If you want to get into Olympic competition, you'd better be a pretty good athlete. If you want to get into the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, you need some musical ability. If you want to get into the Miss America Pageant, you'll be greatly helped if you are good-looking and somewhat talented. But to get into the Kingdom of God, all you need is Faith - to say, "Lord, I believe," and to say this, not in words alone, but also in action, expressing Faith through life.
God wants all people to know and love him, because God desires to share His love with the whole world. The first believers were Jews. Matthew writes to Jewish community the story of Canaanite woman whose faith was admired by Jesus. In last weekend's gospel reading, Peter's prayer was condensed into three words, "Lord, save me!" In this weekend’s reading, the Canaanite woman's prayer is exactly the same. Peter was the Lord's chief disciple, the Canaanite woman was a pagan, but their prayer was the same. The question is, how could a pagan express faith when so many others were suspicious about Jesus? Faith must mean more than words and rituals. We saw Peter last week; he doubted and started to sink. It is an invitation for everyone to come to faith. Matthew was talking about the universality of faith. Isaiah, in the first reading said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” God reveals the truth that He loves and cares for everyone. In other words, we all belong to God and we all belong to one another.
In today's Gospel reading, however, Jesus appears rather reluctant to help the woman. "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" meant "I was sent to help Jews, not Canaanites." And he adds "It is not fair to throw the children's food to dogs." I don’t think Jesus was insulting the Canaanite woman, rather, he was using colloquial language to teach something new. Jews considered others lower than themselves. They called gentiles “dogs.” Jesus was telling Jews, you are the privileged people, but it not just for you. Jesus saw the faith of the Canaanite woman.
Jesus sees all that is good within the human heart. He saw the faith of the Canaanite woman. He sees your faith and my faith. He knows how we are trying our best to serve Him. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He loves us more than we love ourselves. On the other hand we come to worship as a community. When we worship, we are exposed to each other’s faith. We are inspired by each other’s faith. When we bring up the gifts of bread and wine in the offertory procession, it represents all that we have and all that we are. We offer these gifts to God, and He transforms them into the Body and Blood of Jesus. At the Mass we all unite in our faith. We go out from the Mass like the Canaanite woman, with gratitude and love of sharing the faith with others.
I guess that if we were to write down all the things we are worried, anxious or concerned about our list would go on for pages and pages. Just think of all the things we are worried about: parents worried about their children, people worried about their health or that of others, farmers worrying about the weather or their livestock, worries about stock market, worries about relationships, and worries about so many different things. Some of the worries even can stop our life.
This weekend’s reading is about our faith and how we listen to God. God can come into our lives in unexpected ways and places. In the first reading we see that Elijah came out of the cave to see God. God was not in the roar of the wind, the crashing of rocks, or the earth quake, but in the tiny whispering sound. In the Gospel the disciples see Jesus walking on the water. I tell my family, God gave me the power to walk on the river and lake during winter. Jesus tells us that he is above the natural powers. Jesus told his terrified disciples, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid." When we trust him and focus on his face, we can face the challenges. We see all was going well for Peter, but then he lost his focus on Christ.
There is story of lady and pastor. For the umpteenth time Mrs. Youngston came to her pastor to tell him, "I'm so scared! Joe says he's going to kill me if I continue to come to your church." "Yes, yes, my child," replied the pastor, more than a little tired of hearing this over and over. "I will continue to pray for you, Mrs. Youngston. Have faith - the Lord will watch over you." "Oh yes, He has kept me safe thus far, only....." "Only what, my child?" "Well, now Joe says if I keep coming to your church, he's going to kill YOU!" "Well, now," said the pastor, "Perhaps it's time for me to check out that little parish on the other side of town."
It is easy for us to read Jesus words, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid." The question is whether we are able to take them into our hearts. It is not that easy. Like in the story, most of the time we are ready to escape.
Peter walked on water, but he was not doing this under his own power. He was relying on the power of Jesus who was calling him to join him onto the sea. On August 15, we celebrate the feast of Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the perfect member of the church. She relied on God and said “yes” to his message. Mary’s assumption was a reward for her saintly life; this feast reminds us that we too must be pure and holy in body and soul, since our bodies will be glorified on the day of our resurrection. Mary is an inspiration for us in our moments of temptation and despair to remember that we have a powerful heavenly mother relied on God, and now constantly interceding for us before her son, Jesus, in heaven. On the Feast of Assumption we pray in a special way for life: Respect for life from the womb to tomb.
Last weekend we celebrated Butternut community’s Pioneer Day. This weekend we celebrate Flambeau Rama in Park Falls. It brings family and friends together, and it is time of celebration and joy. Most of the time we would like hold on to those moments, but the reality is that we have to move on with our life.
I remember my trip to Holy Land. One of my favorite places was the site of the transfiguration. We went most of the way by bus, then walked. Once you get up to the mountain top the view is spectacular. At the mountain top there is a beautiful church of the Transfiguration. The scene of the Transfiguration is depicted in a beautiful mosaic. It was a totally beautiful and prayerful experience. I really hated to turn around and leave the mountain. Even though I would have liked to stay longer there, I had to follow the rest of the group and schedule.
Peter, James and John felt a huge rush on the top of a mountain in the Gospel. They saw Jesus there transfigured. His face shone like the sun. His clothes were dazzling white. Moses and Elijah were also there. Peter said to Jesus that it is good for us to be here, let us pitch some tents for everyone, so we can hold on to this experience. But they couldn’t do that. They had to leave the mountain and rejoin the people of the world; people searching for the mountain; people searching for the experience of God.
Dr. William Stidger once told of a lovely little 90-year-old lady named Mrs. Sampson. Mrs. Sampson was frail, feeble, even sickly. But Dr. Stidger said that when he was discouraged he always went to visit Mrs. Sampson. She had a radiant spirit that was contagious. One day he asked this 90-year-young woman, “What is the secret of your power? What keeps you happy, contented and cheerful through your sickness?” She answered with a line from a poem, Silver in the Sun, “I had an hour of glory on a wind-swept hill.” Bill Stidger said, recounting this experience, “I knew she had been in touch with God and that was the whole reason for her cheerfulness.” Listen again to her words: “an hour of glory on a windswept hill.” It sounds very much like the experience Peter, James and John had on the Mount of Transfiguration.
We may have high moments and low moments in our lives. We have to hold on to the high moments and share them with others. Let us gather at the mountain of the Lord for the celebration of the Eucharist. It is the place to celebrate faith and be fed, then we have to go back to those who are searching.
The Flambeau Rama celebration is also time to spend time with family and friends. Let all the celebration become a moment of nourishment. In the midst of all busy-ness, let us find time to celebrate our faith. Happy Flambeau Rama weekend!
Thank you! Marilyn Koshak and all those who worked with her for fundraising for Pipe and Organ. Also special thanks to all those who made generous donations. Thank you!
Thank you! St. Anthony Council of Catholic Women for donating money towards the air conditioning in the Padua Center. Your generosity and ministry greatly appreciated. Thank you!