August 27 – Be a Rock

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August 27 – Be a Rock

Peter’s history as a follower or friend of Jesus is a bit spotty. It might be natural to wonder if Jesus, in giving him the keys to the kingdom, didn’t feel a bit like a parent giving a teenager the keys to the family car. But it was at the moment when God’s power and presence broke through everything else to raise up Peter’s great profession of faith in Christ as Messiah that Jesus chose to establish the bond between the loving, forgiving mercy of heaven and our vocation to be witnesses of that love, mercy, and forgiveness on earth. Like any parent, Jesus no doubt foresaw the failings, the irresponsible maneuvers or impaired senses, the collisions that the church would be headed for. But, most importantly, he also saw us at that moment as God prefers to see us: capable of manifesting great faith, with a willingness to remain at the feet of Christ to understand what it truly means to be Messiah and Christ. As the letter to the Romans points out to us today, we have not known the mind or the wisdom of God, but God knows us and still chooses to manifest the reign of justice, joy, beauty, and peace through us. Let this be our vocation. Let us always strive to be solid ground on which the church of Jesus Christ can be founded and on which it can continue to be built.

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“Let all the nations praise you!” (Psalm 67:4) today’s psalm response exclaims. In the psalms and other Hebrew scriptures, this kind of invocation is actually an invitation to God to act, to intervene in human lives in a manner that will cause everyone—not just the Chosen People—to give praise. Stated a bit more strongly, it is something of a “put up or shut up” challenge to God, the sort of strong statement the psalmists of Israel, trusting in their intimate and loving relationship with God, were not afraid to make. The Gospel has its own exclamation, announcing the appearance of the Canaanite woman with “Behold!” (Matthew 15:22) “Behold!” is a scriptural flag that tells us that God is about to act or announce something through an individual or a situation. In the case of Jesus, God was going to act through this woman, whom nobody among Jesus’ followers would have believed to be an agent of the divine will. Like the psalmists, we might passively inform or perhaps even actively challenge God to do something so that everyone will come to belief, but God will always turn the tables on us. It becomes our calling, our duty (as it was for Jesus) to behold the situations and persons of our daily lives so that God can act through us, so the Kingdom can be announced through our living.

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August 13 – Nothing to Fear

A rabbi was asked why God sends trials and troubles into human lives. “Because God gets lonely for his people” was the reply. There is some resonance with this wisdom in today’s Gospel, as Jesus makes his disciples get into a boat without him and goes off alone while they venture into stormy waters. Of course, neither Jews nor Christians believe that the Almighty plays this sort of whimsical game with them, but there is some truth in the statement that we don’t turn to God for saving help until we’re in a bind. Peter’s role today, as it is throughout the New Testament, is to be a sign or to represent each member of the church and the whole church. Our story is the tale told about Peter’s faith today. What can bolster our faith is that even when Christ calls us to face bravely the tempests of life, if we are walking through them with our eyes fixed on him in faith, we have nothing to fear. Even when we falter or sink, simply crying “Lord, save me!” is enough to help us know the steady grasp of God’s hand. Then, sheltered inside the walls of faith, the storms we endure lose their power over us.

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August 6 – Eyewitnesses

Today, the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, is a day of eyewitness accounts. The first, a vision reported by the prophet Daniel, was well known to Jesus and his apostles. The vision account was written in quite mystical and figurative language. It is a vision of heaven, powerful and memorable. There are flames of fire, burning wheels, the Ancient One, and a Son of Man. Clearly, Daniel saw something. But was it a dream? Was it real? Was it merely a clever myth? Peter wants no such confusion about his vision! We are told in Matthew’s Gospel what he and his friends James and John saw when they went up on the mountain with Jesus one day. Jesus warned the three witnesses to tell no one until “the Son of Man has been raised from the dead” (Matthew 17:9). Lest readers of one of the Gospels discount the story or simply write it off as a pious myth, Peter gives his own account of the Transfiguration of Jesus in his second letter to the church. He writes with authority, as an eyewitness. He reports this message from God concerning Jesus: “This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased,” and he assures us that the message is “altogether reliable” (2 Peter 1:17, 19).

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