Sunday, September 13, 2015

Saturday, September 12, 2015

“Who do you say I am?

Mark 8;27-35. Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. September 13th, 2015

In the past couple of Sundays, Jesus has shown us his authority as the Son of the true and living God. Last week he demonstrated His divine authority by curing the deaf and mute man, and the week before, he showed us His divine teaching authority. Jesus was showing His disciples these things to teach them about who He was and still is. These signs which show forth the truth about who Jesus is, are not just for show, they demand a response from every single human person.

So Jesus poses the central question of today’s Gospel and really of our faith: “Who do people say that I am?” Why does Jesus ask such a question—one so seemingly obvious we have to wonder if it is worth asking? The variety of the responses given—John the Baptist, Elijah, a prophet—reveals that the answer is not so clear, and that even those closest to Jesus really aren’t sure who he is. Yet, it is crucial that we personally answer Jesus’ question, and that we, each one of us, come to understand more deeply who He really is. For the way that we regard Jesus determines the way that we relate to Him as well as respond to Him.

Your see, if Jesus is merely John the Baptism, that is, just a moral instructor who tells us to “be good”, then we will look to Him only for instruction on moral formation that is how we should act. But if he is only that, only one who tells us do that or don’t do that, then he doesn’t have the power to help us “be good, much less to become perfect, that is to love perfectly.”
If he is merely Elijah, then we might regard Jesus merely as a mystical figure who speaks of the end times, but not the One who is supposed to come again to Judge the Living and the dead. As a result, He really has no relevance in our current times, in the here and now, only sometime in the far off future.

And if Jesus is merely a prophet, then He is only one spokesman for God among many, and not God in the flesh, not God among us, not God Himself, not Truth Itself. And if Jesus is not Truth itself, then His truth is just one of many “truths.” His truth is, in other words, just His own personal opinion or notion of “truth.”

Therefore, Jesus’ question to us today, “Who do you say I am? _ is really a challenge that prompts each one of us to probe our own preconceptions, our assumptions, our own ideal, and labels of him. In light of the this unavoidable question we discover that we just cannot make Jesus to be what we want Him to be; He cannot be made to fit who we think He is or should be… In other words, it can never be about who Jesus is for me, but about who He really is!!!

The truth is, is that we really do need to know more fully who Jesus is, in and of Himself, not who we think is, but WHO He truly is. Our idea of Jesus must be purified by grace, it most grow in knowledge by study, because Jesus is not our idea of Him. This is so important because Jesus is Truth and we cannot know truth unless we know Jesus. To know Jesus is to know the Truth, the full truth, the absolute truth, the unchanging and unchangeable truth. Unlike other religions, our Catholic Faith is not based just on the teachings of the founder, but on the founder Himself.

It is only by knowing Christ that we can know His truth, his teachings and vice versa. If we do not know Him, He who is Life, then we want to have life our own way instead of the way of God. We then end up doing our own thing and become disobedient to God, thus losing our way, because we have lost the truth and so risk losing our eternal life.

But additionally, if we do not know the true Jesus but only a construct of our mind, then we cannot truly know ourselves. That is why, in giving our response to the question of “who Jesus is,” we can discover the answer to another very important question: Who do we think we are? Only Jesus Christ can reveal to us who we truly are. Just as it is our friend who really reveals to us ourselves, even more so it is our divine friend Jesus who reveals us to ourselves. Christ is the Light of World and only in this Light can we see ourselves as we are, as He created us. In fact, only Christ can reveal the true beauty and dignity of each human person, and he does so by inviting us to discover who He is, true God and true man, our Way, our Truth and our Life, the very source of our being.

In our Gospel today, it is Peter who makes the declaration: “You are the Christ-the Messiah.” But what does Peter mean by such an assertion? To claim that Jesus is the Christ requires that we must give up our mistaken ideas about happiness, power and salvation. Later in Mark’s gospel when Jesus is arrested and crucified we see others beside the apostles who fail to understand Jesus, the Messiah's true nature. For example the high priest who interrogates Jesus and the people who taunt him on the cross; they all posses a wrong understanding of the Messiah and so miss who it is they are dealing with. In fact, their only concern is what the Messiah is going to do for me, politically, materially, worldly, but definitely not spiritually and eternally.

So important and necessary is this need to understand Jesus’ Messiah-ship that Jesus even rebukes Peter, the rock, for trying to hold Jesus back from the ultimate meaning of Messiah-ship; that is, a ruler who would suffer the agony of the cross in order to teach men the truth about love so that they would imitate Him in that love, sacrificing oneself for the sake of one’s friend. Peter is rebuked because he is only judging Jesus by human standards. IN other words, Peter is judging Jesus according to how Jesus is suppose to live up to the popular notion of who and what the messiah should be—according to the Gallop poll of what and who Jesus should be.

Once we know the truth about Jesus’ Messiahship, then and only then we can fully embrace the truth about ourselves and live in a way that is in accord to that truth, for Jesus is the Truth. That is why the next thing Jesus does is “summon the crowd’ and inform them of the three prerequisites for true discipleship:-1) denying self or holy self-forgetfulness; 2) picking up one’s cross; and 3) following Him.

Without deny, without holy self-forgetfulness we end up remembering things about ourselves that only lead us away from Christ. With holy self-forgetfulness we forget our own ideas, opinions, feelings and take on the mind and heart of Christ, and of His Church.
Despite its arduousness, we take up the cross of Jesus in order to be saved from taking on things that would otherwise destroy us. We die to self and begin to live for Christ alone and others for love of Him. And we follow in Jesus’ footstep to avoid pursuing our own damning will and whim. We pick up our cross and live according to His truth, to His commands, to the teachings of His Catholic Church, and thus we find true freedom, true happiness and the fullness of life.

To follow Christ then is more than just being good, obeying the law and the teachings of the Church. It is these things of course, but Jesus wants us to live according to His truth not out of compulsion, but out of our desire to love Jesus and in loving Him to obtain Him, He who our hearts are restless until they rest in Him. To know Jesus Christ as He is, is to fall totally, madly in Love with Him. To know Him is to realize this love of His, He Himself, is available to us through the power of the Sacraments of His Holy Catholic Church. In fact, only there we will find His power, the power of His love to live according to His truth, not out of coercion, but freely;

It is in the Sacraments, especially in the Holy Eucharist, that we will find the true Jesus, the One who can touch us, heal us, save us. To the person who is in love, there are no burdens in carry out that love, only the desires of the heart to please the one we love. NO matter what we lose in the process in living for Jesus alone, we end up gaining everything, for we gain Jesus Christ our only happiness, the only fulfillment to our every desire, to our happiness and to our life.

Let us ask His Blessed Mother at this Holy Mass and at every Holy Mass to help us give Jesus the offering of ourselves, of our life, of our families, of our possession, of our everything….Let us give her our heart so that she herself can place it on the paten next to the host. Receiving our heart from her hands, Jesus will accept it as if it was hers, and allow it to be transformed into His own image and likeness so it will be accepted by His Father as if It was Jesus’ own heart. She will obtain for the grace to live out our life offering in every detail of our daily live, to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow her Son. She will then use us as her little ones in order to renew the face of the earth. Amen.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

At this Holy Mass, as we receive the Word of God become flesh in the Holy Eucharist, along with His pierce heart still flowing out blood and water, the source the sacramental life of the Church, let us ask Him, Jesus-God Himself, to heal us. We are like the deaf and mute man in our Gospel today- we need Jesus to take compassion on us.

Today in all of the readings and prayers of the Holy Mass we hear a call to hope and to absolute confidence in the Lord. In and through Jesus Christ all mankind can now find healing by drinking from the inexhaustible springs of grace flowing fourth from Jesus pierced heart, a pierced Heart still available on earth through the miracle of the Holy Mass. In fact, the Holy Eucharist is the pierced Human Sacred Heart of Christ. The grace flowing from this pierced Heart—from the Eucharist, converts the whole world into a new creation in and through Christ. The Lord has transformed everything, healing men’s souls, at least those who open their hearts to His Sacred Heart, who offers their in response to the offering of Jesus’s Heart to them.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus performs a miracle of grace- He opens the ears of a deaf man and heals his speech impediment. Jesus reaches out in compassion to this poor man, revealing to those who witness this miracle (and to us) His divine power…Jesus raises His eyes to heaven, and says to the man, “Ephpheta!” (That is, Be opened) and at once the man’s ears where opened. The man was freed from his impediment, and began to speak plainly.

As could be imagined, the people who witnessed this were astonished. They wondered who this Jesus might be. They all knew the book of Isaiah well and knew the prophecy we heard in our first reading; so the thought in their minds was, “could Jesus be the messiah?” They knew this miracle was a sign of the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah (that we heard in our first reading). And as result, it raised their expectations of Jesus being the long promised Messiah, and it awakened their hope in God’s promises. In this man—Jesus, God was indeed was fulfilling everything He had promised. Let us look closer at this miracle and discover what it means for us.

A person who is deaf and cannot speak is unable to really communicate with others. A loss of hearing is very isolating, some say even more so than losing ones sight. The deaf can be left out of conversations and activities because they cannot hear what’s being said. Hearing lose can cause depression, fear; and even more so than isolation from others, isolation from God Himself resulting in a loss of hope. (I personally experienced this through three ear surgeries. During my last surgery, shortly after I was ordained, I almost completely lost my hearing for a time. I felt incredibly isolated, so much so that I began to get Closter phobic; I never imagined a hearing loss could cause such feelings, I even thought my priesthood was over before it ever really began-- I must admit I even began to lose hope).

I think probably even tougher than not begin able to hear, is not being able to talk. I have had experience with those who have suffered a stroke. Again, it must be a very isolating and lonely place. A person wants to talk, wants to communicate with those he loves, the words are right there in his mind, but the words and ideas just won’t come out right or won’t come out at all. How incredibly isolating this must be.

I am sure then, it was the same for the man we read in today’s Gospel—try to put yourself in his shoes. He cannot hear or speak. He must have been very alone and isolated, living as it were separated from family and friends. Jesus comes to him, and heals these afflictions and the man is not only healed of the hearing loss and speech impediment, but he is now able to be united with his family and friends, to communicate with them and tell them with his own voice that he loves them and to be able to hear them say they love him in return. He begins to have hope again.

As important as the reunion with his family and friends must have been, even more importantly is his being reunited as it were, with God. In other word, more important than his physical healing, Jesus heals this man’s rupture with God. This man can now actually hear the voice of God Himself--Jesus, and so receive the truth needed in order to be saved. He hears the teachings of God from Jesus’ own lip; thus fulfilling another prophesy from Isaiah, “your children shall be taught by God…” (cf. Isaiah 54;13).

However, not only can this man now hear Jesus’ audible voice (and so, God’s audible voice), but he can also now hear the voice of God and His Holy Word in his soul. By healing the man’s isolation from God caused by deafness and muteness of the man’s soul, Jesus restores the man’s supernatural hope! Through the healing of grace received from Jesus this man can now receive the Word of God and through the same grace speak the Word of God in thought, word and deed and so become intimate with God, speaking and hearing God, becoming one with God.

We ourselves, may not have any physical problem with our physical hearing or our ability to speak, but do we have a problem with our spiritual hearing and speech. In other words, do we truly listen and allow the Word of God to penetrate us and to transform us, to change us more and more? For all of us, we may develop, however slowly, a deafness in our receiving the Gospel and a muteness in speaking the Gospel.

The truth is, is that the noise and clamor of the world can so easily drown out the whisper of God, leaving us with only the things and cares of this world ever in our ears and on our lips. We can allow ourselves to be deaf to Jesus’ call to conversion in our daily lives and so lose our ability to speak; and even more importantly, lose our ability to live the Gospel we have heard. Our Holy Mother Church, in the prayers of her sacraments, constantly reminds us of our need to ask God for the grace of healing of our ears, of our hearts and minds, so we can speak the truths of the Gospel to others with our mouths and more importantly with our actions.

In the earliest times of the Church’s life, and even till today, the Church in administering Her incredible, powerful sacraments, which dispense the healing power of Jesus, of God in our day, uses the same gestures that Jesus used in today’s Gospel. For example, at the moment of baptism, the priest prays over the one to be baptized, or should I say, Jesus through the priest prays over the one to be baptized; and He uses the priest’s finger to make a sign of the cross over their mouth and ears, saying, “May the Lord Jesus who made the deaf hear and the dumb speak, grant that at the proper time you may hear his Word and proclaim the Faith (especially with your life).”

And today at this Mass, and at every Mass, just before the Gospel was proclaimed we made the sign of the cross on our forehead, on our lips and over our heart. Hopefully we thought about what this gesture means and why we do it just before the proclamation of the Gospel. The signing is a plea to the Lord for the grace each one of us absolutely needs in order to allow the Word of God to be always on our minds, on our lips and in our hearts. And more deeply it means that Gospel should be deeply rooted in our very person, penetrating and renewing the faculties of our soul, of our very being. The listening to the Word of God, each and every week at Sunday Mass and in our daily reading of it should change us; it has the power to do so if we let it. It should penetrate our hearts and minds so we can live what we have heard, live it in thought, in word and in deed. But first we have to open our hearts, and we need Jesus to help us.

The reading and taking into ourselves as our own the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the antidote or cure for our sins of commission and omission, that is for our deafness and muteness. We receive the Gospel so we can be healed of our sins and begin again to live in freedom in order to do what Jesus asks us to do, in order to love. We allow the truth, which we know from the Word of God, to take root in us, to affect the way we live each and every day, less we become hearers of the Word only and not doers of the Word, thus deceiving ourselves (James 1:22).

In the healing in today’s Gospel we can see the healing that our Lord wishes to perform in our own soul. He frees this man from sin; and by doing so, He opens his ears to hear the Word of God and loosens his tongue to praise and proclaim the marvelous works of God. We all need Jesus to heal us from the ways we have closed off ourselves from receiving the Gospel, namely our sins. We need Jesus to come with his compassion and heal the inner deafness and muteness that creeps into our lives in order to free our hearing to listen to His words, to loosen our tongues in order to announce His words, His teachings, His truths, to the world by what we say and most importantly what we do.
St. Augustine, in commenting on this passage of the Gospel, says that the tongue of someone united to God will speak of the Good, will bring to agreement those who are divided, will console those who weep. God will be praised, Christ will be announced…And I would add, Hope will be restored.

At this Holy Mass, as we receive the Word of God become flesh in the Holy Eucharist, along with His pierce heart still flowing out blood and water, the source the sacramental life of the Church, let us ask Him, Jesus-God Himself, to heal us. We are like the deaf and mute man in our Gospel today- we need Jesus to take compassion on us. Jesus, the healer of our deafness, of our muteness, of our souls, is truly present in the tabernacle and in just a short while on this Altar, let us surrender ourselves to Him, because the doctor can’t heal us unless we come to him, and Jesus can’t heal us unless we come to Him fully and with faith, come to Him not only in body but with our whole heart, mind and soul as well, offering ourselves completely in love and with total trust in response to His total offering to us in love. Our Lady, Mother of our Hope, pray for us…Lead us to the Eucharistic.…