Choices

A young man approached Jesus and said,
“Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”
He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good?
There is only One who is good.
If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
He asked him, “Which ones?”
And Jesus replied, “You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
honor your father and your mother;

and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The young man said to him,
“All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?”
Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go,
sell what you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad,
for he had many possessions.
(Matthew 19:16-22)

Scripture Study

19:16 Gain eternal life: this is equivalent to “entering into life” (Mt 19:17) and “being saved” (Mt 19:25); the life is that of the new age after the final judgment (see Mt 25:46). It probably is also equivalent here to “entering the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 19:23) or “the kingdom of God” (Mt 19:24).

19:17 By Matthew’s reformulation of the Marcan question and reply (Mk 10:17–18) Jesus’ repudiation of the term “good” for himself has been softened. Yet the Marcan assertion that “no one is good but God alone” stands, with only unimportant verbal modification.

19:18–19 The first five commandments cited are from the Decalogue (see Ex 20:12–16; Dt 5:16–20). Matthew omits Mark’s “you shall not defraud” (Mk 10:19; see Dt 24:14) and adds Lv 19:18. This combination of commandments of the Decalogue with Lv 19:18 is partially the same as Paul’s enumeration of the demands of Christian morality in Rom 13:9.

19:20 Young man: in Matthew alone of the synoptics the questioner is said to be a young man; thus the Marcan “from my youth” (Mk 10:20) is omitted.

19:21 If you wish to be perfect: to be perfect is demanded of all Christians; see Mt 5:48. In the case of this man, it involves selling his possessions and giving to the poor; only so can he follow Jesus.

Scripture Reflection

“The question which the rich young man puts to Jesus of Nazareth is one which rises from the depths of his heart. It is an essential and unavoidable question for the life of every man, for it is about the moral good which must be done, and about eternal life. The young man senses that there is a connection between moral good and the fulfillment of his own destiny. He is a devout Israelite, raised as it were in the shadow of the Law of the Lord. If he asks Jesus this question, we can presume that it is not because he is ignorant of the answer contained in the Law. It is more likely that the attractiveness of the person of Jesus had prompted within him new questions about moral good. He feels the need to draw near to the One who had begun his preaching with this new and decisive proclamation: ‘The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel’ (Mark 1:15).”

– Saint Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, Veritatis Splendor 8

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

Irrevocable

Brothers and sisters:
I am speaking to you Gentiles.
Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles,
I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous
and thus save some of them.
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world,
what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.
Just as you once disobeyed God
but have now received mercy because of their disobedience,
so they have now disobeyed in order that,
by virtue of the mercy shown to you,
they too may now receive mercy.
For God delivered all to disobedience,
that he might have mercy upon all.
(Romans 11:13-15, 29-32)

Scripture Study

11:13 to you Gentiles: Paul addresses his Gentile readers directly, cautioning them against pride. Some Gentile converts looked disdainfully upon Israel, as though they had replaced the covenant people in the messianic age. Paul not only rejects this (11:1); he warns that Gentiles, too, can be rejected as easily as they have been accepted. They should rather marvel that God has given them a share in Israel’s spiritual blessings (15:27). Pagan anti-Semitism was pervasive in Roman antiquity.

11:14 my race: Literally, “my flesh”. Paul is thinking of Israelites related to him by race (9:3–4).

11:15 life from the dead?: Like the OT prophets, Paul envisions the spiritual recovery of Israel as a national resurrection (Is 26:19; Ezek 37:1–12; Hos 6:2).

11:32 all to disobedience: God allows all to sin that all might taste salvation (3:9, 23). His saving plan moves forward despite man’s rebellion.

Scripture Reflection

God never goes back on anything he promises; therefore, he continues to call the Jews to enter the chosen people. He does not take account of their disobedience or their sins: he will love them with an everlasting love, as he promised the patriarchs and in line with the merits accruing to them for their fidelity.

It is this very immutability of God’s love that makes it possible for “all Israel” to be saved. God’s calling, which is eternal, cannot cease; but we for our part can reject his call. The immutability of God’s plan is reassuring to us: it means that even if we abandon him at any point, we can always return to our earlier fidelity: he is still there, waiting for us.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

The Children

Children were brought to Jesus
that he might lay his hands on them and pray.
The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said,
“Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them;
for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
After he placed his hands on them, he went away.
(Matthew 19:13-15)

Scripture Study

19:14 the children: Jesus’ concern for marriage (19:9) reflects a practical concern for children. God’s plan for marriage includes the mutual love of spouses and the responsible upbringing of “Godly offspring” (Mal 2:15; cf. CCC 1646, 1652). In this episode, Jesus blesses children as legitimate members of the kingdom, laying a foundation for infant Baptism (cf. Jn 3:5).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in our Gospel for today, Jesus proposes that the Kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are like children. Why? For starters, children don’t know how to dissemble, how to be one way and act another. They are what they are; they act in accordance with their deepest nature. “Kids say the darndest things,” because they don’t know how to hide the truth of their reactions.

In this, they are like stars or flowers or animals, things that are what they are, unambiguously, uncomplicatedly. They are in accord with God’s deepest intentions for them.

To say it another way, they haven’t yet learned how to look at themselves. Why can a child immerse himself so eagerly and thoroughly in what he is doing? Why can he find joy in the simplest thing, like pushing a train around a track or watching a video over and over, or kicking a ball around? Because he can lose himself; because he is not looking at himself, not conscious of other people’s reactions, expectations, and approval.

Mind you, this childlikeness has nothing to do with being unsophisticated, unaccomplished, or childish. Thomas Aquinas was one of the most accomplished men to ever live, the greatest intellectual in the history of the Church, one of the subtlest minds in the history of the West. Yet the terms that were used over and over to describe him were “childlike” and “innocent.”

Childlikeness has to do with that rootedness in what God wants us to be. Thomas was born to be a theologian and a writer, and nothing would get him off of that beam: neither the critiques of his enemies, nor the blandishments of his religious superiors, nor the temptations to become a bishop. He was and remained who God wanted him to be and thus he was like a great mountain or a flower or, indeed, a child.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

Marriage Intentions

Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying,
“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?”
He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning
the Creator made them male and female and said,
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh
?
So they are no longer two, but one flesh.
Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”
They said to him, “Then why did Moses command
that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?”
He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts
Moses allowed you to divorce your wives,
but from the beginning it was not so.
I say to you, whoever divorces his wife
(unless the marriage is unlawful)
and marries another commits adultery.”
His disciples said to him,
“If that is the case of a man with his wife,
it is better not to marry.”
He answered, “Not all can accept this word,
but only those to whom that is granted.
Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so;
some, because they were made so by others;
some, because they have renounced marriage
for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.
Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”
(Matthew 19:3-12)

Scripture Study

19:3 Tested him: the verb is used of attempts of Jesus’ opponents to embarrass him by challenging him to do something they think impossible (Mt 16:1; Mk 8:11; Lk 11:16) or by having him say something that they can use against him (Mt 22:18, 35; Mk 10:2; 12:15). For any cause whatever: this is peculiar to Matthew and has been interpreted by some as meaning that Jesus was being asked to take sides in the dispute between the schools of Hillel and Shammai on the reasons for divorce, the latter holding a stricter position than the former. It is unlikely, however, that to ask Jesus’ opinion about the differing views of two Jewish schools, both highly respected, could be described as “testing” him, for the reason indicated above.

19:4–6 Matthew recasts his Marcan source, omitting Jesus’ question about Moses’ command (Mk 10:3) and having him recall at once two Genesis texts that show the will and purpose of the Creator in making human beings male and female (Gn 1:27), namely, that a man may be joined to his wife in marriage in the intimacy of one flesh (Gn 2:24). What God has thus joined must not be separated by any human being. (The NAB translation of the Hebrew bāśār of Gn 2:24 as “body” rather than “flesh” obscures the reference of Matthew to that text.)

19:7 See Dt 24:1–4

19:9 Moses’ concession to human sinfulness (the hardness of your hearts, Mt 19:8) is repudiated by Jesus, and the original will of the Creator is reaffirmed against that concession. (Unless the marriage is unlawful): see note on Mt 5:31–32. Matthew removes Mark’s setting of this verse as spoken to the disciples alone “in the house” (Mk 10:10) and also his extension of the divorce prohibition to the case of a woman’s divorcing her husband (Mk 10:12), probably because in Palestine, unlike the places where Roman and Greek law prevailed, the woman was not allowed to initiate the divorce.

19:11 [This] word: probably the disciples’ “it is better not to marry” (Mt 19:10). Jesus agrees but says that celibacy is not for all but only for those to whom that is granted by God.

19:12 Incapable of marriage: literally, “eunuchs.” Three classes are mentioned, eunuchs from birth, eunuchs by castration, and those who have voluntarily renounced marriage (literally, “have made themselves eunuchs”) for the sake of the kingdom, i.e., to devote themselves entirely to its service. Some scholars take the last class to be those who have been divorced by their spouses and have refused to enter another marriage. But it is more likely that it is rather those who have chosen never to marry, since that suits better the optional nature of the decision: whoever can … ought to accept it.

Scripture Reflection

Jesus’ teaching on the permanence of marriage is just as countercultural today as it was in the first century. To those who have experienced the challenges that come with married life, his standards may seem unrealistically high. For this reason it is important to recognize that Jesus speaks of marriage in terms that imply the assistance of grace. The word grace does not appear in these verses, but the idea that God can enable men and women to fulfill this exalted vocation is latent in the discussion.

Consider the contrast that is drawn between Mosaic and messianic times. If Moses permitted divorce and remarriage to accommodate the hardheartedness of Israel, then the Messiah’s repeal of this concession indicates a new human situation, in which the heart is healed of its infirmity and divinely empowered to embrace marriage as a lifetime commitment. It implies a regeneration of the human person from the inside out. Only when the Lord enriches our lives with his grace can the ideal of marriage for life become the real experience of men and women joined together as one.

– Curtis Mitch

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

Seventy Times Seven

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
But he refused.
Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed,
and went to their master and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”

When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee
and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan.
(Matthew 18:21 to 19:1)

Scripture Study

18:22 seventy times seven: Denotes limitless forgiveness and mercy. ● Jesus contrasts the behavior expected of the apostles with the boundless vengeance of Lamech in Gen 4:24 (LXX), where the same figures of “seven” and “seventy times seven” are contrasted (CCC 982).

18:24 ten thousand talents: A “talent” (coin) is equivalent to 6,000 denarii, or 20 years’ wages for a laborer. The figure is exaggerated for emphasis: the parable accentuates the king’s (God’s) mercy in forgiving an incalculable debt that was impossible for the servant (man) to repay.

18:28 a hundred denarii: A minor debt, since a “denarius” was equivalent to a single day’s wage for a laborer (cf. 20:2). Repayment of 100 days’ wages required patience (18:29) but was not impossible.

18:35 forgive your brother: Jesus demonstrates the folly of mercilessness. One forgiven an eternal debt of sin should readily forgive others of much smaller debts. The lesson is summarized in Jesus’ commentary on the Our Father in 6:14–15 (cf. Jas 2:13; CCC 2842–43).

19:1 Judea beyond the Jordan: Jesus has concluded his Galilean ministry and is now headed for Jerusalem. His presence east of the Jordan has a dual significance. (1) This location is linked with John the Baptist (3:5), who was executed for condemning the divorce and remarriage of Herod Antipas and his mistress, Herodias (14:3–10). This tragedy looms in the background of the ensuing question about divorce (19:3). One suspects that the Pharisees hoped to lure Jesus into the same trap that cost John his life. (2) The region beyond the Jordan is also the place where Moses gave Israel the laws of Deuteronomy (Deut 1:5). It seems more than coincidental that Jesus is about to repeal the Deuteronomic concession for divorce and remarriage (Deut 24:1–4) in the very place where it was ratified.

Scripture Reflection

Jesus calls his disciples to a very high standard of mercy. We cannot speak words of forgiveness while harboring resentment. The Catechism reminds us that true forgiveness entails “a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God” (CCC 2842). Admittedly, this is not always easy. Some injuries are so deep that it “is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense” (CCC 2843). Nevertheless, if we remember how much God has forgiven us then we can avoid becoming like that unforgiving servant who, though he was forgiven much, failed to forgive others.

We can also pray for the person who hurt us and try to see beyond their harmful acts and to consider their own sorrowful condition. Hence, “the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession” (CCC 2843). In this way, the disciple can forgive his enemies interiorly, “from his heart” (18:35).

– Edward Sri

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

How Awesome Is Our God

Shout joyfully to God, all the earth;
sing praise to the glory of his name;
proclaim his glorious praise.
Say to God: “How tremendous are your deeds!”

Come and see the works of God,
his tremendous deeds among the children of Adam.
Bless our God, you peoples;
loudly sound his praise.

Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare
what he has done for me.
When I appealed to him in words,
praise was on the tip of my tongue.
(Psalm 66:1-3, 5, 8, 16-17)

Scripture Study

66:1–4. The initial invitation is addressed to all the earth, as a sign that God is in charge and sends his blessing upon it (cf. Ps 47:1) and it is followed by references to the “name” of God (vv. 2, 4), that is, it has to do with the God who has revealed himself to Israel (cf. Ex 3:14ff).

66:5–7. The psalmist invites his hearers to “see what God has done” because these wondrous works and their effects can be seen in the temple insofar as they are celebrated there. He recalls the crossing of the Red Sea (cf. Ex 14–15) and of the Jordan (cf. Josh 3:7–17). The power of God can also be discerned in the very existence of his people, whom God protects from the Gentile nations (v. 7). All have reason to recall benefits received from God: “When the soul recalls the gifts he has received from God over a long time, and contemplates the graces that God gives him in abundance in the present, or turns his eyes to the future and the infinite reward that God has stored up for those who love him, he gives thanks in the midst of inexpressible waves of joy” (Cassian, Collationes, 9).

66:8–12. All peoples can appreciate the God of Israel, for, despite the reverses suffered by the people of God—the “test” God has put them through may be a reference to the Assyrian wars against Israel (cf. 2 Kings 18–19), or to the Babylonian exile—they still enjoy peace (cf. Is 40:1–2).

66:13–15. After acclaiming the nation’s deliverance, the psalmist moves on to acknowledge his own. This shift in the psalm has led some commentators to think that it is the king who is speaking in representation of the nation; but it could also be an act of thanksgiving by an individual Israelite who has experienced salvation in his own right and is now associating himself with the proclamation of the people’s deliverance. As is customary in acts of thanksgiving, the speaker begins by stating his resolve to keep the vows he made to God (vv. 13–15).

66:16–20. His promise is followed by acknowledgment of the benefit he has received. The “Come and hear” cf. v. 16 links up with the “Come and see” (cf. v. 5). As also happens in the psalms in which enemies figure (cf. Ps 17; 59), the psalmist’s innocence is the underlying reason why he is blessed, and why he has been vindicated (v. 18).

Scripture Reflection

The psalm is a song that celebrates the deeds of God for the people of God. That is the theme and purpose that unites it. Worship transcends time, and the congregation that sings the psalm becomes part of the astonished joyous people of exodus.

In the same way, Christians sing, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” This must be the answer to how the nations are to come and see the works of God; the works are rendered by the congregation’s praise, made perceivable in their re-presentation in liturgy through the presentation of offerings by a representative person whose thanksgiving is made in identity with and on behalf of the entire congregation.

– James Mays

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Mary the true Israel

Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.”

Mary remained with her about three months
and then returned to her home.
(Luke 1:39-56)

Scripture Study

1:43 Even before his birth, Jesus is identified in Luke as the Lord.

1:45 Blessed are you who believed: Luke portrays Mary as a believer whose faith stands in contrast to the disbelief of Zechariah (Lk 1:20). Mary’s role as believer in the infancy narrative should be seen in connection with the explicit mention of her presence among “those who believed” after the resurrection at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:14).

1:46–55 Although Mary is praised for being the mother of the Lord and because of her belief, she reacts as the servant in a psalm of praise, the Magnificat. Because there is no specific connection of the canticle to the context of Mary’s pregnancy and her visit to Elizabeth, the Magnificat (with the possible exception of v 48) may have been a Jewish Christian hymn that Luke found appropriate at this point in his story. Even if not composed by Luke, it fits in well with themes found elsewhere in Luke: joy and exultation in the Lord; the lowly being singled out for God’s favor; the reversal of human fortunes; the fulfillment of Old Testament promises. The loose connection between the hymn and the context is further seen in the fact that a few Old Latin manuscripts identify the speaker of the hymn as Elizabeth, even though the overwhelming textual evidence makes Mary the speaker.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In her great Magnificat, Mary is the new Isaiah and the new Jeremiah and the new Ezekiel, for she announces with greatest clarity and joy the coming of the Messiah.

What was only vaguely foreseen in those great prophetic figures is now in clear focus: “He has shown the strength of his arm; he has scattered the proud in their conceit; he has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel, for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.” There is nothing stronger or more beautiful in any of the prophets.

Mary is the true Israel, she knows what to do and she does it with enthusiasm. No dawdling, back-pedaling, straying and complaining: she moves, she goes. And she goes upon the heights, which is exactly where God had always summoned Israel, so that it could be a light to the nations.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Dying to Self

As Jesus and his disciples were gathering in Galilee,
Jesus said to them,
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men,
and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.”
And they were overwhelmed with grief.

When they came to Capernaum,
the collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said,
“Does not your teacher pay the temple tax?”
“Yes,” he said.
When he came into the house, before he had time to speak,
Jesus asked him, “What is your opinion, Simon?
From whom do the kings of the earth take tolls or census tax?
From their subjects or from foreigners?”
When he said, “From foreigners,” Jesus said to him,
“Then the subjects are exempt.
But that we may not offend them, go to the sea, drop in a hook,
and take the first fish that comes up.
Open its mouth and you will find a coin worth twice the temple tax.
Give that to them for me and for you.
(Matthew 17:22-27)

Scripture Study

17:24 The temple tax: before the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in a.d. 70 every male Jew above nineteen years of age was obliged to make an annual contribution to its upkeep (cf. Ex 30:11–16; Neh 10:33). After the destruction the Romans imposed upon Jews the obligation of paying that tax for the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. There is disagreement about which period the story deals with.

17:25 From their subjects or from foreigners?: the Greek word here translated subjects literally means “sons.”

17:26 Then the subjects are exempt: just as subjects are not bound by laws applying to foreigners, neither are Jesus and his disciples, who belong to the kingdom of heaven, bound by the duty of paying the temple tax imposed on those who are not of the kingdom. If the Greek is translated “sons,” the freedom of Jesus, the Son of God, and of his disciples, children (“sons”) of the kingdom (cf. Mt 13:38), is even more clear.

17:27 That we may not offend them: though they are exempt (Mt 17:26), Jesus and his disciples are to avoid giving offense; therefore the tax is to be paid. A coin worth twice the temple tax: literally, “a stater,” a Greek coin worth two double drachmas. Two double drachmas were equal to the Jewish shekel and the tax was a half-shekel. For me and for you: not only Jesus but Peter pays the tax, and this example serves as a standard for the conduct of all the disciples.

Scripture Reflection

Jesus offers an important example of humility here. As God’s Son, he does not have to pay the temple tax. However, he pays it to avoid unnecessarily offending the collectors. There is nothing immoral in paying the tax and no larger religious principle is at stake. So rather than exert his rights, he humbly gives in to their request in order to build bridges with his opponents.

Imagine how much greater unity there would be in Christian marriages, families, parishes, and communities if people had the humble attitude of Jesus. In things nonessential, it is often better to give in to the preferences of others than to insist on one’s own opinion or way, even if we are convinced that we are right. Sometimes it is better to humbly die to self for the sake of unity with our spouse, friend, or colleague than to cause division by fighting vehemently for a position that in the end is not a serious matter. If Jesus was willing to give in to others rather than defend what was justly due to him, we should not do any less.

– Edward Sri

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Master of All

After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat
and precede him to the other side,
while he dismissed the crowds.
After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.
When it was evening he was there alone.
Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore,
was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.
“It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.
At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter said to him in reply,
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come.”
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter,
and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
After they got into the boat, the wind died down.
Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying,
“Truly, you are the Son of God.”
(Matthew 14:22-33)

Scripture Study

14:25 the fourth watch: The 12 hours of the night between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. were divided into four “watches” (cf. Mk 13:35). This event took place between 3 and 6 a.m. and suggests the disciples were battling the storm most of the night. walking on the sea:

14:27 it is I: Literally, “I am.” ● In light of his power over nature, Jesus’ statement may allude to God’s self-revelation at the burning bush (Ex 3:14; cf. Jn 8:58; 18:5, 6). Jesus thus goes beyond reassuring the disciples and claims for himself a divine identity and authority (14:33).

14:33 you are the Son of God: Anticipates the confessions of Jesus’ divinity by Peter (16:16) and the centurion (27:54).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus comes to his disciples walking on the sea. And he came at the darkest time of the night when they found themselves isolated and in danger.

God’s mastery of the sea is a Biblical commonplace. The spirit of the Lord hovered over the surface of the waters in Genesis; in Exodus, God splits the Red Sea in two. In the book of the prophet Isaiah, God is described as having conquered the monsters of the deep.

The water—especially the stormy water—represents all of the cosmic powers that oppose themselves to God, all those spiritual and physical forces that threaten the Church, most especially death itself. In walking on the water, Jesus shows that he is the master of all of these forces, that his power and authority are greater.

Paul says, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” John says concerning Christ, “I have conquered the world.”

And so Jesus comes to his Church precisely when it is threatened. “Behold, I am with you always, even until the close of the age.” The Lord accompanies his Church, coming to it and subduing the evil forces that surround it.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Little Faith

A man came up to Jesus, knelt down before him, and said,
“Lord, have pity on my son, who is a lunatic and suffers severely;
often he falls into fire, and often into water.
I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.”
Jesus said in reply,
“O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you?
How long will I endure you?
Bring the boy here to me.”
Jesus rebuked him and the demon came out of him,
and from that hour the boy was cured.
Then the disciples approached Jesus in private and said,
“Why could we not drive it out?”
He said to them, “Because of your little faith.
Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you will say to this mountain,
‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.
Nothing will be impossible for you.”
(Matthew 17:14-20)

Scripture Study

17:14–18 A man approached with great reverence and knelt down before Christ. This is the first time the word knelt is used in Matthew. He addresses Jesus with honor as Lord, and humbly begins his request by saying have pity on my son, echoing the petitions for divine assistance in the Psalms.

The man calls his son a lunatic, a word that means “moonstruck,” or affected by the moon, reflecting an ancient belief that the moon’s phases cause seizures in some people. The son has symptoms similar to the condition we call epilepsy, as he often falls into fire and water. The narrative later informs us that the source of this particular boy’s self-destructive behavior is not merely a physical ailment but demonic possession (17:18). Jesus rebuked him and the demon immediately came out of him.

The efficacy of Jesus’ word stands in contrast to the disciples’ inability to cure the man’s son (17:16), even though they had been given authority to heal the sick and expel demons (10:8). Jesus responds to this situation forcefully: O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you? He compares the present generation with the wayward Israelites in the desert whom Moses called a “perverse and crooked generation” (Deut 32:5 RSV) and “a perverse generation” whose children have “no faithfulness” (Deut 32:20 RSV)—the same critique leveled against the scribes and Pharisees in 12:38–39.

17:19–21 But against whom is Jesus’ critique directed? While some interpreters think it is the father and the people at large, the story’s emphasis on the disciples’ failure to expel the demon (17:16) and their “little faith” (17:20) seems to indicate it is Christ’s own followers who are the target of his lament. Jesus explains that they were unable to drive out the demon because of their little faith, which in Matthew refers to those given to anxiety because they do not trust God to provide for them.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today in our Gospel we meet a boy driven mad by a demon and the disciples could not heal him. They asked Jesus why they had failed, and he said, “Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

In all circumstances, you have to pray with faith. Have you noticed how Jesus, time and again, says to people before working a miracle, “Do you believe I can do this?” Once, Matthew tells us, Jesus was unable to perform many miracles because he was met with so little faith among the people.

Lots of people today, especially in the healing ministry, seem able to reproduce what Jesus did, precisely because of the purity of their faith. Is part of our problem simply a lack of faith? We allow our skepticism to get the better of us; we’re just a little embarrassed by asking God for things, or we’re convinced that he is a distant power only vaguely connected to our lives. But God is far greater than that.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.