Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
- Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
- Today in Catholic History
- Quote of the Day
- Today’s Gospel Reading
- Gospel Reflection
- Reflection Prayer
- New Translation of the Mass
- A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
- Franciscan Formation Reflection
- Reflection on part of the SFO Rule
Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:
I will be going on my yearly Regional SFO (Secular Franciscan Order) Retreat for the St. Clare Region this weekend. That is why I am posting this retreat a couple of days early. Please pray for all of our intentions, for great weather, and for a time of spiritual renewal for all at the retreat, and at home.
Today in Catholic History:
† 1153 – Death of Bernard of Clairvaux, French theologian (b. 1090)
† 1567 – Birth of Francois de Sales, French bishop of Geneva/writer/saint
† 1760 – The church (later, a Cathedral) of “Our Lady of Candlemas of Mayagüez (Puerto Rico)” is founded, establishing the basis for the founding of the city.
(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
“Today in Catholic History”
Quote of the Day:
“A Christian is a keyhole through which other folk see God.” ~ Robert E. Gibson
Today’s reflection is about Simon Peter acknowledging Jesus as “the Christ”, and is given the key to the Kingdom of Heaven.
(NAB Matthew 16:13-20) 13 When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his Apostles, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. 18 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly ordered his Apostles to tell no one that he was the Messiah.
It is important to read today’s Gospel and next week’s Gospel (Jesus’ speaking of His future Passion, and rebuking of Peter) as two parts of a single story, for these readings are pivotal points in Matthew’s Gospel. Today, we hear Jesus Christ name Simon Peter as the “rock” (No, not the wrestler or movie star) upon which He [Jesus] will build His Catholic Church. Next Sunday, we will hear Jesus call Simon Peter “Satan” when he reacts negatively to Jesus’ foretelling of His Passion and death at the hands of others.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks His Apostles what people are actually saying about His identity. They indicate that most people believe that Jesus is a “prophet” of Israel, like John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah. With this answer from His cherished and close followers of nearly three years, Jesus asks who THEY believe that He is. Simon Peter answers this probing question for the group: identifying Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God.
Matthew significantly modifies Mark’s affirmation of Jesus as “Messiah”, made by Peter as “spokesman” for the other Apostles. Simon Peter’s affirmation is reported in all three of the synoptic Gospels (Mark 8:27–29; Luke 9:18–20):
“Jesus and His Apostles set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way He asked His Apostles, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ They said in reply, ‘John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.’ And He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter said to Him in reply, ‘You are the Messiah.’” (Mark 8:27–29);
“Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the Apostles were with him, He asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’ They said in reply, ‘John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.”’ Then He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter said in reply, ‘The Messiah of God.’” (Luke 9:18–20).
Peter’s affirmation is an pronouncement of Jesus being both “Messiah” and “Son of the living God” (verse16). Jesus’ response, drawn chiefly from material distinctive to Matthew, attributes Peter’s affirmation to a divine revelation granted solely to him (verse 17), and makes him the “rock” on which Jesus Christ will build His Catholic (Universal) Church (verse 18). Peter also realizes that he will be the Apostle whose authority (and his successors) in the church – – on earth – – will be (and continues to be) confirmed in heaven by God (verse 19).
Caesarea Philippi was an ancient Roman city located at the southwestern base of Mount Hermon. Today, the city is no longer inhabited, but is an archaeological site located within the present Golan Heights. Caesarea Philippi is situated about twenty miles north of the Sea of Galilee in the territory was ruled by Philip in the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry.
Philip was a son of Herod the Great, who was “tetrarch” from 4 B.C. until his death in A.D. 34. When Herod died, his territory was divided among three of his surviving sons, Archelaus who received half of it, Herod Antipas who became ruler of Galilee and Perea, and Philip who became ruler of northern Transjordan. Philip rebuilt the town of Paneas (where the legend of the mythical “Pan” originated), naming it Caesarea in honor of the emperor, and Philippi (“of Philip”) to distinguish it from the seaport in Samaria that was also called Caesarea.
Jesus tests his Apostles with a crucial question: Who do men say that I am and who do you say that I am? After all, He was widely recognized in Israel as a mighty man of God, even being compared with the greatest of the prophets, John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah.
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”(verse 13). What a direct question to ask to the men who had accompanied Jesus for nearly three years. Although the question in Matthew differs from Mark’s parallel verse:
“Jesus and His Apostles set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked His Apostles, ‘Who do people say that I am?’” (Mk 8:27),
the meaning is the same in both Gospels: Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man (verse 15).
“This man is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” (Matthew 14:2);
“You are destined, it is written, in time to come to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD, To turn back the hearts of parents toward their children, and to re-establish the tribes of Israel.” (Sirach 48:10).
The expectation of the return of Elijah from heaven to prepare Israel for the final manifestation of God’s kingdom was widespread. Most Jews believed John the Baptist was the returned “Elijah”. Some believe Jesus was yet another John the Baptist or Elijah, continuing the work of re-establishing the tribes of Israel, and preparing people for the coming “Messiah”.
Jesus repeats the question. Peter, always quick to respond, exclaimed that Jesus was the “Christ”, “the Son of the living God”:
The addition of this exalted title to Peter’s affirmation (and not found in Mark’s Gospel) eliminates whatever ambiguity was attached to the title “Messiah” connected to Jesus Christ.
In verse 17 of today’s reading, Jesus says to Simon Peter:
“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood – has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father” (Matthew16:17).
Two profound statements are pronounced by Jesus in this one verse. I have chosen to separate these two statements with a hyphen in the above verse.
“Flesh and blood” is a Semitic expression – – (a group of languages, including Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, Maltese, and Amharic) – – for human beings, especially in regards to weakness. We know Jesus spoke, or at least had a working knowledge of Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic, (along with Greek as well), and He understood the significance of this particular phrase very well. (I don’t believe He ever said anything without a purpose and ever-current meaning.)
Jesus also said immediately after the above phrase, “Has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father”. Simon Peter’s faith is spoken of – – by Jesus Christ Himself – – as NOT developing through human means, but instead, through a divine revelation from God the Father. No mortal human could have revealed to Simon Peter this divine revelation about Jesus Christ; but only God the Father.
“But when [God], who from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son to me, l so that I might proclaim Him to the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:15–16).
The weakness of our human frailties and iniquities prevents us from truly realizing the divinity of Jesus Christ, without divine assistance. Only through the Holy Spirit emitting from God the Father can we find the “true” Jesus Christ dwelling inside each of us, His creations.
What happens next is probably one of the greatest things to happen to the Catholic Church: its foundation is set firmly on earth!! This foundation is created by the following words of Jesus, spoken directly to Simon Peter:
“You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18).
Jesus then confers on Peter authority to govern the church that Jesus would build, a church that no powers would ever defeat. (For me, this last sentence is a proclamation and statement of hope and trust for us all.)
Jesus plays on Peter’s name which is the same word for “rock” in both Aramaic and Greek. To call someone a “rock” is one of the greatest of compliments to be given for first century Palestinians. You may not know that there was a saying at the time of Jesus that when God saw Abraham, He exclaimed: “I have discovered a rock to found the world upon“. And, through Abraham, God established a nation for Himself.
The Aramaic word “kepa’” means “rock”, and transliterated into Greek as “Kephas (or Cephas)”. Kephas is the name by which Simon Peter is called by St. Paul in his letters to the Corinthians and the Galatians:
“… Paul or Apollos or Kephas, or the world or life or death, or the present or the future: all belong to you.” (1 Corinthians 3:22);
“Do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife, as do the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Kephas?” (1 Corinthians 9:5);
“He appeared to Kephas, then to the Twelve.” (1 Corinthians 15:5);
“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to confer with Kephas and remained with him for fifteen days.” (Galatians 1:18);
“When they recognized the grace bestowed upon me, James and Kephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars …” (Galatians 2:9, 11, 14);
The only exception to Paul using the word, “Kephas”, is in Galatians 2:7–8:
“On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter to the circumcised, for the one who worked in Peter for an apostolate to the circumcised worked also in me for the Gentiles…” (Galatians 2:7-8)
John instead chooses a separate word; it being “Petros” (“Peter”):
“Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” (John 1:42).
The accepted Aramaic of Jesus’ statement is, in English, “You are the Rock (Kepa) and upon this rock (kepa) I will build my church.” The original Greek text probably indicates the same, for the difference in gender between the masculine noun “petros”, and the feminine noun “petra” (rock) may be simply due to the unsuitability of using a feminine noun as a proper name for a male. Although these two words (Petros and Petra) were generally used with slightly different degrees, they were also commonly used interchangeably for the word, “rock.”
Simon Peter is the “rock” the Catholic Church will be built upon. Verse 18 is the first occurrence in the Gospels for the word “church”. This word (in the original Greek: “ekklēsia”) occurs in the Gospels only here and later in Matthew:
“If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18: 17).
There are several possibilities for an Aramaic origin for this word, “church”. Jesus’ “church” means the community that He will gather, and, like a building, will have Simon Peter as its strong and solid, well-placed, everlasting foundation. The function of Simon Peter consists in his being the definitive witness to Jesus Christ as the “Messiah”, the “Son of the living God” (verse 16).
Finally, I come to the last specific phrase quoted in verse 18: “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it”. The “netherworld” (in Greek, meaning “Hades”, the abode of the dead) is believed to be a walled city whose gates will not converge upon the Universal (Catholic) “church” of Jesus Christ, at the time of Matthew writing his Gospel in the late first century. This “netherworld” will not be overcome by the power of death (Satan), but will be kept submissive to, and by, the power of the “true” Trinitarian God.
Jesus Christ gives Simon Peter a special authority, symbolic “keys” to the “Kingdom of Heaven”. Simon Peter will play an important role in the early Christian community as a spokesperson and “church” leader, the first Pope of the Catholic Church.
The image of the keys, “The keys to the kingdom of heaven” (verse 19), is probably drawn from Isaiah 22:15–25 wherein Eliakim is made successor to Shebnah as master of the palace. He is given “the key of the house of David” for which he authoritatively “opens” and “shuts”:
Today’s reading uses very similar words:
“Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19)
There are many instances in Jewish literature of a “binding-loosing” imagery. Of the several meanings given for this metaphor, two may be of special importance in regards to this Gospel: the giving of authoritative teaching, and the lifting or imposing of the ban of excommunication.
The promise of “the keys” is given SOLELY to Peter (and his successors); not to any of the other Apostles present there on that day. Interestingly, all the Apostles are given the power of binding and loosing later in Matthew:
However, the context of this verse just mentioned above hints that only the power of excommunication is intended. “The keys” are those to the kingdom of heaven and Peter’s authority in the “church” on earth, and confirmed in heaven. Jesus’ giving to Simon Peter “the keys” shows an important and intimate connection between the “true” “church” on earth and the “kingdom of heaven”.
Matthew makes Jesus explicit about a strong and absolute prohibition of telling others of Him being the “true” “Messiah”. This episode, reflected on today, is the turning point in Jesus’ public earthly ministry. Jesus acknowledges His identification freely to His Apostles, but, I believe, prohibits them from making His messianic office known to others – – by them – – in order to avoid confusing the “true” “Messiah” with unclear, imprecise, and contemporary ideas on the nature of whom and what the Messiah was believed to be, per traditional first century Palestinian Jewish beliefs.
Popular opinions at the time of Jesus regarded Him as a “prophet” like John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah. The Apostles by contrast believed – – and KNEW – – Him to be the “true” “Messiah”.
In summary, Simon Peter’s recognition of Jesus’ identity is attributed to a divine revelation by God – – a grace. This “gift” of the Holy Spirit will contrast sharply with Jesus’ rebuke of him (Simon Peter) in next week’s Gospel. Next week, when Simon Peter rejects Jesus’ prediction of His passion and horrific death, he is said to no longer be thinking as God does, but as humans do. How often are we given a “gift”, only to lose it? How often do we each lose our faith and trust in God? I believe this loss of faith is much more prevalent than the lines at Sacrament of Reconciliation show!!
Peter, in this Gospel is being credited as the strong base, the foundation, for the Catholic Church; a special privilege granted to him – – alone among the Apostles – – because of his recognition of Jesus’ identity. He becomes the first Pope in a non-broken line in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church continues to this day to be grounded in the faith, love, and trust that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.
In conclusion, today’s Gospel reminds us that the Catholic Church is built on the strong and unbreakable foundation of faith, trust, and love in Jesus Christ. Simon Peter announces the heart and soul of our faith: Jesus Christ is God’s only Son, who came to deliver from our sins, and into the arms of His heavenly Father. The “church” family, the domestic church, still has this same belief and faith as its foundation.
Think of people whose faith has helped you to be a member of the Catholic Church. Think about what you have learned from “leaders” in our Church today. What role did Simon Peter play in the early Christian community? What can we learn from Simon Peter, and his “profession of faith” about Jesus’ nature?
Through faith, Simon Peter grasped who Jesus Christ truly was. Simon Peter was the first Apostle to recognize Jesus as the “Anointed One” (the Messiah and Christ), and the only “Son of God”. The New Testament describes the “church” as a spiritual house or temple, with each member joined together as “living stones”:
“Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5).
Faith in Jesus Christ makes us into rocks or spiritual stones. Lord, please let me be a tiny pebble skipping forever along the sea of your grace, hope, and love for me.
“Act of Faith”
“O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins, and that he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the holy catholic Church teaches, because in revealing them you can neither deceive nor be deceived. Amen.”
Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
New Translation of the Mass
In November of 2011, with the start of the new Liturgical year and Advent, there will be a few noticeable changes in the Mass. It will still be the same ritual for celebrating the Eucharist. The Mass will still have the same parts, the same patterns, and the same flow as it has had for the past several decades. It is only the translation of the Latin that is changing.
The new translation seeks to correspond much more closely to the exact words and sentence structure of the Latin text. At times, this results in a good and faithful rendering of the original meaning. At other times it produces a rather awkward text in English which is difficult to proclaim and difficult to understand. Most of those problems affect the texts which priests will proclaim rather than the texts that belong to the congregation as a whole. It is to the congregation’s texts that I will address with each blog, in a repetitive basis until the start of Advent.
In the words of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, #11, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of Christian life. Anything we can do to understand our liturgy more deeply will draw us closer to God.
When the priest invites us to share in the Lord’s Supper, we now say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” With the new Missal, we will respond:
“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
The use of “under my roof” is a reference to the Gospel passage where the centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant but says he is not worthy for Jesus to enter his house (Luke 7:6). The other change is “my soul” instead of “I”, which focuses more clearly on the spiritual dimension of the healing we seek.
Material from “Changing How We Pray”, by Rev. Lawrence E. Mick
A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: St. Pius X (1835-1914) [And a Secular Franciscan]
Pope Pius X is perhaps best remembered for his encouragement of the frequent reception of Holy Communion, especially by children.
Ever mindful of his humble origin, he stated, “I was born poor, I lived poor, I will die poor.” He was embarrassed by some of the pomp of the papal court. “Look how they have dressed me up,” he said in tears to an old friend. To another, “It is a penance to be forced to accept all these practices. They lead me around surrounded by soldiers like Jesus when he was seized in Gethsemani.”
Interested in politics, he encouraged Italian Catholics to become more politically involved. One of his first papal acts was to end the supposed right of governments to interfere by veto in papal elections—a practice that reduced the freedom of the conclave which had elected him.
In 1905, when France renounced its agreement with the Holy See and threatened confiscation of Church property if governmental control of Church affairs were not granted, Pius X courageously rejected the demand.
While he did not author a famous social encyclical as his predecessor had done, he denounced the ill treatment of indigenous peoples on the plantations of Peru, sent a relief commission to Messina after an earthquake and sheltered refugees at his own expense.
On the 11th anniversary of his election as pope, Europe was plunged into World War I. Pius had foreseen it, but it killed him. “This is the last affliction the Lord will visit on me. I would gladly give my life to save my poor children from this ghastly scourge.” He died a few weeks after the war began. He was canonized in 1954.
His humble background was no obstacle in relating to a personal God and to people whom he loved genuinely. He gained his strength, his gentleness and warmth for people from the source of all gifts, the Spirit of Jesus. In contrast, we often feel embarrassed by our backgrounds. Shame makes us prefer to remain aloof from people whom we perceive as superior. If we are in a superior position, on the other hand, we often ignore simpler people. Yet we, too, have to help “restore all things in Christ,” especially the wounded people of God.
Describing Pius X, a historian wrote that he was “a man of God who knew the unhappiness of the world and the hardships of life, and in the greatness of his heart wanted to comfort everyone.”
Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From http://www.americancatholic.org website)
Franciscan Formation Reflection:
SFO Fraternity Life
In what ways does a fraternity show “family spirit” on the part of the members? How is this “spirit” manifested regularly?
Do your monthly meetings become a means of spiritual nourishment in the Franciscan (SFO) way? Why, or why not? What needs to be added to your meetings, if anything?
How do you make my judgments when it comes to elections in your fraternity?
Why are there term-limits?
21. On various levels, each fraternity is animated and guided by a council and minister who are elected by the professed according to the constitutions.
Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to the community.
Within themselves the fraternities are structured in different ways according to the norm of the constitutions, according to the various needs of their members and their regions, and under the guidance of their respective council.
22. The local fraternity is to be established canonically. It becomes the basic unit of the whole Order and a visible sign of the Church, the community of love. This should be the privileged place for developing a sense of Church and the Franciscan vocation and for enlivening the apostolic life of its members.