Thursday, August 21, 2014

"Upon this rock I will build my church."

This Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014 (21A), we consider a Gospel text that is crucial to the Church’s understanding of itself. The words of Jesus addressed to Peter, “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church." Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with family, friends and church groups.

"But who do you say that I am?"

This Sunday's gospel story places Jesus in Caesarea Philippi and the disciples are just back from their mission of preaching. Jesus asks them who the people think he is. He is measuring the faith-status in the regions around him. The disciples laugh boyishly, and give the answers they have heard, and obviously they regard such guesses as absurd.

All of us at some stage must come to ourn own Caesarea Philippi. Just as he challenged the disciples, to each of us who are baptized Jesus leans over and whispers, "But YOU...who do YOU say I am?" Fr. James Gilhooley tells us that it is the one question that will never go away. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. explains that the question asked of Peter is an invitation to receive the on-going self-revelation of God through a personal experience of the person of Jesus. Where are the Caesarea Philippi places in our lives where we have been challenged to identify Christ for whom he really is for me, for the Church and for the world?

On previous Sundays we saw Jesus many curing people. In each case He tells them, “Your faith has saved you.” This Sunday’s Gospel explains that it is in fact their faith that has saved them. The cures are love being given and love being received. Fr. John Foley, S. J. affrims that the name of that openness to God’s love on the part of the people is “faith.”

“To loose and to bind”

The phrase, “to loose and to bind” was a common Jewish phrase in Jesus’ day. The rabbis of the day had that power to “loose and bind.” To “loose and to bind” was to allow and forbid, to declare something allowed and to declare something forbidden.

Jesus identifies Simon Peter as the Rock upon which his church will be built so that Peter's binding and loosing on earth simultaneously binds and looses in heaven. Peter and his successors, the Vicars of Christ on earth, have alone been given the authority that so many claim for themselves today. The Church with its visible structure of authority through Christ's power, explains Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B., is an extension of Christ as the sacrament of His presence in history.

Fr. John J. Ludvik explains that in the kingdom of God there are two keys: the key of forgiveness and the key of withholding forgiveness. Those keys are not the same but both are important to use. Similarly, Fr. Phil Bloom adds that we need two keys for salvation: the golden key of God's forgiveness won by Christ and the silver key of repentance which includes sorrow for sin, confession, satisfaction and absolution.

Keys were given to Peter. Jesus gave him these keys. Fr Joseph Pellegrino points out that the Church opens the gates of eternity to all people of good will. We are the Church. We are the Body of the Christ. We are Catholic.

Peter the Rock

Matthew is the only evangelist to use the word "church" (Greek ekklesia) here in Verse 17. In fact, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB tells us, the word is used twice in Sunday's Gospel text. Jesus' church means the community that he will gather and that, like a building, will have Peter as its solid foundation. So yes, the Papacy is quintessentially Catholic, but that’s because it is thoroughly biblical. We should be proud of the Papacy and recognize that it is one of Christ’s great gifts to the Church.

But also we should also not be surprised that there are some difficulties on this great pilgrimage of faith that the People of God is engaged in. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio isolates one of the most difficult things to swallow about Catholic teaching: the dogma of papal infallibility. Jesus, in making Simon “Peter,” made sure that the jaws of death wouldn’t in fact prevail over the Church. And despite 2000 years of persecution from without and enemies from within, they haven’t.

From St. Peter to today, the man we reverently call the "Holy Father" humbly wears the mantle that Christ himself has placed on his shoulders, as our teacher in matters of faith and morals. His power is not based on wealth or weapons because, according to Fr. Alex McAllister SDS, the authority that they wield is not of the worldly kind. Jesus Christ and His Church, and the man who is his representative on earth, are not what we make of them. Father Cusick says they are and always will be precisely what Christ has taught in today's Gospel: the irrevocable, unchangeable creation of God and essential for the man or woman who claims the title "Christian."

So we are proud of the Papacy, glad to be Catholic, and inspired to be faithful to Christ and His Church.

Marriage, Family, Faith and Immigrants

For fatherhood in America, Colleen Carroll Campbell says these are the best of times and the worst of times. Today’s fathers are more active in their children’s daily lives to a degree not seen in nearly half a century. But alongside this rising level of involvement among live-in fathers is a rise in absent fathers. Matthew Warner adds the warning that kids today are not getting taught a very important lesson in life. At least not many of the kids here in the United States. Their school teachers, youth ministers, pastors, coaches and, most especially, their parents are dropping the ball on this one. Find out what she means.

It's an imperfect world filled with imperfect parent, imperfect familes, imperfect people. Simcha Fisher emhasizes to us however that despite this, marriage isn't really just for perfect people. She is quick to point out that she does know many happily married, perfectly matched couples who have been married for decades—but who were kind of a mess when they first said Yes.

And it's a changing world, populated by immigrants. America, from its beginnings, has been a nation of faith and a nation of immigrants. Its laws and institutions depend not on where her people came from, explains Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, but, on what they are willing to sacrifice to keep the experiment alive.

Prayer, Angels & Finding God

In "Praying as a Christian," Fr. Scott Hurd suggests that when we pray, we need to present ourselves as part of the answer. In the words of St. Augustine, “Pray as if everything depends on God, and act as if everything depends on you.” While Jennifer Fulwiller reports that she has received a lot of feedback in response to her post called Finding God in 5 Steps. But a reader reminds her that she's missing a step, one that is perhaps the most important: First, you must be willing to lose lose it all. And Finally, Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university, answers this question: During the celebration of the Mass, where, who or what is the center of focus? Is it the altar or the tabernacle or the celebrant?

Let's talk about angels. They really exist. Not just in our minds, or our myths, or our symbols, or our culture. They are as real as your dog, or your sister, or electricity. Dr. Peter Kreeft explains the twelve most important things to know about angels.

And as we close this week's issue, let's talk about money. J.D. Roth explains that one of the best ways to improve your personal economy is to increase your income. Yes, frugality is an important part of personal finance; cutting costs will help your dollars last longer. But there’s only so much you can trim from your budget. Eventually you’ll have to look for other ways to make ends meet. He tells us in "How to Boost Your Income."

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. A blessed and happy new week to all.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: How does the Pope influence your personal life?
FEATURED BLOG: World Youth Day and Religious Freedom
PASTORAL HISPANA: Jesus nos revela su identidad

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