Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

christ-pulling-peter-from-water-mosaic-500x724.png‘Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

OPENING PRAYER

 Be Still & Know That I am God! (Psalm 46)                                                                            St. Francis de Sales

If the heart wanders or is distracted, bring it back to the point quite gently and replace it tenderly in its Master’s presence.  And even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your heart back and place it again in Our Lord’s presence, though it went away every time you brought it back, your hour would be very well employed.  The Lord himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still. (Exodus 14:14)  Be still and know that I am God!  Amen!

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

whom, taught by the Holy Spirit,

we dare to call our Father,

bring, we pray, to perfection in our hearts

the spirit of adoption as your sons and daughters,

that we may merit to enter into the inheritance

which you have promised.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

Elijah.jpg

1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a

At the mountain of God, Horeb,

Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter.

Then the LORD said to him,

“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.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 2583 After Elijah had learned mercy during his retreat at the Wadi Cherith, he teaches the widow of Zarephath to believe in The Word of God and confirms her faith by his urgent prayer: God brings the widow’s child back to life.1

The sacrifice on Mount Carmel is a decisive test for the faith of the People of God. In response to Elijah’s plea, “Answer me, O LORD, answer me,” the Lord’s fire consumes the holocaust, at the time of the evening oblation. The Eastern liturgies repeat Elijah’s plea in the Eucharistic epiclesis.

Finally, taking the desert road that leads to the place where the living and true God reveals himself to his people, Elijah, like Moses before him, hides “in a cleft of he rock” until the mysterious presence of God has passed by.2 But only on the mountain of the Transfiguration will Moses and Elijah behold the unveiled face of him whom they sought; “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God [shines] in the face of Christ,” crucified and risen.3

1 Cf. 1 Kings 17:7-24.

2 Cf. 1 Kings 19:1-14; cf. Ex 33:19-23.

3 2 Cor 4:6; cf. Lk 9:30-35

APPLICATION

Elijah was a great prophet, a great defender of the true faith in Israel, where a defense was needed–but, being of a fiery, violent nature, he was evidently not quite satisfied with the help God was giving him. He wanted fire and brimstone poured abundantly on all God’s enemies, but God did not always see things as Elijah did. When running away in despair, or with the hope of collecting reinforcements in the form of more active cooperation (according to his ideas), on the part of God, he was taught a lesson and, to his credit, he learned it.

Many of us have at least a little of the spirit of the pre-Horeb Elijah in us. When we see wickedness prosper and open opponents of God continuing to live and to thrive, we begin to wish God would step in and show his power by exterminating them, in a way that would prevent others from daring to imitate them. An earthquake could so easily swallow up the leaders of atheistic policy when they all meet in Moscow; and what a blessing for the world and for the true religion We wonder, perhaps, why God doesn’t show his power and his presence in some such way to those who deny his existence.

But, as Christians, we should know better. We have the great advantage (which Elijah lacked) of Christ’s teaching on God’s mercy. God is the father, and the loving father, of the sinner as well as of the saint. He does not wish the death of the sinner, but that he should be converted and live. He gives his grace to all men; he lets his sun shine on the sinners and the just. He has infinite patience and is ready, up to the last moment, to welcome back the greatest sinner who turns to him. How many saints are in heaven today, who would have been cut down in their sins, if God acted as Elijah and some other devout lovers of God would have him act?

No, the lesson for each one of us today is that God is especially a God of mercy in his dealings with us. He would have us deal mercifully with our fellowman who are not serving him or who, worse still, are even denying his existence. Tornadoes of blame and abuse, thundering condemnations and threats of fire and brimstone are not the means God uses to bring back his prodigal sons, and they are not the means he wants us, his friends, to use either.

God is to be found in “the tiny gentle breeze,” in the kind, charitable understanding word spoken out of a true brotherly heart. In the sinner God sees his child and still loves him. We too should see in the sinner our brother, and we should love him and wish him to reach the happy end God intends for him. A kindly word will do more to produce his conversion than torrents of abuse and condemnation. There are few of us who have not sinned and offended God during our adult years. How fortunate we were that God was not Elijah’s type of God while we were in our sins! He gave us a chance because he was a merciful, understanding God. Let us be merciful and understanding to our brothers who now are what we once were. Let us pray for them and ask God to continue to be merciful towards them. Let us help them kindly and charitably whenever we can. If we are instrumental in bringing back a prodigal son to his loving Father in heaven, we can rest assured that our Father will help us on our road back to him in heaven.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

I will hear what God proclaims;

the LORD — for he proclaims peace.

Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,

glory dwelling in our land.

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

Kindness and truth shall meet;

justice and peace shall kiss.

Truth shall spring out of the earth,

and justice shall look down from heaven.

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

The LORD himself will give his benefits;

our land shall yield its increase.

Justice shall walk before him,

and prepare the way of his steps.

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

READING II

gold-5.jpg

Rom 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 cut off from Christ

for the sake of my own people,

my kindred 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 Christ,

who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. “The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”1

“For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.”2

CCC 517 Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his cross,3 but this mystery is at work throughout Christ’s entire life:

– already in his Incarnation through which by becoming poor he enriches us with his poverty;4

– in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience;5

– in his word which purifies its hearers;6

– in his healings and exorcisms by which “he took our infirmities and bore our diseases”;7

– and in his Resurrection by which he justifies us.8

CCC 554 From the day Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Master “began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things. .. and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”9 Peter scorns this prediction, nor do the others understand it any better than he.10 In this context the mysterious episode of Jesus’ Transfiguration takes place on a high mountain,11 before three witnesses chosen by himself: Peter, James and John. Jesus’ face and clothes become dazzling with light, and Moses and Elijah appear, speaking “of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem”.12 A cloud covers him and a voice from heaven says: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”13

CCC 613 Christ’s death is both the Paschal sacrifice that accomplishes the definitive redemption of men, through “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”,14 and the sacrifice of the New Covenant, which restores man to communion with God by reconciling him to God through the “blood of the covenant, which was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”.15

1 DV 11.

2 DV 11; cf. Jn 20:31; 2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pt 1:19-21; 3:15-16.

3 Cf. Eph 1:7; Col 1:13-14; 1 Pt 1:18-19.

4 Cf. 2 Cor 8:9.

5 Cf. Lk 2:51.

6 Cf. Jn 15:3.

7 Mt 8:17; cf. Is 53:4.

8 Cf. Rom 4:25.

9 Mt 16:21.

10 Cf. Mt 16:22-23; 17:23; Lk 9:45.

11 Cf. Mt 17:1-8 and parallels; 2 Pt 1:16-18.

12 Lk 9:31.

13 Lk 9:35.

14 Jn 1:29; cf. 8:34-36; 1 Cor 5:7; 1 Pt 1:19.

15 Mt 26:28; cf. Ex 24:8; Lev 16:15-16; Cor 11:25.

APPLICATION

Like St. Paul we too can and should grieve that God’s Chosen People of the Old Testament refused, and still refuse, as a nation to accept the last and greatest of the many gifts he gave them, his Messiah, Christ. For eighteen centuries he treated them as a people apart. He let the other nations go their way, but to them he revealed himself as the true and only God, who made and regulated the whole universe and all it contains. And his reason for this special treatment was that his Son (according to the flesh), whom he was going to send on earth to make all nations his new Chosen People, would be a descendant of Abraham, a member of their race.

While we regret that they are not our brothers in Christ, and while we must always pray that one day they will become our Christian brothers, we must realize that they are a small percentage of those who reject Christ today. There are millions living among us—men and women—who know nothing and care nothing for God or for their own eternal future. If they were not baptized then their parents were, but indifference followed by disbelief has ousted the faith in families, and almost in whole nations, in much of the so-called civilized part of our world.

What is the cause of this? It is the same as that which prevented the Jews of St. Paul’s day from accepting Christ: pride and worldliness. The leaders of the Jews, the Pharisees and the priestly caste, could not bear to be taught by Christ. What was he but a country carpenter, while they were doctors of the law! They had nothing to learn, they thought. Our ex-Christians and anti-Christians today think they have all the answers to all questions too. Because they know a little more than their grand-parents about the things of this world, they think they can ignore or deny the existence of what does not come within the range of their bodily senses.

As well as being proud, the priests and Pharisees of Paul’s day were worldly and politically minded. They looked for a Messiah who would not only set them free from the hated Roman rule, but who would make of their country a world-power. And in this new empire they would, of course, have the seats of honor. Christ’s teaching was concerned not with power or wealth in this world but with the eternal joy and happiness that men could obtain for themselves in the next. Our ex-Christians today have no time, and no thought, for God or for Christ’s teaching, because they are totally occupied with obtaining the pleasures, the wealth, the comforts of this world. They may not think in terms of world-power for themselves, but they have put themselves completely and entirely in the power of this world. Talk of a future-life is to them sheer folly–the present is what counts: “eat, sleep, drink and be merry” is their motto, their creed. They are reluctant to add “for tomorrow you die’!–that might disturb their present bliss!

What should be our reaction to this sad state of so many of our fellowmen? Our first reaction should be a fervent “Thank you, God, for the true faith we have; please give us the grace to live in it until we draw our last breath.” Our second thought must be to ask the good God to send the light of faith to the descendants of Abraham, and to re-light it among those Gentiles who have extinguished it. It is not enough for a true Christian that he should live his own life according to the laws of Christ, true charity demands that he be seriously interested in the spiritual welfare of his neighbors.

GOSPEL

christ-pulling-peter-from-water-mosaic-500x724.png   Mt 14:22-33

After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat

and precede him to the other side,

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 Peter,

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.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/081317.cfm

APPLICATION

Our Lord sent his disciples to row across the lake, knowing that they would meet strong, gale-force head-winds and be in danger. He did this because he wanted to strengthen their faith and trust in himself. He intended to come to them at the right moment, working two miracles–walking on the water and calming the storm. This he did and the result was as he had intended–their faith in him was strengthened, they declared he was the Messiah, the Chosen of God. Peter, already the recognized leader, and always the most daring among them, showed himself ready to risk drowning in order to prove his trust and confidence in Christ. While he trusted in Christ, all went well, but when his faith weakened he would have been lost were it not for the outstretched helping hand of his master. This was also a very necessary lesson in the education of Peter and his companions.

For us, too, there is a necessary lesson in this incident. It is that we must continue to trust in Christ and his loving Father, even when God seems to have deserted us. Most of the troubles and trials of our lives are caused by the injustice and lack of charity of our fellowman. The remainder can be attributed to our own defects and sins or to some weakness in our mental and bodily make-up. But God foresees all these misfortunes, and can prevent them. Instead he lets them take their course, because they can and should be the means of educating us in our knowledge of life’s true meaning and they should draw us closer to him.

Christ foresaw the storm and the grave risk his Apostles would run when he sent them off across the lake. But that trial and the grave danger they ran was for their own good, because they learned to realize that he was from God and they could always trust him. Our trials and our earthly ailments are also foreseen by God and permitted by him (even if inflicted on us by a sinful fellowman) so that they will draw us closer to him and help us on the road to heaven.

This they will do, if we accept them and bear with them until he comes to our aid. Our troubles in life are like the growing pains of our youth–they are necessary if we are to arrive at our full stature as sons of God. They form, mold and shape our religious character and bring us closer to God–if we allow them to do so. For the lukewarm Christian who rebels against God because of his earthly sufferings, they can do the opposite. He cannot see the purpose and value of suffering because he has never seriously pondered or grasped the real meaning of this life and God’s loving plans for him.

As in the first reading today, God may not be in the tornadoes or earthquakes or roaring fires, nor does he cause them perhaps, but he is ever near to his true children when such calamities occur. He has a purpose in every trial or tribulation which crosses the path of our lives, a purpose always to our eternal advantage if only we will see and accept his will in these trials.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

The Profound Meaning of Being a Priest

Faith in Jesus, Son of the living God, is the means through which, time and again, we can take hold of Jesus’ hand and in which he takes our hands and guides us. The Lord makes us priests his friends; he entrusts everything to us; he entrusts himself to us, so that we can speak with him himself – in persona Christi capitis. What trust! He has truly delivered himself into our hands. I no longer call you servants but friends. This is the profound meaning of being a priest: becoming the friend of Jesus Christ. For this friendship we must daily recommit ourselves. This means that we should know Jesus in an increasingly personal way, listening to him, living together with him, staying with him. The core of the priesthood is being friends of Jesus Christ. Only in this way can we truly speak in persona Christi, even if our inner remoteness from Christ cannot jeopardize the validity of the Sacrament. Being a friend of Jesus, being a priest, means being a man of prayer. In this way we recognize him and emerge from the ignorance of simple servants. We thus learn to live, suffer and act with him and for him. Being a priest means becoming an ever closer friend of Jesus Christ with the whole of our existence. The world needs God – the God of Jesus Christ, the God who made himself flesh and blood, who loved us to the point of dying for us, who rose and created within himself room for man. This God must live in us and we in him. This is our priestly call: only in this way can our action as priests bear fruit. Jesus assumed our flesh; let us give him our own. In this way he can come into the world and transform it.

His Holiness Benedict XVI Pope Emeritus

CLOSING PRAYER

A Prayer to Jesus my Friend

(By Blessed Claude de la Colombiere, S.J.)

Jesus! You are my true Friend, my only Friend.

You take a part in all my misfortunes;

You take them on Yourself;

You know how to change them into blessings;

You listen to me with the greatest kindness when I relate my troubles to You,

and You have always balm to pour on my wounds.

I find You at all times;

I find You everywhere,

You never go away:

if I have to change my dwelling,

I find You there wherever I go.

You are never weary of listening to me,

You are never tired of doing me good.

I am certain of being beloved by You,

if I love You; my goods are nothing to You,

and by bestowing Yours on me, You never grow poor;

however miserable I may be,

no one nobler or cleverer or even holier can come between You and me,

and deprive me of Your friendship;

and death, which tears us away from all other friends,

will unite me forever to You.

All the humiliations attached to old age,

or to the loss of honor,

will never detach You from me;

on the contrary, I shall never enjoy You more fully,

and You will never be closer to me

than when everything seems to conspire against me

to overwhelm me and to cast me down.

You bear with all my faults with extreme patience,

and even my want of fidelity and my ingratitude

do not wound You to such a degree

as to make You unwilling to receive me when I return to You.

O Jesus, grant that I may die praising You,

that I may die loving You,

that I may die for the love of you.

Amen

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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