Tag Archives: Gospel of Matthew

HOMILY – SUNDAY OT 21 A

Is 22:15, 19-23
Ps 138: 1-2a, 2b-3, 6,8b         R/. Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Rom 11:33-36
Mt 16:13-20
 

One of my biggest personal strengths is that I’m what you might call a ‘visionary’: I think and see long-term, and big-picture. But if I let myself be carried away with what I envision, it’s easy for me to get lost in what ‘could be’, and that can lead to frustrations when the present doesn’t resemble the vision. That’s why it’s also one of my biggest weaknesses. To prevent this, I always have to remind myself that I’m not in charge, Jesus is. This is one of the reasons why I love today’s Gospel passage.

This scene between Jesus and Peter has become rather iconic for us as Catholics. I bet most of us here can quote at least part of these famous lines. And so it’s easy for us to get lost in the ‘big picture’ of what Jesus is saying to Peter and ignore that the true greatness of this passage lies not so much in the ‘big picture’, but in the small details of Jesus’ words.

In His response to Peter’s profession of faith, Jesus says, And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church (Mt 16:18). Now this passage is most frequently used to explain Peter’s primacy or leadership of the Apostles and the beginnings of the Papacy. And it does this, but it also says so much more.

Notice how Jesus speaks of the Church as His Church? I will build my church (Mt 16:18). He didn’t call it Peter’s Church; He didn’t call it the Apostle’s Church; He didn’t give it to anyone. The Church belongs to Jesus (cf. Col 1:18)! It’s His Church, not Peter’s, not the Pope’s, not the Archbishop’s, not mine, not even yours or ours… It is Jesus’ Church! This is really important point: I wouldn’t be able to repeat it enough.

You see, in Baptism we were baptised not just into a community, but into Christ (cf. Rom 6:3; Gal 3:27). Through Baptism we belong to Jesus: He purchased us with His blood (cf. 1 Pet 1:18-19; 1 Cor 6:20). That’s why we often refer to the Church as the ‘Body of Christ’ (JPII, General Audience, Nov. 1991; cf. 1 Cor 12:27).

Our membership in the Church isn’t one of ownership, but one of participation: we don’t own the Church, rather we belong to her because we belong to Jesus. That means, then, that none of us own the Church — not even the Pope —, but all of us are children and servants of the Church. Jesus Christ is her Master, not us. This has been the guiding principle of all of the Church’s teachings: they’re not hers, they’re Christ’s teachings. How often we forget this detail!

But notice also how He’s not merely the ‘owner’ of the Church, He’s also her builder: I will build my church (Mt 16:18). We must never forget that the Church exists not because of what we say or do, but because Christ is building her up. The Church has existed almost 2000 years not because we’ve had great Popes, Bishops and Saints — anyone who’s read the history of the Church knows we’ve had some pretty terrible people over the centuries. But the Church has lasted so long because it’s Jesus who acts in and through her, despite sinful people. It’s Jesus and the Holy Spirit who build the Church; who make Saints in every age according to what’s needed; who lead and guide the Church; who build her, perfect her, expand her. We must never think that the Church depends on us; she depends, and must always depend, only on Jesus Christ. Our task as members of the Church is to make ourselves open and available for the Spirit to work in us; the rest will follow from this according to God’s plan.

And finally, notice how Jesus adds and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it (Mt 16:18). No matter how bad things get in the world, no matter how confusing things get in the Church, not matter how wrong (or how mean) a Priest or a Bishop might be, the Church will never be lost, Hell will not prevail against her. The moment we think everything’s ‘going to Hell in a hand basket’ and that the Church is lost, pride and fear take over and we make Jesus out to be a liar, and we cause scandal and division in the Church — just look as how many different Christian groups there are.

The Church isn’t ours: she doesn’t belong to us, nor does her survival depend on you or me. The Church belongs to Jesus, who is her source of life and her guarantee. That’s why, my brothers and sisters, we must never loose hope, never despair. The Church doesn’t depend on mere mortals, but on Jesus Christ, who has conquered sin and death and sits at the right hand of the Father. We only need to trust in Him, and open our hearts so that the Spirit might work in us to build us up into holy members of His Church; that we might become living stones in that Church (cf. 1 Pet 2:4-5). Amen.

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HOMILY – SUNDAY OT 18 A

Is 55:1-3
Ps 145       R/. You open your hand to feed us, Lord, and satisfy our needs.
Rom 8:35, 37-39
Mt 14:13-21
 

In our Gospel passage today, Jesus puts the Apostles to the test: you give them something to eat (Mt 14:16), He tells them, before a crowd of more than five thousand. Jesus challenges His disciples to trust in Him, and to use the small amount of food they have to feed the multitude.

Sometime around the 1980’s, many sceptics began to dismiss the miracles of multiplication that Jesus did. It was just a ‘miracle’ of sharing, they said; when people saw how the disciples were ready to share the little they had, others began to share their lunches too.

Well, if it were just a nice story about people being kind to one another, then it really has no place in the Bible! Because the Bible isn’t about ‘nice’, it’s about Christ! And Christ is God among us (cf. Mt 1:13), and all things are possible for God (cf. Mt 19:26).

Just over twenty years ago, my parents decided to move to the Edmonton area, and so we came to look for a house. We weren’t sure about our real needs or in which neighbourhood we wanted to live, so my parents were looking to rent. But our search for a decent rental was quite disappointing — even depressing (!) —, and we soon realised we had to buy. But putting together an unplanned down payment was going need a miracle.

Looking for some direction and some hope, early one morning my Dad turned to the Bible, as he often does, and began to read and pray. He came upon this passage of the multiplication of the loaves and was really struck by God’s overwhelming generosity in providing for His people. So after breakfast and sharing his prayers with Mom, Dad called us all to the table for a family prayer meeting. He read us the passage and shared with us how he felt God was asking us to give Him our ‘loaves and fishes’ so that God could multiply them.

So Dad emptied his pockets and put money on the table as a symbol of his loaves, and spontaneously we all followed suit, offering whatever we had. On an inspiration Dad also decided to include the family car, so he added the keys to the little pile. And with this we prayed, offering to God our loaves a fishes, asking Him to multiply them so that we might be able to buy a house.

That afternoon we went to visit a house. When we got there, the elderly man who owned it said he couldn’t let us in because the realtor, who had the keys, was in Toronto. As it turns out, the man was a developer, and so as not to waste our trip to St. Albert he insisted we come to see his new homes, even though they were far beyond our finances. And so we went.

The houses were beautiful, just the size we needed, and they were in a great location. It became clear to us that God had brought us here, and we began to feel that we had found the house the Lord wanted to give us. But we still didn’t know how the finances were going to work out. However, we trusted that God wouldn’t disappoint.

So Mom and Dad went to the bank, but the developer — who had great compassion on my parents with five teens — had already made arrangements with the manager. He was vouching for the down payment so we didn’t have to put one down, and since his daughter was a lawyer, she drafted up the papers, and there were almost no closing costs either. We moved into our new home in late August, a week before school began. But because the paperwork was slow, we ended up living in the house payment-free for two months, which gave us enough money to buy a second car, as my parents were teaching in opposite ends of the city. The Lord is gracious and merciful… His compassion is over all that He has made (Ps 145:8, 9)… He opens His hands to give us our food in due season (cf. Ps 145:16, 15).

Just like the loaves and fishes, God multiplied our little pile of change and keys. The Lord does indeed work miracles! And we need to ask and expect them from Him. But we first need to trust in Him, and we need to offer ourselves to Him along with our loaves and fishes, whatever these might be, however little, however few.

We must never think that it’s not enough, because God isn’t concerned with quantity; He’s concerned about us. Notice how in the Gospel the multiplication took place because Jesus had compassion for them (Mt 14:14). Whatever we might offer to God is grossly insufficient, and Jesus knows that better than we do, but He nonetheless says, Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters (Is 55:1). Come, because He will make it sufficient; He will multiply our offering, our love, so that we’ll even have lots left over. We need only trust in Him, love Him, and give ourselves over to Him. God wants to bless us, and not just in material ways! God wants to fill us with His spiritual gifts, His grace — and in abundance! He wants to make us holy and perfect in His sight (cf. 1 Thes 5:23); will we allow Him to do so? Will we offer ourselves to Him so that He might multiply in us His grace? Amen.

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