TEXT: 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 13, 2017

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 13, 2017

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

There’s a famous saying of Jesus

that if we had faith the size of a mustard seed we could move mountains.

Sometimes we misinterpret this saying to mean

that by our faith WE should be able to move mountains.

Fortunately, Jesus doesn’t require that we move mountains by our faith.

But He does require us to have just enough faith

          to believe that He is the all-powerful God

and that He can move mountains.

Or as we find in today’s gospel, He only asks us to have enough faith

so that in the middle of the storms of life we can call to Him in faith,

“Lord save me,”

and by the touch of His hand He will save us.

 

Today’s gospel paints a graphic picture of a night on Lake Gennesaret.

The storm rages, the wind beats on the little fishing boat

and the waves toss it around this way and that.

And as the night goes on,

instead of conditions getting better, they only get worse

…until it’s the darkest part of the night, or “the fourth watch.”

 

I wonder what was going through the minds of the apostles in that little boat.

Each was probably reacting a little differently.

Some, like the tax collector Matthew might have even been becoming desperate;

it certainly seems that way

from the account he gives us in his gospel today.

Others, like the experienced fisherman like Peter, Andrew, James and John

were probably doing a good job of keeping their composure,

at least externally.

But I think it’s a safe to conclude that they were all praying to God

that He would save their lives.

 

And how does God respond to this prayer?

He comes to help them personally: Jesus, God the Son, hears their prayer,

and comes to them.

And nothing can stop him from coming to them

–not even a lake full of water and the laws of nature—

He just walks right over it.

 

But how do the apostles respond to God’s answering their prayer

and coming to them personally?

They become frightened.

Notice the Gospel doesn’t specifically say they are frightened by the storm

–although that’s a reasonable conclusion.

But St. Matthew does make the explicit observation

that what really terrified them

was seeing Jesus walking on the water toward them:

“When the disciples saw Him walking on the water, they were terrified.”

Matthew even tells us that these grown men “cried out in fear.”

 

They fear the storm and pray to God for salvation.

But when God comes to save them, they reject and fear Him even more!

 

This same pattern is repeated with Peter.

Peter, the seasoned sailor that he is,

and the apostle with a bold and deep faith and love for Our Lord,

manages to pull himself together and call to Jesus for help—he prays:

“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

And Jesus answers his prayer,

and gives Peter the power to walk across the water.

 

But as Peter starts towards Him, again he’s suddenly grasped by fear

and falls into the water.

 

What’s wrong here?

Why when God answers their prayers do these people recoil in fear?

Jesus hits the issue head on when he admonishes them:

“Oh you of little faith!”

Faith is the problem here.

More specifically, lack of Faith in Jesus Christ

as the one and only God who comes to save them.

 

It was difficult for them to believe in Jesus as Savior and God

–God’s personal answer to 2000 years of prayers of the people of Israel.

So when He comes walking across the water they recoiled in fear

–this must be a ghost because their teacher, Jesus,

is only a man, they think, and men don’t walk on water.

And Peter, even though his faith always seems a step ahead of the others

–and in this case causes him to step out on the waters toward Jesus

–as soon as he realizes what’s going on

–that he’s depending completely on Jesus

to make him able to walk on the water

–he falters in fear: his faith is not strong enough to accept

that his teacher was more than a normal man.

 

­­_____

But this lack of faith in Jesus Christ isn’t unique to the apostles.

You and I experience it everyday.

We’re constantly praying to God to give us this or that,

or to help us with this trouble, or to tells what to do about that problem.

And when we ask God for help He answers us in Jesus Christ.

But so often when Jesus comes to us

–in Scripture, His Church, His sacraments, in prayer,

or even through the actions other people—

we react in fear–and reject Him.

We–like the apostles in the boat

–are afraid to have real faith in Jesus Christ as God the Son.

 

_____

Sometimes it’s hard to have faith in Jesus.

Sometimes, we feel all alone

–like the apostles did on that lake before Jesus got there.

Sometimes we feel like our problems are just too big to handle.

And sometimes we hear the voice of Jesus answering us in our prayer,

but it’s just so hard to believe that He’s really powerful enough

to do all the things He promised.

And so, like Peter and the apostles, when God answers our prayers

by coming to personally as Jesus,

we back away in fear because it’s just too incredible to be true.

 

But the great thing is that Jesus doesn’t demand that you have the faith to move mountains.

All He needs is that little spark of faith.

Even the faith that comes when you’re at your wits end with a problem

and you just turn to Him and say, “Lord Jesus, save me.”

 

And the thing is, whether or not we have faith, Jesus does come to us

—nothing not even a sea of trouble can keep Him away.

And if we have even the slightest faith we can start to walk to Him.

And even if we become overwhelmed by doubts like St. Peter

and begin to drown in our personal sea of troubles,

if we can just imitate Peter and muster the faith to just say, “Lord save me”

the Lord Jesus will hold out His hand to pull us out of the darkness.

 

_____

Today, I bet every one of you has a problem that just won’t seem to go away.

Maybe it’s a problem at work, or at home.

Maybe it’s a problem with believing or following some teaching of the Church.

Maybe your just overwhelmed by the crazy hard world we live in

—a world with so little faith in Jesus.

But, since you’re here at Mass,

you’re probably praying that God will somehow solve the problem.

And, since you’re here at Mass praying,

have faith that Christ will come to you today….in the Eucharist.

Yes, I know it’s hard to believe that God could personally come to you

in what looks like an ordinary piece of bread.

But how hard was it for Peter and the rest of the 12 to believe

that God could come to them walking across the water,

for goodness sake,

as what looked like an ordinary man.

But He did come to them walking on the water,

and He does come to you in the Eucharist.

 

When He comes to you today, don’t run away

—instead, as Jesus says in today’s Gospel:

                    “do not be afraid.”

Look deep in your hearts and give Him whatever faith you can find there

–remember, you don’t have to move mountains

or calm the rough waters of the Lake by your faith,

so it’s not like your faith has to be huge for Christ to answer it.

You just have to have the smallest amount of faith

that Christ can move mountains and calm the storms.

Come to Him with this faith and say the simple words of Peter.

And believe that nothing will stop Jesus from coming to you, to reach out His hand, to pull you up from the darkness,

and bring you the peace that comes only from faith in him.

Say the simple prayer of faith, the prayer of St. Peter: “Lord, save me.”

And He will.

TEXT: Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, Sunday August 6, 2017

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

August 6, 2017

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

There are times in life when we wish we were somewhere else–anywhere else.

But there are other times when everything comes together,

and we wouldn’t trade the present moment for anything.

Times when we know that we are exactly where we’re supposed to be

–even if we don’t fully understand why,

or don’t particularly like the situation,

we know we must stay.

In today’s Gospel reading we find the great Sts. Peter, James and John

in just such a situation.

In the words of St. Peter to Jesus: “Lord, it is good that we are here!”

 

Tradition tells us that the mountain of the Transfiguration is Mt. Tabor.

While we don’t know for sure that this is absolutely accurate,

we do know that the Transfiguration is true story.

As St. Peter testifies in today’s 2nd reading:

it’s not a “cleverly devised myth” but an “eyewitness” account.

At the time they went up Mt. Tabor,

the apostles had probably been with Christ for several years.

Still, they weren’t really sure who this man, Jesus, really was.

They had always known that he was different from the other teachers,

and they had even begun to believe that He was the Messiah

–but He was not the kind of Messiah that they had expected.

They had heard his moving words and seen him perform all sorts of miracles,

even raising the dead, but he was still a poor wandering preacher

who fled from the people when they tried to glorify Him as their king.

 

How did this fit with the prophecy of Daniel,

as we read in today’s first reading, that the Messiah,

whom Daniel called “the Son of Man”,

would come on a cloud and receive all glory and kingship forever?

The apostles knew Jesus, but they didn’t really believe in Him.

They saw him, but their eyes were closed.

 

So He took His three principal apostles, Peter, James and John

up Mt. Tabor to pray.

But, once again their eyes were closed,

Literally, but  also heavily symbolically, as they fell asleep.

But when they finally awoke,

their eyes were finally opened to truly see the Messiah promised by Daniel.

This was the one glorified by God:

“His face shone like the sun

and His clothes became white as light.”

Here, for one brief magnificent moment it became clear to them

that Jesus’ repeated claim to be “the Son of Man”

was in fact his claim to be the Messiah promised by Daniel.

Moreover, as they heard the voice from heaven say,

“This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him,”

they understood for the first time

that were truly in the presence not only of the Son of Man but also of the Son of God–Jesus Christ.

And so, it became absolutely clear that, “it is good that we are here!”

 

Why did Christ do this–why did He choose to reveal Himself in this way?

As Christ reveals Himself on the mountain to the three apostles,

He stands in glory with Moses the lawgiver and Elijah the prophet.

And what do these three talk about?

The other Gospels give us a little more information saying:

“they…spoke of his passage, which He was about to fulfill in Jerusalem.”

Jerusalem is the focus of Christ on Mt. Tabor.

Because His ultimate Glorification happens not on Mt. Tabor

but on the other mountain

–which is Jerusalem, built on Mt. Zion,

outside of which stands a hill called Mt. Calvary.

In Jerusalem waits the Cross

and it is to the Cross that Christ looks

as He stands before Peter, James and John

in the company of Moses and Elijah.

It is only through the Cross that He

fulfills the Law of Moses

and the words of the Prophets like Elijah.

And it is only through the Cross that He is resurrected in eternal glory.

Understanding this we better understand

what appears to be a confused statement by St. Peter:

“Lord, it is good that we are here.

If you wish, I will make three tents here,

one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

The other Gospels tell us Peter, “hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.”

But this does not mean that Peter was just stumbling over himself and muttering useless meaningless words.

No, it means that Peter was so overwhelmed by reality of the Transfiguration

that all he knew was that “it is good for [them] to be here”

and that he didn’t want this moment to end.

 

For a brief moment, everything was clear

Jesus was the Christ standing in glory with the lawgiver and prophet.

And seeing this true glory the 3 apostles

“fell prostrate” before Him and worshiped Him.

 

But at the same time, nothing was clear

–St. Peter couldn’t even begin to articulate the meaning

of what he had seen.

All he can say is “it is good for us to be here,”

and asks to pitch 3 tents, for the glorified ones

so they could stay:

he didn’t want them to leave–he did not want it to end.

 

But it had to end,

and Christ had to go to Jerusalem and to the Cross on Mt. Calvary.

And Peter would be strengthened by what he saw that day on Mt. Tabor.

For as Jesus tells Peter at the Last Supper:

“Simon, Simon,…I have prayed that your own faith may not fail;

and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.”

By this moment on Tabor,

Peter is strengthened so that months later

he would be able to hold his brother disciples together in Jerusalem

as they awaited the Lord to come and tell them what to do,

waiting for those 3 days when Jesus was in the tomb

–for he would know that this man who had died on the Cross

was no ordinary man, but the glorious Son of God.

 

___

As Christians, we hope for the Glory of heaven

–we hope that some day we will stand with the Glorified Christ

along with Moses and Elijah, and Saints. Peter, James and John.

This is our quest, our goal, our ultimate reason for living.

Like Peter, we seek to be in the presence of God in all His Glory forever.

 

And even those who don’t know that they seek this, do in fact seek it.

Look around today.

We live in a world seeking glorification, satisfaction, and fulfillment.

We need this–in our heart of hearts we cannot live without the hope of fulfillment.

We are in so many ways empty–we long to be filled.

This is the Glorification of Christ.

For we can only be fully filled–or fulfilled–by Him

who is the delight of God our Father–Christ Jesus.

 

We seek this glory, but we do not understand it.

We do not always see that to attain this glory we must follow Christ

not just up the mountain of transfiguration

–but first we must follow him on the road to Jerusalem

–even up the hill of Calvary, and up on the Cross.

We cannot have the glory if we do not take up our cross daily and follow Him.

 

Christ knows that the Cross is heavy and He knows that the nails are painful.

He knew that as He was taken down from the Cross

Peter, James and John and the other disciples

would be nailed to their own private crosses

as they struggled with the despair of Jesus’ apparent failure on the Cross.

Knowing this, in His mercy and love,

Jesus reveals His glory in his Transfiguration to John, James and Peter.

 

Christ knows that our crosses are also heavy.

This is why He constantly reminds us of the Resurrection.

This is why He constantly offers us hope through the foretastes of that glory

in the consolation and peace we find in prayer,

in the large and small miracles of daily life,

in the love and support He brings us

through our family, friends, and Church

and in the grace He reveals to us through Gis Word

and gives to us in the Sacraments.

But He never takes away the suffering His Cross and our daily crosses,

but instead always unites them to the glory of the Resurrection.

In effect, He transfigures our daily crosses in the hope of the resurrection.

 

____

And as a sign and source of this hope,

and as a real revelation of and sharing in His glory and His cross,

Jesus also gives us His glorified, crucified and transfigured Body

— in the Holy Eucharist at every Mass.

Through it He strengthens us as He strengthened Peter

with all the divine power which belongs by right to Him

as the glorious Son of God.

 

_____

Today, in this Mass we go up with Peter, James and John to pray with the Lord,

We go up to Mt. Tabor  then,

–we go up and hear the Prophets witness to the glory of Jesus

through the word of God proclaimed in Sacred Scripture.

And “we go up” to the altar to be with our Lord

on Mt. Tabor,  Mt. Zion and Mt. Calvary.

–to truly be in the real presence of

the transfigured, glorified and crucified Body of Christ.

 

But as we do all this at this Mass, at this Eucharist,

do we yawn and look at our watches and wonder what’s for lunch?

Or do we fall prostrate before our Lord in adoration and AWE

not wanting this moment to end

but longing for it to go on forever?

Do we fall asleep like the apostles did at first

and miss the wonder taking place before our eyes?

Or do we wake up, and see the Lord of Glory before us

          and say from the depth of our hearts with St. Peter:

          “Lord, it is good that we are here.”

TEXT: 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 23, 2017

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 23, 2017

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 For the last several decades now there have been a lot of people

publicly demanding changes to Church teaching

—even when those teachings are divine truths,

not changeable by any man, even a pope.

Sadly, these demands have radically escalated in the last couple of years, Continue reading