Saturday, July 8, 2017
I really like Jesus’ exclamation in today’s Gospel. Jesus is exclaiming a truth about God the Father and at the same time there is also more. It is as if Jesus makes this wonderful profession of faith in God the Father, and at the same time affirms who he is relation to the Father, what he has been called to do, and to whom he has been charged to serve. I can almost image the scene of Jesus making this exclamation. In Matthew’s Gospel, just before today’s Gospel passage, Jesus has made some very strong and difficult statements against those who lived in towns where he had done “mighty deeds,” but they had not “repented” – they rejected his message, and Jesus is unambiguous about the not-so-good things that await them. And then the author of Matthew’s Gospel gives us today’s passage. Here is Jesus with his disciples and also surrounded by those in authority who are in opposition to him, by those who do not believe or trust in him, and by those who are also curious by what he has said. So, I see the beginning of today’s Gospel as Jesus reasserting this authority, as a teacher, to say and do the things he has done. It can also be said that is Jesus grounding himself in his relationship to the Father, what his Father’s will is for him, and how he is called to go about doing his Father’s will in the midst of or despite the hostility and rejection he has AND will experience. This is what we need to do too. Like Jesus we are called to be in relationship with God the Father, we are called to be his disciples spreading the Good News of God’s love and mercy, and we called to do this with great passion, conviction and at great risk. Like Jesus, we will be challenged to speak the truth when it might not be popular to do so or at great personal risk to our egos or even our life. And like Jesus we need to be grounded in who we are, what we are called to do, and how we are called to go about doing the will of God. Often, when we are faced with some challenge to our faith and we (okay I can at least speak for myself and say I) panic or duck from whatever it might be. Certainly, a big part of that might be that we don’t know our faith as well as we should, and possibly not as well as the person across from us of another faith or world-view with whom may be in conflict. Sometimes we don’t want to offend others or be considered politically incorrect. And sometimes we lack the confidence and conviction to speak or act. I have recently experienced this as I have been taking a chaplain course at Riverside this summer. My peers in the program are good people of many different faiths and worldviews and who also hold many myths and misconceptions about the Catholic Church. So, I find myself explaining and even defending what the Church teaches AND why. This is not always been easy and it has often pushed me outside my own comfort zone, but it has been good. And, admittedly, there have been times when I have had to do some homework and come back the next day with more or a better explanation. But I have felt compelled to share and even defend my Catholic faith (although not always perfectly or consistently) because of my relationship with God. I am motivated by my understanding and belief in who I am and what I am made for and call to do. That I am made in the image and likeness of God, made by God’s love to be loved and to love. That I am made to experience what was prophesied over twenty-five hundred years ago by the Zechariah: to experience Jesus Christ who is humble and loving, who is our lord and savior, and who leads us into this personal, intimate relationship with God that is filled with joy and peace. That I am made to experience life in its fullest – not limited only to our earthly and physical wants and needs, but as St. Paul reminds us a life filled with the Holy Spirit who transforms and resurrects life as we know it, if only we welcome God in our lives. And that I am made to experience a relationship with God not bound by a set of lengthy and complex rules, but rather where the yoke is easy and the burden is light, a relationship based on love - where if we free ourselves to be fully in relationship with our God it will be the easiest, most natural thing we can do since it is of course what we were made to do! I invite you to grow in this wonderful relationship! And more specifically, consider joining us this Fall for our parish’s Alpha program (or if you have already done Alpha, consider getting involved in one of the many ministries or faith formation opportunities in our parish and Diocese – see me or Fr. John, and keep reading the parish bulletin for opportunities). I invite you to grow in your faith and build meaningful friendships with others like you who seek to know the truth and desire peace and joy in their life. Consider inviting a family member or friend to join you. Maybe that person, if they are not Catholic, will continue with the RCIA process and join the Church. I invite you to explore what it means to be in relationship with God and the great joy and peace awaiting you. May you know God’s rest, promised to us in today’s Gospel, now and eternally.
Posted by Jeffrey Fortkamp at 9:23 AM