12 September 2012

'You are the Christ.' Sunday Reflections, 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Saint Peter, El Greco, painted 1610-13
[Web Gallery of Art]

Readings(New American Bible: Philippines, USA) 

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa) 

Gospel Mark 8:27-35 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

And Jesus went on with his disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do men say that I am?" And they told him, "John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others one of the prophets." And he asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Christ." And he charged them to tell no one about him. And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter, and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men." And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. 

Scripture commentary on readings by Fr Martin McNamara MSC here.

Our Father sung in Syriac, a form of Aramaic used by Christians that is the official liturgical language of the Maronite Church.

Pope Benedict is making an apostolic journey to Lebanon this weekend, 14-16 September. About 40 percent of Lebanon's population of about 4,250,000 are Christians and more than half of these are Maronite Catholics. These trace their origins to St Maron, a fifth century monk. They have always been in fully communion with the Catholic Church and, unlike other Easter churches, have no Orthodox counterpart.

Statue of St Maron, St Peter's Basilica, Rome

Though the Holy Father will be visiting Lebanon only his journey is a follow up to the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops held in the Vatican in October 2010.

The Middle East has experienced much conflict. Lebanon went through a civil war from from 1975 till 1990, ending on 13 October that year. While none of the current or recent conflicts are anti-Christian as such, Christians have on occasion found themselves being asked in a very direct and violent way, 'But who do you say that I am?' Some have given St Peter's answer, 'You are the Christ' with their lives. They include Fr Ragheed Ganni and Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul, Iraq.

Fr Ragheed Ganni (20 January 1972 - 3 June 2007)

Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, (20 November 1942 - February or March 2008)
[Photo: Assyrian International News Agency]

Pope Benedict's message to the people of Lebanon and the Middle East (9 September 2012) here.

On Sunday 21 October Pope Benedict will canonise a number of new saints. Among them will be Blessed Pedro Calungsod, a Filipino catechist martyred in Guam in 1672 when he was maybe 17 or 18, and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, of Mohawk-Algonquin parentage, born in what is now New York State, who died eight years later in what is now Canada aged 24. Both said very clearly 'You are the Christ', Blessed Pedro by his martyrdom and Blessed Kateri, 'The Lily of the Mohawks, by her life of penance and prayers. Read more about them in The Palm Branch and the Lily.

Here is what Blessed John Paul II said about Blessed Pedro at his beatification on 5 March 2000: [highlighting added]] "If anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven" (Mt 10: 32). From his childhood, Pedro Calungsod declared himself unwaveringly for Christ and responded generously to his call. Young people today can draw encouragement and strength from the example of Pedro, whose love of Jesus inspired him to devote his teenage years to teaching the faith as a lay catechist. Leaving family and friends behind, Pedro willingly accepted the challenge put to him by Fr Diego de San Vitores to join him on the Mission to the Chamorros. In a spirit of faith, marked by strong Eucharistic and Marian devotion, Pedro undertook the demanding work asked of him and bravely faced the many obstacles and difficulties he met. In the face of imminent danger, Pedro would not forsake Fr Diego, but as a "good soldier of Christ" preferred to die at the missionary's side. Today Bl. Pedro Calungsod intercedes for the young, in particular those of his native Philippines, and he challenges them. Young friends, do not hesitate to follow the example of Pedro, who "pleased God and was loved by him" (Wis 4: 10) and who, having come to perfection in so short a time, lived a full life (cf. ibid., v. 13). 

Only known portrait from life of Catherine Tekakwitha, circa 1690 by Father Chauchetière

After Blessed John Paul II beatified Kateri Tekakwitha in 1980 he spoke to the North American Indians who had gone to Rome for the occasion: [highlighting added]  But today is also a day of great happiness for the Church throughout the world. All of us are inspired by the example of this young woman of faith who died three centuries ago this year. We are all edified by her complete trust in the providence of God, and we are encouraged by her joyful fidelity to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. In a true sense, the whole Church, together with you, declares in the words of Saint Paul: "Glory be to him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine; glory be to him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever". (Eph. 3:20-21 ) The Church has declared to the world that Kateri Tekakwitha is blessed, that she lived a life on earth of exemplary holiness and that she is now a member in heaven of the Communion of Saints who continually intercede with the merciful Father on our behalf.

H.er beatification should remind us that we are all called to a life of holiness, for in Baptism, God has chosen each one of us "to be holy and spotless and to live through love in his presence". (Eph. 1:4) Holiness of life-union with Christ through prayer and works of charity - is not something reserved to a select few among the members of the Church. It is the vocation of everyone.

My brothers and sisters, may you be inspired and encouraged by the life of Blessed Kateri. Look to her for an example of fidelity; see in her a model of purity and love; turn to her in prayer for assistance. May God bless you as He blessed her. May God bless all the North American Indians of Canada and the United States.

Jesus continues to ask each of us, But who do you say I am? He calls each of us to say You are the Christ by the life we lead. And he calls individuals in every part of the world, of every age, bishops, priests, lay persons, to be outstanding models who can encourage all of us,:persons like Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, a north American Indian, Blessed Pedro Calungsod, from one of the Visayan islands in the centre of the Philippines - we're not even sure which one - along with Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho and his secretary Fr Ragheed Ganni, an engineer who became a priest, martyred in Iraq in 2007 and 2008.

Each of these answered, You are the Christ. These all made their own the words of St Ignatius of Loyola.

Take and receive, O Lord, my liberty
Take all my will, my mind, my memory
All things I hold and all I own are Thine
Thine was the gift, to Thee I all resign.

Do Thou direct and govern all and sway
Do what Thou wilt, command, and I obey
Only Thy grace, Thy love on me bestow
These make me rich, all else will I forego.

(Translation and music by Fr Manuel Francisco SJ).


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