First Kings 19:9, 11-13

Psalms 85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14

Romans 9:1-5

Matthew 14:22-33
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Aug 13, 2023

In today's Gospel, Peter shows both his impulsiveness and his inconstancy - two characteristics that make him easy to relate to. It's around 3 o'clock in the morning as the Apostles battle against a stormy sea, and Jesus comes walking across the lake towards the boat. The Apostles are scared stiff - they think they are seeing a ghost. Even Jesus' reassurance doesn't allay their fears.

So macho Peter takes the matter into his own hands and challenges the ghost to do something that only Christ could do - enable him to walk on the stormy water. And he does - for a few steps. But then Peter takes his eyes off Christ; he looks around at the waves and the storm, and he starts to sink. As long as Peter kept his eyes on Christ he was able to walk unhindered through the stormy sea. As soon as he let his eyes wander away from Christ to examine the intimidating waves, he began to sink.

Just so, as we strive to make our way through the stormy temptations and challenges of life in a messed up and secularized world, only focusing on Christ can keep us afloat. Christ is always close to us in our storms, asking us to believe in him. 

In his words to Peter, tinged with disappointment, we see how much he longs for us to trust him: "Why did you doubt?" As soon as Jesus steps into the boat, the storm gives way to peace and calm. Christ wants to be our peace, our strength, and the solution to life's troubles. St Peter didn't learn this lesson right away, but he learned it well; in his First Letter he put it like this: "So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.”

St Augustine is quoted as saying: "If I try by myself to swim across the ocean of this world, the waves will certainly engulf me. In order to survive I must climb aboard a ship made of wood; this wood is the Cross of Christ. Of course, even on board ship there will be dangerous tempests and perils from the sea of this world. But God will help me remain on board the ship and arrive safely at the harbor of eternal life." 

Having faith in Christ doesn't mean that we will always understand everything that happens in life, but it does mean that we always know who we are and where we are going. This is the priceless value of the gift of faith.
There is a story about a man who was accustomed to giving orders and having his own way. One day he was traveling to an important meeting. He decided to take a shortcut and found himself thoroughly lost. He asked the first person he saw, a young child, for directions. "Boy, which way to Dover?" he gruffly asked.

"I don't know," the child responded, a little embarrassed. "Well, then," the man demanded, "How far to Brighton?" "I don't know that either," the child answered. "Is there someone around here who can give me directions, then?" The man raised his voice. "I don't know," shrugged the child. The man's questions got angrier as the boy kept responding with the same answer.
Finally the man lost his temper and shouted, "Well you don't know much, do you!" Then for the first time, the boy smiled. Looking up the winding road to a little house where the evening light glowed through the window and where his brothers and sisters played in the yard, the boy said, "No...but I'm not lost!"

As Christians, we don't necessarily have all the answers to life's problems - though the more we study our faith the more answers we find. Yet, if we stay focused on Christ and close to him, we do have the one Answer that matters most - we know that we children of God, and his all-powerful love is always watching over us, even during life's storms.

But how can we in the 21st century keep focused on Christ? We won't be able to look into Jesus' physical eyes, as Peter did, until Judgment Day. But in the meantime we can still keep our eyes fixed on Christ, in at least three ways.
First, we can spend time in prayer in the presence of the Eucharist. As we know, the Eucharist is the real presence of Christ, body, blood, soul, and divinity, under the appearance of bread. This presence is an ongoing miracle, a truly amazing gift of God's love that we always have with us. If you can make a short visit to the Eucharist, or coming to adore him in a longer visit - this is one sure way to keep our gaze fixed on Jesus.

Second, we can always find Christ in the Holy Scriptures. The Bible is a unique book; it is inspired by God. When we read it with faith, seeking to find Christ there, he reveals himself to us. The Catechism quotes St Jerome on this point, saying: "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." It is the immature and irresponsible Christian who doesn't take some time each day, even if only a few minutes, to gaze upon Christ by reading the Bible.
Thirdly, we can gaze upon Christ by serving our brothers and sisters in need. Jesus himself said that whatever we do for our neighbors, we do for him - he is present in them. In 2 weeks, August 27 after Mass we will be having our training class for the crock pot ministry

Today, as Christ, through this Liturgy, comes to us once again across in the stormy seas of our concerns, worries, anxieties, drama and weaknesses, let's welcome him with strong faith, and let's promise to keep welcoming him, to keep gazing upon him, every single day.


Isaiah 56:1, 6-7

Psalms 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8

Romans 11:13-15, 29-32

Matthew 15:21-28
Aug 20, 2023 - 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus had a specific mission to accomplish during his earthly lifetime. He was to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies and lay the foundation for the universal sacrament of salvation, the Church. And he stayed focused on that mission. Jesus never traveled to exotic locations like Rome and Spain, never visited the intellectual powerhouses of Athens and Alexandria. Those countries and the rest of the world outside Palestine would receive God's truth and grace not from him directly, but later, through his body, the Church.
And yet, when the Canaanite woman approaches him and, by her faith, humility, and persistence, moves his heart, he changes his plans. In so doing, he gives us a brilliant glimpse into the reason behind everything he does: the salvation of souls. The Son of God entered the scene to abolish the Devil’s ways. (1 John 3:8), which had brought the human family into its sinful, fallen state.

As St Paul put it in his First Letter to Timothy, He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we’ve learned: that there’s one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us—Jesus, (1 Timothy 2:4). And as he puts it in today's Second Reading: "For God delivered all to disobedience," [in other words, he permitted sin and evil to spread throughout the entire human family], "that he might have mercy upon all.

This was one of the most revolutionary aspects of the Gospel.

In Old Testament times, salvation from sin, both original and personal, had been reserved only to the Jews, only to the one Chosen People. But with the coming of Jesus, all peoples, all the Gentile nations are now invited to hope for eternal life in the household of God, the "house of prayer for all peoples" as Isaiah had prophesied in the First Reading.

In 2006 Pope Benedict canonized a Mexican bishop who died in 1938, St Rafael Guizar de Valencia. St Rafael lived and worked as a priest and bishop during decades when it was illegal to be Catholic in Mexico, and the government organized violent persecutions against believers, most especially against the clergy. Through it all, St Rafael never forgot about his primary duty as a priest and a Christian: to be God's messenger, to work tirelessly for the salvation of souls.

He used to visit prisoners, government officials, and even soldiers who were commissioned to arrest him, in order to talk to them about Christ and encourage them to confess their sins and renew their faith.
One sinner in particular was extremely corrupt, and extremely hard-hearted. No matter how much the bishop pleaded with him, he refused to return to the sacraments. One day the bishop was in prayer in his private chapel. He was begging God for the conversion of this hardened sinner. At one point he told Jesus that he would give up his right eye if that would help open the sinner's heart to God's saving grace.

Years later, long after St Rafael had died and his cause for beatification was underway, his body was exhumed so that he could be re-entombed in a more convenient place. Much to the surprise and awe of those in charge of transferring his remains, they discovered that his body was incorrupt. Even though he had been buried for decades, his whole body was as soft and pliable as on the day he died - with one exception: his right eye, which had dried up and rotted away. This was a man who understood and shared Christ's passionate desire for the salvation of all peoples.

The fact that God wills everyone's salvation is the source of our life-mission. As the Catechism says, "At every time and in every place, God draws close to man" (CCC #1).

In other words, Providence is always at work trying to draw each person into his friendship, or to deepen that friendship where it already exists.

One of the most important ways God does that is through inviting us to be partners with his Providence, to take part in this saving mission. Just as we share and collaborate in the concerns and projects of our human friends, so too the mature Christian, because he loves Christ and is living the life of grace, accepts God's invitation to collaborate in building up Christ's Kingdom, in helping others discover and experience the Gospel, starting with family members, friends, and colleagues.

As Christians, this is our most important work, our life-mission, because as Christians, friendship with Christ is our most important relationship. Unfortunately, because the results of this activity - telling others about Christ, trying to build up the Church and Christianize culture - are not always immediate, we tend to push this responsibility to the back burner.

Today Jesus is asking us to bring it to the front and turn up the heat. Many of our neighbors are in desperate need of the mercy, truth, and grace of God - just like the little girl in today's Gospel.
Our job is to connect those needy souls to Christ just as the Canaanite woman did, through our prayers, through our example of Christian living, and through our concrete actions.

(Talk about the unjust laws affecting the Drag and Trans Communities and our response to it.)

But first we have to reconnect ourselves to Christ - so let's pray from the heart during the rest of this holy Mass, and ask God to give us courage and a renewed awareness of our true life-mission.


Ezekiel 33:7-9

Psalms 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

Romans 13:8-10

Matthew 18:15-20
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time  -  September 10, 2023

Nobody likes to be corrected. It tweaks our ego, and it is often badly done or consists of someone making snide comments or berating us because we’ve done something they don’t like. Fraternal correction can also sting, but it has the good of the corrected person in mind. Today’s readings remind us that correction when done fraternally, it a great act of charity that we should appreciate and practice for the good of others.
In today’s First Reading God our Parent reminds Ezekiel, and us, that it is our moral responsibility to warn a brother or sister that they are doing something evil.

It’s our duty to inform people of the consequences of their evil actions.

When the Lord first asked Cain about the murder of Abel, he phrased it in a way that tried to help Cain realize he was responsible for his brother: “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain responded, “How should I know? Am I his babysitter?”

We are all our brother and sister’s babbysitter.

We live in a world that teaches us to mind our own business, but that doesn’t include someone who is drowning, at the mercy of criminals, or committing a crime themselves.

Our society is full of initiatives to help others turn from evil: from programs for “at risk” youth to drug rehab to penitentiaries, but none of them has the same power as a brother or sister who genuinely cares and takes an interest in someone on the wrong path.

God today is telling Ezekiel today, and us, to inform consciences out of charity, not to force them onto the right path.

If we love someone, we cannot leave them in ignorance about the evil they’re doing.
In today’s Second Reading St. Paul reminds us that every just law is built on love, and if we focus on loving and teaching others to love everything else will fall into place.

Society has many laws and measures today that are built on justice, but not always enforced with love.

Deeper than the labels of “alien”, “suspect,” “victim,” “criminal,” there is only one label that matters: “brother.”

St. Paul simply repeats what Jesus himself answered when the scribe asked him what was the greatest commandment regarding each other: “‘Love others as well as you love yourself.”.

Fraternal correction is not returning evil for evil, no matter what our brother/sister has done.
In today’s Gospel Jesus reminds us that before entering into litigation with someone who has wronged us we should try simple fraternal correction.

Our society today tends to try and resolve disputes through rules and regulations, lawyers and courts, fines and penalties.

We often try from the beginning to get justice from someone through someone else, when we know that nobody reacts well to being pressured into doing something.

We should always try to start by settling a dispute fraternally: one on one, in frank but charitable dialogue.

We should not only seek our good, but the good of the person who has afflicted us, and we won’t completely understand their motives if we don’t speak to them.

There are many small disagreements that can be resolved this way and to everyone’s satisfaction.

If an attempt at fraternal correction fails it is not a lack of charity to bring witnesses in and, if necessary, the Church, to help both parties see the truth and adhere to it.

Justice is sought, but for the good of both parties as well. If the guilty party does not listen to all the facts and makes an authoritative judgment, then the guilty party has been shown to not be in communion with those he or she has afflicted, and that has to be acknowledged, sometimes publicly.

There’s a false story that has floated around for the last twenty years on the Internet, but, as a joke, it is worth telling to illustrate the point.

On a foggy night, a large ship saw a smaller ship on the sea and realized that they were on a collision course. The large ship made radio contact and asked the other ship to change course slightly. The request was calmly declined. Angry and astonished, the large ship identified itself with all its titles and demanded to be heeded: “This is the U.S.S. BIG NAVAL SHIP, and there will be serious consequences if you don’t change course immediately! Over.”

The response? “This is a lighthouse. Over.”

The small “ship” was a lighthouse and the U.S.S. BIG NAVAL SHIP, for all its fuming, was headed straight for the rocky coast. Fraternal correction is simply pointing out that someone is on a collision course. They can stay on course if they wish, but it’s inadvisable.

I have spoken today about fraternal correction, but we need to learn to accept correction as well. The old saying of: “If I can dish it out I’d better be ready to take it!” comes into play here as well. If someone takes an interest enough in you to point out something that you might need to work on, you should be grateful. If the person is not exactly fraternal about it, and it is a valid point, you should be grateful as well. As an added bonus, it will help you to be more fraternal in correcting others as well.