Luke, record today’s event. They must have considered it very important for the church’s understanding of Jesus’ ministry. This is the first time the title Messiah is used in Matthew. Jesus affirms its use but, at this point, the disciples would have a false notion of how Jesus is Messiah – certainly not a conquering savior who would overthrow the Romans and raise up Israel as a powerful nation "under God." The gospel is not yet complete, all the evidence is not yet in. Jerusalem awaits the Messiah and Jesus’ messiahship will include suffering death and resurrection (cf. next week’s gospel). The disciples have much to learn about Jesus’ messianic role and so, for now, "he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ."

There have been many holy and great religious figures in history. Their followers in the world’s great religions Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, etc. would count Jesus among the list of holy and great religious leaders. Even people who belong to no religion would say the same. So, there are plenty of responses today to Jesus’s question, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" These varied responses are respectful and often have a note of admiration.

But when Jesus puts his question to Peter, and to us, he isn’t asking about public opinion. He is inviting a confession of faith from his disciples; the kind of faith that results in a lifetime commitment and a changed life. Yes, but few people’s lives change completely and irrevocably when they profess faith in Christ. Instead accepting him means following him on a lifetime journey that will include: good deeds, but with failure too; faith when life presses down on us, but also moments of fear, even despair; good intentions, but mixed with selfish moments as well, etc. It’s a lifetime commitment that invites frequent returns to the path when we have strayed and offers forgiveness whenever we ask.

All along our journey we respond again and again to Jesus’ question with a faith-filled response, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," and we take another step on our faith journey remembering Jesus’ promise to his community – we are his church and nothing shall overcome us, not sin, not even death.

Jesus gave authority to Peter and to the apostles during his lifetime (18:18). When he departed they exercised their authority by passing on to the next generation of believers what they learned and received from Christ. With the wise exercise of their authority many centuries later we have come to know what Jesus said and did and so we can profess the same faith in him that Peter did, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus refers to himself as the "Son of Man." The title would have been confusing to Jesus’ hearers. It might have stirred up thoughts of Daniel 7 where the Son of Man is described in powerful imagery as one who will overcome those worldly rulers who wield power over nations. The Christ, the Anointed One would be the Servant envisioned by Isaiah (61:1) who would bring good news to those suffering and afflicted.

Peter gives the right answer to Jesus’ question, though he does not know it’s full implication. His response is not something we can reason to on our own – not revealed by "flesh and blood." Jesus affirms this with his beatitude, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah…." Knowledge about Christ and fulfilling our roles as his disciples aren’t achieved on our own, but are given to us from above ("revealed... to you by my heavenly Father"). Only God can make Jesus known to Peter and only God makes Jesus’ divine identity known to us.

"Rock" is a biblical name for God. Maybe that’s what Jesus implies when he names Peter "Rock." His faith will be solid, for its source is God, "our Rock and our salvation." God is also the foundation for our lives, the solid ground on which we stand. (Remember the wise man who "built his house on rock" – Mt7:24? The Jewish people hoped for a day when God would restore the community and fix it firmly against all evil forces, even death itself (Is 28:15-19). The church Jesus himself has built is that promised community that will remain forever.

Peter is given the keys of authority for the kingdom. He is the servant who will look over the master’s household with both responsibility and freedom. Jesus uses legal terms to describe Peter’s role. He will have power to cancel debts we "owe" to God. He will also "loose" the bonds of injustice for those held captive. Peter and the faithful (18:18) will open the doors to those who sincerely seek God’s kingdom, but will close it to those who wish to enter to destroy, as well as those already within whose presence and actions disrupt the bonds of community.

Peter got it right. Jesus is the Messiah, the one who had come to liberate not only those enslaved by Rome, but all who are poor and oppressed. He can liberate those diminished by sin, dominated by colonial powers, oppressive national debt, violence and enslavement of any kind. His liberating power was handed on to Peter and his companions and is our responsibility today. We are to loose those who are bound and to bind the powers of those who threaten the freedom of God’s children in any way.

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/082414.cfm

QUOTABLE

Reading the Scriptures also makes it clear that the Gospel is not merely about our personal relationship with God.... the Gospel is about the kingdom of God (cf. Lk 4:43); it is about loving God who reigns in our world. To the extent that he reigns within us, the life of society will be a setting for universal fraternity, justice, peace and dignity. Both Christian preaching and life, then, are meant to have an impact on society.

----Pope Francis, in "The Joy of the Gospel," ("Evangelii Gaudium,") #180

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

When I called, you answered me; you built up strength within me.

Psalm 138: 3

This weekend is Lay Ministry Sunday and I just want to acknowledge with deep gratitude and love, the parishioners who lead the social justice and respect life ministries here at Sacred Heart and their teams:

*Catholic Parish Outreach—Mary Overcash

*Congregations for Social Justice—Denis Keating

*Crop Hunger Walk—Mary Catherine Hinds

*Door Ministry—Founders Anne & Bill Werdel & with special thanks to Wilbur Davis, David Mullaney, Carole Marcotte, Sandy & Bob Peace, Ann Mann, Tom Sappington, Margi Keating, Sandy Foley & Al Lambert (J)

*Farm Workers Ministry—Olga Salas

*Gabriel Project—Brin Myers

*Global Outreach—Sally Poland

*Habitat for Humanity—Denise Gonzalez

*Helen Wright Shelter—Ann Petro, Mary Erazim

*Justice for Immigrants—Margi Keating

*Moore Square Ministry (Oak City Outreach Ctr.)—John Young, Elizabeth White, Tony Zordich

*Prison Ministry—Sandy Kreps, Sally Bruns

*Respect Life—Jorge Collazo, Patti Zordich (Project Rachel)

*Sage Brigade—Elizabeth Dunbar

*Share Tree—Sarah Eby & Youth Ministry

*Support Circles (Domestic & Refugees)—Lynn Mattox, Jay Butler, Sonya Dwyer

*Wake Interfaith Hospitality Network--Jonathan Hammill, Joe & Mary Matza, John Hinds *Adult Faith-Sharing for Peace, Justice & Lifelong Learning—Anne Werdel, Vince & Judy Schneider, Fr. Jonathan Woodhall

The following words of Pope Francis are a reflection of all of you: "Jesus wanted to show us his heart as the heart that loved so deeply . . .God loved us, he loved us with such great love. I am thinking of what St. Ignatius told us.... He pointed out two criteria on love. The first: love is expressed more clearly in actions than in words. The second: there is greater love in giving than in receiving. . .These two criteria are like the pillars of true love: deeds, and the gift of self." (Homily--Mass of the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus 6/7/13)

If you would like to share your love through outreach, contact socialconcern@sacredheartcathedral.org

----Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Coordinator of Social Justice Ministries Sacred Heart Cathedral--Raleigh, N.C.

FAITH BOOK

Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.

From today’s Gospel reading:

Simon replied to Jesus:

"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Reflection:

Peter got it right. Jesus is the Messiah, the one who had come to liberate not only those enslaved by Rome, but all who are poor and oppressed. His liberating power was handed on to Peter and his companions and is our responsibility today. We are to loose those who are bound and to bind the powers of those who threaten the freedom of God’s children in any way.

So we ask ourselves:

  • What do I need to ask Jesus to liberate me from?
  • How can I help another experience a similar liberation?

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

"The use of the death penalty cannot really be mended. It should be ended."
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

  • Jimmie Lawrence #05971264 (On death row since 12/11/97 )
  • John Williams #0559379 (3/5/98)
  • Danny Frogg #0137368 (3/27/98)

----Central Prison 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the webpage of the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://www.catholicsmobilizing.org/

DONATIONS

"First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.

If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

St. Albert Priory 3150 Vince Hagan Drive Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage to make an online donation: http://preacherexchange.com/donations.htm

ANNOUNCEMENTS

1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:

  • Individual CDs for each Liturgical Year, A, B or C
  • One combined CD for "Liturgical Years A, B and C."

If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.

You can order the CDs by going to our webpage: www.preacherexchange.com and clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.

(These CDs have been updated twice in the last five years.)

2. "Homilías Dominicales" —These Spanish reflections on the Sunday and daily scriptures are written by Dominican sisters and friars. If you or a friend would like to receive these reflections drop a note to fr. John Boll, O.P. at Jboll@opsouth.org Or jboll@preacherexchange.org.

3. Our webpage: http://www.preacherexchange.com

Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilías Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.

4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.


Thank you and blessings on your preaching,

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

St. Albert Priory

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

frjude@judeop.org

972-438-1626

 


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