The Constitutions of the Congregation of the Resurrection indicate that Resurrectionists are called to “give glory to God by manifesting the presence of the Risen Christ in the world” (Art. 5). It further states that we accomplish this best when “we will strive for our own personal sanctification by accepting Christ as our model and by living a life of ever-greater union with him” (Art. 5). No passage in Scripture can direct this process more clearly than the one that we hear this Sunday in our second reading: Philippians 2:1-11.
In Lima, Peru, I was asked to go with the local village people to climb the mountain behind the village on the feast of the Cross. But it was a different experience than what I thought it would be. We all carried the cross in two parts; everyone carried small pieces of glass and/or mirrors in our hands. After a four walk up the mountain we came to a flat area of land overlooking the valley. A hole was dug, the cross assembled, and I blessed the moment. When I asked why we did this the answer was clear. The Cross could be seen from all those in the valley below.
The overriding theme in each of the readings for this 23rd Sunday is about reconciliation, forgiveness, caring concern, community, the debt of love. In other words, all those things that bind the Christian community together; it is the glue, the paste, the common bond that forms the community of which Christ is the center.
“Who do YOU say that I am?” The disciples must have taken a deep breath when Jesus asked them this question, not sure what to say. Finally Peter, always impetuous Peter, spoke up and declared that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God”. Like a turtle sticking out its neck, Peter declared himself. That is not something that one declares, and then sinks back into oblivion – it is a declaration of commitment to Jesus!
During the war in France a number of soldiers, who had been killed, were buried in the cemetery of the local Catholic Church. However one soldier, non-Catholic, was refused burial since he didn't belong. The Pastor could not give in. He would have to be buried outside the fence. That night, when it was dark, the men came back to rebury their friend in the cemetery. When they arrived they saw the pastor moving the fence so that the soldier was now inside the fence with his comrades.
This Sunday's readings invite us to embrace two aspects of God's presence - awe in the presence of God and boldness in the presence of God. Faith is risk. In order to understand the new ways in which God would be revealed, Elijah had to risk looking for and listening for God in ways and in places other than the familiar, the expected and the traditional. Elijah has to risk looking beyond what was known to him in order to find God in the unknown, i.e., in a tiny whispering sound.
Often in our search for happiness, we are tempted to satisfy our desires with what we think will be lasting solutions, only to discover that our thirsts and hungers have not truly been quenched. While we may temporarily fill ourselves with food and drink, with material possessions, with the high praise of others, or even with those substances that dull our desires altogether, at the end of the day we can still experience an emptiness or restlessness that something more lies beyond.
I was in a classroom, at the back, while an art class was going on. A little boy in the back row was toying with the braids of a little blond haired girl in front of him, unbeknownst to her. He was ready to dip the braid in an inkpot when I touched his shoulder and gave him a disapproving look. He jumped up and quickly said: Father, the devil made me do it.
All the readings for this fifteenth Sunday of the year convey to us the wonderful truth that our hope has to be firmly anchored in Jesus as our foundation. As Isaiah reminds us: "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it."
Often people saw that opposites attracts. Perhaps such was the case with Saints Peter and Paul, whose Feast we celebrate today. Here was Peter – one of the first disciples, impetuous in responding to Jesus (in today’s gospel) and courageous in his leadership of the early Church. Then there is Paul – the former persecutor of the early Christians, who after his encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, became a zealous preacher of the Good News to the Gentiles. Each was very different in their background, formation, and discipleship.