Sunday, June 30, 2013

Gospel Reflection

June 30, 2013
Sunday – Year of Faith – Ordinary Time
by Rev. Fr. Jim Ferry (San Carlos Pastoral Formation Complex EDSA, Guadalupe, Makati)
4:30PM Anticipated Sunday Mass at Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel, Greenbelt, Makati

Reading 1 1 Kgs 19:16b, 19-21

The LORD said to Elijah: “You shall anoint Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah, as prophet to succeed you.”

Elijah set out and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat, as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen; he was following the twelfth. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak over him. Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you.” Elijah answered, “Go back! Have I done anything to you?” Elisha left him, and taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to his people to eat. Then Elisha left and followed Elijah as his attendant.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

R. (cf. 5a) You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.”
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence
because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.

Reading 2 Gal 5:1, 13-18

Brothers and sisters: For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.

For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.

I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want. But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Gospel Lk 9:51-62

When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him.  On the way they entered a Samaritan village  to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.  When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?”  Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.

As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”  Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”

And to another he said, “Follow me.”  But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”  But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead.  But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”  To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”


This Solemnity of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul is so important in the church that we are allowed to celebrate it even at this hour at 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon, and still you will fulfill your Sunday obligation. Because when we consider this feast, there is one particular center point that affects each and everyone of us, just as it affected the life of Peter and Paul. And you and I must live out the consequence of that particular gift that has been given to us. 

And it is summed up in the Readings and the beautiful Responsorial Psalm, and then in Gospel. And what is that word? Both Peter and Paul had faith in Jesus. As a consequence of their own final rejection of sin, they had a pure gift from God - the gift to believe in Jesus. And how difficult it must have been for the Apostles to believe in Jesus. As Peter proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God - unless Peter thinks that he is very brilliant and he has arrived at this answer by himself - Jesus immediately says to him, 'Peter, what you have proclaimed is a consequence of the act of My Father's revealing love. It is He who reveals to you that I am the Messiah.' And Peter lived that out in faith now. He no longer denied Jesus. He no longer bowed his head and shed his tears, like the time when he realized that he abandoned Jesus to His enemies. It was a moment of lack of faith. And the consequence of that was Peter could not look at Jesus face-to-face. And Luke tells us that Jesus looked on Peter with love, and Peter saw that love. Peter had the wonderful gift of contrition - sorrow for sin. 

Look at Paul. He was a persecutor for many, many years. He was the one who witnessed the death of Saint Steven. Perhaps he even participated in the stoning of Saint Steven. We know from Scripture that he was there. Then came a moment in his life when he couldn't look at God and He fell down because of the splendor of the light. And then he hears the voice, "Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" Paul, blinded by the sight, speaks out, "Who are you?" And the Lord speaks the Word, "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting."

In darkness, Peter is led to light. He makes that act of faith in Jesus and he can say, 'May the name of each and every one of us acknowledge Christ as Messiah, Christ as Savior, Christ as the One who reveals to us the tremendous love of God." It is God's grace, God's gift, and yet, on our part, because of that gift of free will, we must make a choice. And so Jesus says to us in the Gospel, and speaking to us in Greenbelt this afternoon, 'People of Greenbelt, who do you say that I am?" We might say we believe that He is Jesus, the Savior. But Christ is asking something even deeper. Does our faith call us constantly to good works? Does that faith constantly call us to follow Jesus? Does that faith constantly call us to turn away from those situations of darkness that pushes Christ away? In those moments, do we live out our faith? 

It's so easy for us to respond to that question. Remember that at the moment after the Resurrection, Jesus asked Peter three times, "Peter, do you love Me?" And three times Peter said, "Lord, You know that I love You." And the consequence of that faith in Jesus and the consequence of that love was that Peter was to feed the lambs of Jesus. It was to tend the lambs of Jesus. It was to care for the lambs of Jesus. He was called to live out his faith in love, and express love in service. 

And what is Paul saying? Having confessed Jesus and having been designated by Jesus to be the Apostle to those people who were not Jews, what is he saying today? I have fought a good fight. I have fought against sin. I have remained faithful to the Gospel of Jesus, not by my power, but by His. Paul made a choice. He accepted the choice. And the wonderful consequence of that is, when Paul looks back at his life, he can say that he has sincerely tried to remain faithful to Jesus. 

Jesus asks us - do we love Him? Do our actions show? Do we have the strength of Peter to go about, and when people claim that he can raise people from the dead and he is a miracle worker, he says, 'No, it's not my power. It's the power of Christ, the power of the One you crucified, the power of the One who has risen from the dead, the power that does not come from me. It is Jesus.' Do we acknowledge that in our own lives, when we happen to experience something good that happens to another because we are present? Or do we silently congratulate ourselves and say, 'I am a miracle worker'? Or do we immediately say, 'No, it is Christ who works through me.'

Saints Peter and Paul - these two men testified their love and fidelity and expressed it up to their moments of death. And the whole church today, when we hear Jesus say to Peter, 'You are rock,', we say to Peter that he had the gift of faith, and on that faith - the faith that will lead Peter to suffering to honor Jesus - I found my church. What Jesus is saying to us is, unless we believe, unless we take out that free will, we are not signs of the Church. We are not signs of Jesus' presence in the world. 

And who today is the successor of Peter? It is Pope Francis - bishop of Rome, as was Peter. Pope Francis is the one who gives us that example of stability, of fidelity, of openness, and in his own lifestyle, this wonderful consciousness of the poor. Even today, if you read the newspaper, Pope Francis is saying that we must be people who empty ourselves of everything, in order that we may truly be a church of the poor. But it does not happen overnight. It's a life-long struggle. But it's a struggle that we do not take on ourselves alone. Jesus is with us. He has given us that faith, the foundation to believe, and the love that enables us to bring that belief through action. So that finally, maybe one day, you and I can say, 'We have fought a good fight, and there is, for me, the Kingdom of Heaven, a reward. And that reward is to be embraced for all eternity in the arms of a loving and a forgiving God." 

Keep that faith, the faith that we receive from Jesus. And the way we express that faith is in our love and forgiveness and service to one another. That's why we celebrate this Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. They give us good examples. They strengthen us, so that we, too, can witness to Jesus as people of faith. 

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