Dogs with Faith!

20th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle A
1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a; Psalm 85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14; Rom 9:1-5; Gospel: Mt 14:22-33

Faith is the gift we receive at Baptism.
At the beginning of the baptismal rite, the Priest or Deacon asks those who are going to be baptized – “What do you ask of the Church?” The response to this question is – “Faith”. In baptism God gives the gift of his forgiveness that he poured out on the cross for us.

The gift of faith at Baptism is the gift of God’s love.
Jesus came as a man to open heaven for us. In a practical way, He came to invite us into relationship with God by removing the obstacles that we have placed between us by our sin. Jesus paid the price for sin to invite us into a loving relationship with God. This is what it means to ask for faith – we are asking to share our lives with God, and to be one of his beloved children.

Today’s Gospel humbles Christians – St. Peter vs Pagan Woman.
It is humbling then to be confronted with today’s Gospel. When those who ought to know (i.e. St. Peter, the first Pope) are rebuked for their weak faith, and those who are ignorant (The pagan woman in today’s Gospel) are extolled for her great faith.

Our lives of faith are a work in progress
At the same time, Jesus did not abandon Peter to the waves, but rather he continued to work with Peter to help him to see the totality of Gods’ love for him. He does the same with us. If we thought that we have done our part in loving God last week, that is good, because today Christ calls us to walk with Him in a deeper way, He calls us to deepen our faith and our love for Him.

Saints respond to Gods love and are beautified.
Recently Pope John Paul II was beatified, which is one of the steps on the way to becoming a saint. A saint is a man or woman who chose to allow Gods love to transform their lives. When we beatified Pope John Paul II we recognized that his life was beautiful because his life was filled with faith. One of our desires as humans is to want to become more beautiful, and accepting our faith is a certain path to beauty. It is through living out our faith completely that we become beautiful.

Embracing the fullness of the faith exposes our entire life to the light of God’s love.
A characteristic of saints is that they embrace the fullness of the faith. They do not pick and choose the easy parts, but they embrace the teachings of the Church in its entirety. When we have the courage to do this we bring the fullness of who we are into contact with the gift of faith that God has given us. This allows us to be purified because our selfishness is illuminated by Christ’s selfless love. When this happens have the opportunity to make a decision, to see good and evil in the light of Gods love and to choose the good and to reject the evil – which is the grace of our baptism.

We say “I believe” by responding to the trial of faith with love.
When we recognize the love that God has shown us we need to make a decision – will I love God in return? The way that I love God in return is to imitate his love for me. This is why Christian’s are called to love those who hurt them rather than to hate them by seeking revenge. When we choose to love then we are free because we are not allowing our persecutors to control our behavior.

Saints know the love of God because they are humble.
Another way that the saints see the greatness of God’s love is through the gift and their own powerlessness. They are all beggars because they recognize the truth of their own weakness, how easy it is to allow sin to rule their lives rather than to depend on God’s mercy and grace. In this sense they too became more loving and forgiving of those around them, while at the same time encouraging those trapped in sin to seek the grace and forgiveness of God. If we find that we are trapped by sin, a way of live that is contrary to the Gospel, then we are encouraged to seek forgiveness in the sacrament of confession. To be cleansed of our sin and purified so we can experience God’s love more fully.

What are we going to do about it?
In the Gospel today a pagan woman comes to Christ as an annoying beggar and says “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” At first Jesus simply ignores her, but because she is so annoying he finally says “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Pause a moment and think about what Jesus just said. He was rude, he called this poor women a dog. This woman has determination because she sees in Christ the abundance of God’s love and knows that it must overflow beyond the Jews. She knows that God’s love is so great that it must overflow to all people and so she responds. “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Jesus responds to her witness of God’s love by saying “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.

Is our life of faith recognizable?
Do we recognize Gods love for us in our lives? More importantly – are we living lives that allow our faith to form us so that our family, friends and co-workers can see the greatness of Gods love in our lives, and share in this great blessing that God has given us?


Lord Save Me!

19th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle A

1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a; Psalm 85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14; Rom 9:1-5; Gospel: Mt 14:22-33

Elijah on the run from the Queen
In the first reading today, the prophet Elijah is in the midst of a crisis. He is in trouble with Queen Jezebel because God asked him to oppose her pagan worship and she has sent her men to kill him. Elijah knows that he will most likely die. His response is to take time out to pray.

Prayer – the answer to every crisis!
When we find ourselves in moments of crisis one of the best things that we can do is to pray to God. It is important that when we pray that we pray from our hearts. This means that we honestly and openly share our hearts and our lives with God. Then we listen to what God has to say to us in reply.

Distractions in Prayer – Wind, Earthquake and Fire
When Elijah tries to pray he finds that his prayer is distracted by a wind that is crushing the rocks, an earthquake and a fire. When these things happen Elijah checks to see if God is present, and when he does not find God he returns to his prayer.

Wind, Earthquake and Fire = Distractions of the Crisis
Time in prayer is time that we set aside to listen to God. We listen to God so that we can hear him and encounter him in our hearts. One of the difficulties of prayer, and especially with prayer of those in crisis is that we are often filled with many distractions, when we sit down to pray our mind is attacked by our worries, fears and anxieties. These are like the Wind, the Earthquake and the Fire that Elijah encountered on the mountain. When we are distracted in prayer we gently set the distractions aside and return to listening for God to speak to our hearts with his small, still voice.

St. Therese of Lisieux is a good teacher of prayer
She was born in France in 1873, the youngest of four girls. Therese grew up with an intense love for Jesus, and for the Eucharist. At 15 she became a Camelite nun, entered the convent and spent the rest of her life trying to listen to the still, small voice of God in her heart.

Like Elijah, Therese had distractions in her prayer
Like Elijah the prophet, St. Therese encountered many distractions in her prayer, She had to deal with living in community with her sisters, dealing with envy, injustice, pettiness and all of the other distractions that are part life. Therese was able to take all of this with her into her times of prayer, to listen to God and to hear his voice speaking into her heart.

From her prayer, Therese understood the path to holiness
It was through her listening to God that Therese discovered her “Little Way” to holiness.

1. Therese learned that God’s way of loving her was through mercy and forgiveness. He was always showing her His mercy and His love.

2. Therese discovered the best way to approach God was to be like a little child.

Like a little kid on his Fathers lap
Whenever little kids get to sit in their Dad’s lap they start with a lot of talk about what is going on in their lives, but then at the end, they just want to snuggle and to be in the presence of their Dad. This is the deepest type of Prayer. When Therese would pray, she would pray as God’s little girl and curl up in her Daddy’s lap to share her heart with him.

Kids copy their parents
Kids also learn to copy their parents. As Therese lived in the convent she started to copy God by showing love and forgiveness to her sisters. Whenever someone insulted or persecuted her she responded with compassion and forgiveness. Therese chose to love them by responding to their pain rather than their insults. She chose to copy the love that God showed her.

The Little Way transforms the world
We too can do the same when we allow God into our hearts. When God is with us, he transforms our hurt into love and so we too can follow the little way of St. Therese and help to transform the world.

The symbolism of the Gospel
Today’s Gospel is rich in symbolism. We heard about the first symbol last Sunday in the feeding of the 5000. This is a symbol for the Mass.

The Boat = The Church, the Storm = the World
After the Mass, the disciples take their boat across the sea, and while at sea the boat gets caught up in a storm. The boat represents the Church, and the stormy seas represent the world, filled with sin and strife that so easily distracts us.

Jesus says to us – Do not be afraid!
Often times when the troubles of the world surround us, we are overwhelmed by fear. We doubt God’s love and think we are going to die. Jesus says to us “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!

Jesus teaches us to be in the world but not of the world
Then we notice that Jesus is walking across the water – He is teaching us to be in the world, but not of the world. Jesus shows us how to face temptation and sin, but not to get trapped by them and to drown.

Peter gets out of the boat
Peter responds to Jesus’ call and gets out of the boat and is walking across the water. As soon as he realizes what he is doing, he gets distracted by the wind and the waves and starts to drown. When this happens he calls to Jesus for help, and Christ saves him.

How do we put these readings into practice?
- Listen to the small still voice
After Holy Communion today, it is our time to be like Elijah and Peter, to listen to God as he speaks to our hearts with the still, small voice.

Ask Jesus to call you out of the Boat
Then, ask the Lord, “if that is you then command me to get out of the boat”. God is sending us out of the boat onto the waves of the world this week. But we are being sent out to walk on water, to live lives that witness the love of God to our friends and family.

Remember to call on him this week when you get distracted!
Finally, when we are out there this week and we see the wind and the waves and we want to panic let us remember the prayer of St. Peter – “Lord Save Me!” And he will.