We all look for the answers to the big (and little) questions about life and living—most of us trying to understand the whys and the whats in any situation in which we find ourselves. Like: “What are we doing here?” “Why are we here?” “Why is this happening?” “What does this all mean?” Today (the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time) Christ asks Peter a big question: “…who do you say I am?” Peter answers the question with the truth: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Here is truly a big question and an answer!
Saint Pope John Paul II wrote: “we need now more than ever to look the truth in the eye and call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception.” In this world of the little white lie, the half-truth, the shading of the truth, the “spin” of the truth, it is refreshing to see Peter answer Christ in the way he did. No prevaricating, no rose-colored glasses, no avoidance—just the plain truth in response. It is always a joy to come upon any person who is committed to being truthful: to naming things as they are without some personal agenda for the outcome—with no spin on any situation for personal profit.
Today we, as confessed and Baptised Christians, are asked (like Peter) this same question by Jesus: “Who do you say I am?” As believers we are called to authenticity and truth—a hallmark of our faith in Christ. And we answer this question by our every day truth in deeds and words, by what we say and what we do; by how we say and do it; by our priorities and our choices. We are called to Community with all that this implies: in considering others first before ourselves; in sacrifice and love; in care and kindness and mercy—to live beyond our individualism, selfish wants and pursuits.
We hear today in Isaiah that God bestows the “key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open.” It is authority that is conferred on Eliakim and this is also what occurs in the Gospel when Jesus tells Peter he will give him “the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” How we answer the Gospel question binds us all for good or evil because by our Baptism we too, have been given the keys to the kingdom.
Simon names Jesus as Christ and he changes and becomes Peter and is given the “keys.” Peter is more now than his failings, his sins, his sorrows, his hopelessness, his anger. In his new identity he has the support, love and reconciliation of Christ. He can look at himself in the mirror and call it like it is, and he can ask for forgiveness, and the grace and strength to be transformed. In conforming ourselves to Jesus (a continuing process), our lives must change profoundly; we must be converted and transformed, we must all be the rock upon which the church is built.
So, when confronted with this important question: “Who do you say I am?” Peter should inspire us to always answer with “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” People around us should hear this as our answer by who we are and what we do, by our commitment to the truth, by our love, and beyond ‘justice’ to mercy. This is a big question for us—and I pray we all answer with the truth of Christ to all, and in all things and situations. Keep the questioning, and the answer…and the truth. Who is Jesus to you?
Keep singing in your hearts!
Just a note:
A Psalm in Summer
I strain my ear to hear your voice, O, Lord.
My heart holds silent as it can when anxious thoughts assail.
Where are you in these moments full of doubt --
These days of questioning my very faith?
There! I hear you, God!
I hear you sing in rustling leaves and chirping birds --
In swaying grass caught by a gentle breeze.
You speak my name in every sound that wafts across the summer air.
And every song you sing says, “I am here, and you are mine!”
by Marion van der Loo
FYI the first 5 minutes are preview. We like to go live a little early to ensure there are no technical glitches.
Today is Monday—and my “Sing Praise” article is due (the deadline for next Sunday). I am feeling just a bit worn out; there are many home projects and work projects started and not yet finished—quarantine busy-ness, yes, but needed to be accomplished. We all know our nemesis is time, and we feel guilty not making the most of what we have—however you define “the most.” I know I am a bit worn from “The New Carpet Project.” New carpeting up and down in the house means everything had to be moved, cleaned (after culling--why have I been keeping this?)—then after throwing out, donating or keeping, it needed cleaning before putting it back…including my grand piano ($175.00 to move it 35 feet to the back room, and another $175.00 to move it back to the front room—worth it!). I also did the covid-gardening thing; resetting all the brick borders on all the gardens, planting, weeding, watering. Trying to make the most. I have been sanding my deck for weeks,,,waiting for cooler weather to be able to paint it, and last week was the window to do so.
At work (St. Aidan) I am re-organizing our Music Ministry library, up-dating our data base, cleaning, tuning and repairing instruments, practicing new pieces for interest at mass, and doing some hopeful long-range planning for a (somewhat) distant future for ensemble music at mass—just wanting to be ready and prepared for when we are safe to sing together again. Feeling a bit worn and a bit lacking in inspiration today, I decided to reprint an old article to which, I know that I, myself, need pay more attention. What does all this busy-ness have to do with the Scripture for today (this Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time)?
Last week we heard Jesus say to Peter: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” At times we are all just like Peter; we doubt when God seems far from us and when we see no way clear in trouble—like our current pandemic. And like the “foreign” (Caananite) woman in the Gospel, we must persist in our faith and in our trust in God. This is always easier said than done, especially when we are burdened by trouble, injustice, economic worry, sin and hardship!
I found this guideline (originally sent by a friend) to be a comfort when I re-read it, reminding me to trust God in all things. It speaks of “letting go and letting God.” I know I am worrying about the economic situation, about justice and illness in our world, and what a new normal might mean for us. I know that sometimes I keep busy trying to not focus and think about the upheaval and up-ending of our world (I bet you do that, too). Isaiah tells us today that God says: “Observe what is right, do what is just…” and God promises that His house will be a house of prayer for all peoples. In the Gospel we hear from Jesus that by our faith we will be saved. Let go, and let God.
I thought it would be worth it to have a re-fresher of these guidelines: good advice in the midst of all that is happening right now, so here they are… in the meantime, Keep Singing in your hearts!
THE TEN GUIDELINES OF GOD (Reprint)
1. QUIT WORRYING: Life has dealt you a blow and all you do is sit and worry. Have you forgotten that I am here to take all your burdens and carry them for you? Or do you just enjoy fretting over every little thing that comes your way?
2. PUT IT ON THE LIST: Something needs done or taken care of. Put it on the list. No, not YOUR list. Put it on MY to-do-list. Let ME be the one to take care of the problem. I can't help you until you turn it over to Me. And although My to-do-list is long, I am after all... God. I can take care of anything you put into My hands. In fact, if the truth were ever really known, I take care of a lot of things for you that you never even realize.
3. TRUST ME: Once you've given your burdens to Me, quit trying to take them back. Trust in Me. Have the faith that I will take care of all your needs, your problems and your trials. Problems with the kids, with the finances, with your emotional roller coaster? MY list! I want to help you. All you have to do is ask!
4. LEAVE IT ALONE: Don't wake up one morning and say, "Well, I'm feeling much stronger now, I think I can handle it from here." Why do you think you are feeling stronger now? It's simple. You gave Me your burdens and I'm taking care of them. I also renew your strength and cover you in my peace. Don't you know that if I give you these problems back, you will be right back where you started? Leave them with Me and forget about them. Just let Me do my job.
5. TALK TO ME: I want you to forget a lot of things. Forget what was making you crazy. Forget the worry and the fretting because you know I'm in control. But there is one thing I pray you never forget. Please, don't forget to talk to Me - OFTEN! I love YOU! I want to hear your voice. I want you to include Me in on the things going on in your life. I want to hear you talk about your friends and family. Prayer is simply you having a conversation with Me. I want to be your dearest friend.
6. HAVE FAITH: I see a lot of things from up here that you can't see from where you are. Have faith in Me that I know what I'm doing. Trust Me; you wouldn't want the view from My eyes. I will continue to care for you, watch over you, and meet your needs. You only have to trust Me. Although I have a much bigger task than you, it seems as if you have so much trouble just doing your simple part. How hard can trust be?
7. SHARE: You were taught to share when you were only two years old. When did you forget? That rule still applies. Share with those who are less fortunate than you. Share your joy with those who need encouragement. Share your laughter with those who haven't heard any in such a long time. Share your tears with those who have forgotten how to cry. Share your faith with those who have none, and with those who worship me differently.
8. BE PATIENT: I managed to fix it so in just one lifetime you could have so many diverse experiences. You grow from a child to an adult, have children, change jobs many times, learn many trades, travel to so many places, meet thousands of people, and experience so much. How can you be so impatient then when it takes Me a little longer than you expect to handle something on My to-do-list? Trust in My timing, for My timing is perfect. Just because I created the entire universe in only six days, everyone thinks I should always rush, rush, rush.
9. BE KIND: Be kind to others, for I love them just as much as I love you. They may not dress like you, or talk like you, or live the same way you do, but I still love you all. Please try to get along, for My sake. I created each of you to be different in some way. It would be too boring if you were all identical. Please, know I love each of your differences.
10. LOVE YOURSELF: As much as I love you, how can you not love yourself? You were created by me for one reason only—to be loved, and to love in return. I am a God of Love. Love Me. Love your neighbors, but also love yourself. It makes My heart ache when I see you angry with yourself when things go wrong. You are very precious to me.
Don't ever forget...
Today, the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we hear in the First Reading (Old Testament) from the Book of I Kings that the Prophet Elijah hears God’s voice as a whisper. He has just experienced the glory and power and might of God’s creation, expects to find God in this power, and yet instead, Elijah hears God’s voice in the quiet.
Thinking about quiet and about listening is a large part of my life as a musician. Our work is about creating sound in silence; to communicate directly to other spirits whatever needs to be said. Quiet—silence—is a necessary part of any piece of music. The silences (rests) in music frame the sound for clearer hearing and understanding of the music’s message. How many of us have white noise playing in the background of our busy lives? The constant noise blocks out a whisper. Do we truly listen, or are we using “noisy business” to block out some unbidden, unwelcome obligation?
We live like the earthquakes, the winds and the fires described in Kings, today. Lots of noise, lots of distraction. We don't seem to find time to stop and listen to God, or each other. Our freneticism calls us to be, and depends on us being like jugglers: juggling spouses, children, parents, family time, work, money, spiritual growth, exercise, jobs, chores,..all important things and vying loudly for attention. If we lose our rhythm and focus, all ends up in chaos—like a juggler dropping his juggled objects—creating chaos in our life. But God does not call us to be jugglers, He calls us to be people of balance and to Listen for His voice.
Psalm 46:10 charts out the path for a rewarding life: “Be still and know that I am the Lord.” The problem with us is that we are not still long enough to know that God really is the Lord of all our existence—not just in our church activity—but in our marriages and families, our businesses and friends, our money and health, and anything else we wish to add to that list. We need to remember that we are not our own─that we are made by God, for God.
Teresa of Avila (Spain, 1515-1582) said: “How is it, my God, that you have given me this hectic busy life when I have so little time to enjoy your presence...”
In the Gospel today Jesus walks on the water and calls Peter to Him to do the same. Peter’s faith falters and he begins to sink in the waves, and he cries: “Lord, save me!” Jesus does for Peter as he always does for us; he stretches out his hand to hold us up. He stills the storm, He tells us to take courage and to ‘Be Not Afraid.’ First though, it is important to be still, in order to be able to hear the whisper of God’s voice in our hearts. And as usual, it’s all about our priorities, our choices.
Find some quiet time to think and pray about the priorities in your life. Is God first? Do you take the time to hear God whisper to you? We are facing the end of the summer season and as always our pace picks up—even in the midst of a global pandemic and lockdown school begins, activities need to be scheduled—and our lives become noisier. The Lord is here and speaks to us. Let us in the stillness of our hearts pray that we may have the consciousness of His presence and listen to His voice. Let us in the stillness of our hearts pray that God will reveal to us the things that hinder our quiet and our peace. May your prayer of listening be attuned to sacred silence and deepen enough to hear the voice of God in your hearts and minds.
Keep singing in your hearts! And please listen carefully…
Just a Note: Mrs. Laura Herrod listened to the Camden Singers link I printed out in a recent article and shared with me another link that she was led to by it. It is an arrangement of “How Can I Keep From Singing” a thought that enters my heart and mind a lot in these times. It is performed on zoom by a NYC choir and orchestra, and it brought me to tears while listening.
Thanks for this, Laura!
David J. Conrad, M.A. Theology. Our Director of Faith Formation.