Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: Cover and Column

Our Lady of Sorrows

Original art: Ronald Raab, CSC

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Dear Followers of Jesus,

Forgiveness is a life-long process. Forgiveness is at the heart of love, the real message of Jesus. Every person knows well the emptiness and the hollow feeling in our guts when we know we need to forgive one more time. Our wellbeing calls us into healthy, loving relationships.

Matthew 18:15-20 calls us to a deeper forgiveness than we can imagine. We are challenged to move beyond our fragile egos, our hurt feelings, and our sense of entitlement and forgive not just seven times, but seventy-seven times. We all have a long way to go to discover the grace of true and genuine relationship.

The mission of Jesus is the essence of forgiveness. He breaks down walls, steps over boundaries, and creates unity in the most unexpected places. In today’s gospel we hear that when genuine forgiveness is present, he is at the center of the riff and the fraction. He is the core of love. We are to follow that love. His death and resurrection is the heart of his mission, the reconciling of heaven and earth. He brings to us, in our human and fragile lives, the healing that we all desire.

Forgiveness lives among us with many faces. My experience with prayer and the sacraments in our Church suggests that the first place where forgiveness needs to happen is deep within our selves. Many people carry within themselves much regret, unhappiness and anger. We are sometimes incapable of searching for and resting in God’s forgiveness. Many people think that if other people really knew them, they would not like them. Many people are lost in their secrets. We are challenged to take to heart that God’s love is for every person, including our very lives. Jesus wants the best for us. He wants every aspect of our personal lives to rest in his forgiveness and mercy. Forgiveness is not a head-trip.

Is there a limit to our forgiveness toward others? Well, in some cases, the answer is yes. We certainly need to be careful for the safety of our lives. There is a limit to forgiveness when we are being abused. When the illness of another is hurting our children or us. If there is deep alcohol or substance abuse creating the hardship, we need to be careful not to just forgive because our faith calls us to. Forgiving again does not mend addiction or abusive behavior. Forgiveness alone does not mend our co-dependency or lack of self-esteem. Jesus alone heals.

Here are some questions to consider this week:

What is the role of forgiveness in your life? How can you invite Jesus into your broken relationships? How can you celebrate the healing of your relationships when forgiveness happens? How can you pray for others, for your family and even the Church so that we all learn how to forgive and how to be forgiven?

Blessings to you,

Fr. Ron

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time: Bulletin Cover and Column

My Soul is Thirsting for You

Charcoal drawing: Ronald Raab, CSC

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Dear Followers of Jesus,

Today’s gospel, Matthew 16:21-27, demands much of us. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Last week flying back to Colorado Springs from Bill Wack’s ordination as Bishop of the Pensacola-Tallahassee Diocese, there were several infants on the flight struggling in the cramped spaces. As the parents tried their best to comfort the children, I could not help but focus in on the relationship between the parents and the children. Today’s gospel brings this relationship into the open for me.

Most parents put their own lives on hold to care for their children. Love just does that. The father grows beyond his thirty-inch waistline as the well-educated mother learns to speak baby talk. Letting go of much self-care, career plans and sleep is just what a parent does. Love changes everything. I so admire parents.

As I kept my eye on the ways in which the parents were trying to console the crying children, I saw everything from sheer exhaustion to resentment toward the children and giggling-joy when the little ones finally settled down. Parenthood is a bouncing ball of emotions. This is exactly what happens when love changes us and we are called to live for other people.

I am not a parent. I really don’t know anything about being a parent. However, I just want to say to all parents that we need you now more than ever. We need you to witness to the rest of us exactly how to care for one another even when we are not in a good mood. We need you to show the rest of us how to give our lives away and to make it real. We need you to show us what real commitment looks like. We need you because our children, all of them, need to find the consolation, the shoulder, the heart, and the home in which to rest.

The last thing we need today is another child who is not loved. Within our parish boundaries, we have children who are given away, sold for sex, bruised and battered, or who are starving. Really. We need ever-visible models of care, love and hope. We need people who can give their lives away, to lose themselves in love. We need parents who will stick with their kids when they are slobbering, throwing toys and fits on airplanes. We really need people who are going to stick with love and not think that love might come from other places, especially from secrets and addiction. Loving your children is a step toward peace.

Thank you parents for being parents. You make this gospel come alive for me and for so many other people. The crosses you bear of struggling to make a sufficient living, putting food on the table and fully educating your children are all sources of sheer love. Parents, you find you life in love.

Blessings,

Fr. Ron

On the Margins: Matthew 16:21-27

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On the Margins from Mater Dei Radio, Portland, OR

The Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Gospel MT 16:21-27

Jesus began to show his disciples
that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly
from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.
Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him,
“God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”
He turned and said to Peter,
“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory,
and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time: Cover and Column

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Aug 27--Matthew 16

Dear Believers in the Christ,

Who is Jesus for you? What is your relationship with him and how would you define him? Our faith invites us into a relationship and not just doctrine. We need to know Jesus, not just know about him. This is an important distinction.

The gospel today, Matthew 16:13-20, reveals this question from the mouth of Jesus. He asks one of the most important questions of his life on earth, “Who do you say that I am?” In this text, Peter understands who Jesus truly is, responding “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” This is the beginning of a new relationship between Jesus and Peter. Peter then receives the keys to the Kingdom of God. Peter is called upon to lead, to put his life on the line as Jesus did.

We cannot be Catholics in name only. We can certainly memorize texts; learn about issues in the Catechism, but the grace of knowing Jesus, to really know him, changes our lives. The scriptures proclaimed in the Mass reveal grace that invites us into relationship with Christ Jesus. Grace floods our lives when the words are opened up in the Mass. Jesus is present in the Word, really present to the aches and pains of our lives.

We belong to Christ Jesus by the authority of our baptism. Our hearts yearn for his presence. We are called to simply be open to receive his love and mercy. We often put up obstacles from receiving him. We may think we are not good enough, or moral enough. Our pride gets in our way when we hold up all the obstacles of our hearts to hide his presence. We even blame Jesus sometimes for the outcomes of our lives rather than allowing him to simply enter the mystery of our suffering.

Jesus offered Peter the authority to create something new on earth. Jesus is still offering us the opportunity to create the Church, to become the Church, to live the Church on the earth. From our openness to others, from our willingness to serve the lost and forgotten, from our ability to forgive others and ourselves, from moments of love and acceptance, we come to realize our relationship with Jesus.

I invite you this week to enter into the question Jesus is asking of us today, “Who do you say that I am?” Sit in quiet prayer. Believe he places the answer within you. Hope that your answer may find its way to the surface of your life in how you live, love and serve. We cannot hold Jesus at a distance or think he must be for the holy, the ultra pious and well deserving. Seize his love for you.

Jesus invites us to create something new, just as he invited Peter. Who knows how love within our lives will change the world? Give in, and allow Jesus to be in relationship with you.

Blessings,

Fr. Ron

 

 

On the Margins: Matthew 16:13-20

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On the Margins from Mater Dei Radio, Portland, OR

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Gospel MT 16:13-20

Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
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.
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.
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.”
Then he strictly ordered his disciples
to tell no one that he was the Christ.

The Most Reverend William Wack, CSC

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William Wack, CSC at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Pensacola, Florida

Today is the Mass of Ordination and Installation of Bishop William Wack, CSC as the Sixth Bishop of Pensacola/Tallahassee Diocese in Florida. Last evening we gathered at Sacred Heart Cathedral for Vespers and Blessing of the Pontifical Insignia. Please pray for Bill today and for his new ministry among the people of Florida.

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Cover and Column

Aug 20--the Canaanite Woman

Dear Followers of Jesus,

I adore the Canaanite woman. Matthew 15:21-28 invites us into the dialogue with Jesus and a woman who is considered to be an outsider. She comes to Jesus with a burdened heart. She knows intuitively that Jesus can heal her daughter who is tormented by a demon. She loves her daughter and wants the best for her.

Jesus really gives her the cold shoulder. In fact, the disciples try to talk with Jesus about sending her on the road, to get her out of their hair. The woman persists. Jesus says that his presence is for the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

The woman turns the conversation around and stops Jesus in his tracks. She insists that even the dogs can eat the scraps that fall from the table. I love this. Jesus finds such great faith in the stranger and foreigner. Jesus proclaims, “ O woman, great is your faith!”

Most of us live our lives flying by the seat of our pants. We do not know where to turn when something major happens. Most people are not connected with the scriptures or the stories of Jesus and we feel left out when our lives take a turn for the worse. We blame God for not healing us, or at least stopping the suffering.

If your life feels out of control, then listen to this woman. Sit with this story and find your place in it. These gospels are not just cozy little stories that we tell at Mass because we do not know what else to say. These stories are brim full of grace, saturated with hope and overflowing with God’s real presence.

The woman was an advocate for her daughter whom she loved. I have to believe that she is also an advocate for people she has never met. It is easy for us to pray for people we love, too. We face more difficult times when we come to Jesus on behalf of people we do not know or who have never seen. I invite you to come to Jesus especially for people you have never met. We must do so. We need to pray for people engrained in the deep racism that shreds people’s dignity. We need to offer our lives in prayer for people who sell drugs to our children without our knowledge. We need to be at peace when the threats of war and violence capture us.

I hope you learn something from this woman. Pray for couples that are struggling to be faithful with each other. Pray for runway teens and children you have never known who face sex trafficking. Pray for our immigrants longing to find a safe place. Pray for your neighbor who is depressed. Allow the Canaanite woman to call you out of your shyness about coming to Jesus. Jesus is the one who heals us.

Blessings,

Fr. Ron