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STS CLETUS AND MARCELLINUS – “HEALTH AND APOSTOLIC BENEDICTION”

STS CLETUS AND MARCELLINUS – “HEALTH AND APOSTOLIC BENEDICTION”

Sts Cletus and Marcellinus, Popes and Martyrs; [Memorial: April 26]

Cletus, a Roman, governed the Church when Vespian and Titus were emperors. By order of the Prince of the Apostles he ordained twenty-five priests in the City. He was the first who used the salutation in his letters: “Health and Apostolic benediction.” He put the Church in admirable order and, while Domitian was emperor, in the second persecution after that of Nero, he was crowned with martyrdom and was buried in the Vatican, near the body of St Peter.

Marcellinus, a Roman, ruled the Church in the frightful persecution of the Emperor Diocletian. He suffered many hardships from the unjust severity of those who reproached him. This blessed Pope was beheaded for confessing the faith, together with three other Christians, Claudius, Cyrinus and Antonius.

Prayer

Eternal Shepherd, look with favour upon your flock. Shelter and safeguard it for evermore through blessed Cletus and Marcellinus, Martyrs and Supreme Pontiffs, whom you constituted shepherds of the whole Church. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

– From: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964

 

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ST MICHAEL, ARCHANGEL – DEFENDER OF GOD’S PEOPLE FROM OF OLD

Both in the Old and the New Testament, the holy Archangel Michael is called the “guardian angel of the people of God”. He is also honoured as the “Herald of the General Judgment” and the “Guardian of Paradise”. It is his office to lead all the elect into the Kingdom of Eternal Glory.

Defender and leader of God’s people in Paradise

The world’s history is replete with instances of St Michael’s solicitude for the children of men during the time of their earthly pilgrimage. He began to fulfil his office as defender and leader of God’s people in the Garden of Paradise. St Ambrose says that God commissioned St Michael to lead Adam into Paradise, to explain to him the purpose of his creation, to guide him and to associate with him in visible form. After the fall of Adam and Eve, this same glorious Archangel stood guard at the gate of Paradise with flaming sword, “to keep the way of the tree of life” (Gen 3:24).

The Fathers of the Church tell us that even though in many instances the name of St Michael is not mentioned in Holy Scripture, when reference is made to the services of an angel, we may confidently believe that it was either St Michael himself who rendered assistance, or his angelic subjects, who did so at his command.

Important missions

They speculate that it may have been St Michael who warned Noe [Noah] of the coming flood, and that it was through St Michael that Abraham was named the father of the chosen people and received that wonderful promise which Holy Church has immortalised in her prayers for the dead: “May the holy standard-bearerMichael, introduce them into that holy light which thou didst promise of old to Abraham and his descendants.”

The Angel who appeared to Moses in the burning bush (Ex 3:2) was St Michael, according to the teaching of St Gregory Nazianzen. It was this mighty Angel who performed the wonders which took place at the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, and through whom God gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites on Mount Sinai. Likewise, the Angel who routed the army of Sennacherib (4 [2] Kings 19:35) was the holy Archangel Michael.

After the death of Moses, according to an ancient Jewish tradition to which St Jude refers to in his Epistle (Jude 1:9), St Michael concealed the tomb of Moses from the people, and also from Satan, who wished to disclose it to the Israelites to seduce them thereby to the sin of false worship.

God revealed to St Michael the designs of His justice and mercy regarding His chosen people. Of this the prophecies of Daniel and Zacharias bear witness. Finally, it was this great celestial prince who aided the Israelites and rendered the army of Judas Macchabeus victorious over their enemies.

(Even to this day the Jews invoke the holy Archangel Michael as the principal defender of the Synagogue and their protector against enemies. On the Feast of the Atonement they conclude their prayers with this beautiful invocation: “Michael, Prince of Mercy, pray for Israel, that it may reign in Heaven, in that light which streams forth from the face of the King who sits upon the throne of mercy.”)

Protector of the Church

Just as the chosen people of the Old Law were marvellously protected by St Michael, so we may believe that this same prince of Heaven protects the Church of God even more wonderfully. Under the New Law, as under the Old, St Michael is the “Vicar of the Most High and the Prince of His people,” ever prepared to render assistance. The Fathers of the Church are of one mind in teaching that St Michael is the guardian angel and the protector of the Catholic Church.

Time and again, in centuries past, St Michael came to the rescue when dreadful wars and persecutions threatened to destroy Christianity. He it was who, at the command of Mary, Queen of Angels, came to the assistance of Constantine the Great in the fourth century and helped his forces to gain a brilliant victory over the pagan Emperor Maxentius. The Archangel himself revealed his identity in this instance. Appearing to Constantine after the completion of a beautiful church, which the latter had erected in his honour in gratitude, he said: “I am Michael, the chief of the angelic legions of the Lord of hosts, the protector of the Christian religion, who while you were battling against godless tyrants, placed the weapons in your hands.” This famous edifice, generally known as the Michaelion, has been the scene of many miracles wrought through the great Archangel.

Many miracles

Later, St Michael proved himself a powerful protector against invasion. The Greek Emperor Justinian erected six churches in his honour, in grateful recognition of his assistance. St Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans, who in the fifteenth century saved France, ascribed her vocation and her victories to St Michael. Three times he appeared to her and informed her that she was called to deliver her country. In the sixteenth century, when it seemed that the Turks (Muslims fighting under the Turkish sultan) would conquer all Europe, St Michael at the command of the Blessed Virgin again championed the cause of the Christian (Catholic) Faith, and a glorious victory was gained over the infidels at the Battle of Lepanto.

Thus has St Michael proved himself a valiant warrior for the honour of God, both in Heaven and on earth. And he still wages incessant war with the archfiend Satan in the great Kingdom of God on earth, the Church.

Victorious St Michael

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich was reputed to have had visions of the past and future combats of the Church. Repeatedly she saw St Michael, in the form of a warrior, standing above the Church, replacing his bloodstained sword in its scabbard as a sign of victory. She was also shown how, in the present-day struggles of the Church, St Michael would bring about a most glorious victory. This thought should be consoling to all faithful Christians who view with alarm the many shafts of persecution now being directed against the Church.

Pope Leo XIII, realising by divine enlightenment the present and future struggles of the Church against the powers of Hell, felt convinced that through the intervention of St Michael, Hell would be conquered and the Church restored to peace and liberty. He therefore composed a prayer in honour of this warrior Archangel and ordered it to be recited daily after low Mass in all the churches throughout the Christian world.

It is said that one day, having celebrated the Holy Sacrifice, the aged Pontiff was in conference with the Cardinals. Suddenly, he sank to the floor in a deep swoon. Physicians who hastened to his side feared that he had already expired, for they could find no trace of his pulse. However, after a short interval the Holy Father rallied and, opening his eyes, exclaimed with great emotion: “Oh, what a horrible picture I was permitted to see!” He had been shown in spirit the tremendous activities of the evil spirits and their ravings against the Church. But in the midst of this vision of horror, he had also beheld consoling visions of the glorious Archangel Michael, who had appeared and cast Satan and his legions back into the abyss of Hell. Soon afterwards, he composed the well-known prayer: “St Michael, the Archangel, defend us in the battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and the snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray…”

The Church has special need of St Michael’s powerful protection in our times. On all sides she is assailed by strong and bitter enemies. In one country after another, religious persecution rises to an ever higher pitch of hatred and insolence. The terrible crimes which have been committed in recent times, and are still being committed against the Church, both in her sanctuaries and against her members, surely are instigated by the devil. No human mind could be base enough to conceive and put them into execution.

The gates of Hell shall never prevail

We know that the gates of Hell shall never prevail against the Church, for our Lord has promised to be with her till the End of Time, but we must do our part in defending her cause. God might have cast the rebel down into Hell by a single act of His Will, but he chose rather to send against them His armies of loyal spirits under the leadership of the great St Michael. So too, in the present critical times, He could confound the enemies of the Church by merely willing to do so. But He wills, rather, that we should cooperate in her defence under the leadership of the Great Captain of the heavenly hosts.

– From: ‘Neath St Michael’s Shield, Fifth Edition, 1962

 

 

 

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THE DEVIL IS NOT TOSSING FLOWERS AT US, BUT FLAMING ARROWS

Christian life is a daily battle against the Devil

“Christian life is a constant battle against the Devil, who really exists and is not the stuff of legend, Pope Francis said in a homily last week.

The battle is not easy, because the Evil One’s traps and temptations are many, and ‘the Devil is not tossing flowers at us’, but ‘flaming arrows’ aimed to kill, the Pope said at a morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives.

There are three ‘enemies of Christian life’, Pope Francis said: ‘The Devil, the world and the flesh’, in other words, the carnal passions that are ‘the wounds of Original Sin’.

‘But this generation, and many others, made people think that the Devil was a myth, a character, an idea, the concept of evil,’ the Pope said, according to Vatican Radio.

‘The Devil exists and we have to fight against him. Paul says so – I’m not the one saying it. The word of God says it,’ the Pope added, referring to the day’s reading from St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians (6:10-20), which calls on believers to ‘stand firm against the tactics of the Devil’.

Even believers ‘are not too convinced’ the Devil exists, he said, or else ‘we are a bit lazy in the fight and we let ourselves be led by our passions, by temptations. It’s because we are sinners – all of us… However, do not be discouraged. [Have] courage and strength because the Lord is with us’ and supplies all we need for battle, the Pope said.

Because the Devil is ‘the father of lies, the father of deception’, Christians must arm themselves with the ‘armour of God – the truth’.

Earlier in the week hundreds of exorcists gathered in Rome for a convention organised by the International Association of Exorcists. In a message Francis said their work showed the Church’s care for ‘those who suffer because of the work of the Devil’.”

– This article was published in the Catholic Herald newspaper, issue November 7 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).

 
 

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THEY DENY THAT THERE IS ANY SUCH THING AS HOLY SCRIPTURE, THEY SEE ONLY THE FORGERIES OF MEN

“We must now, Venerable Brethren, as Our purpose demands, impart to you such counsels as seem best suited for carrying on successfully the study of biblical science.

What are the opponents’ tactics and weapons?

But first it must be clearly understood whom we have to oppose and contend against, and what are their tactics and their arms. In earlier times the contest was chiefly with those who, relying on private judgment and repudiating the divine traditions and teaching office of the Church, held the Scriptures to be the one source of revelation and the final appeal in matters of Faith.

Rejecting even scraps and remnants of Christian belief

Now, we have to meet the Rationalists, true children and inheritors of the older heretics, who, trusting in their turn to their own way of thinking, have rejected even the scraps and remnants of Christian belief which had been handed down to them.

To them, the miracles and wonders of God’s power are not what they are

They deny that there is any such thing as revelation or inspiration, or Holy Scripture at all; they see, instead, only the forgeries and the falsehoods of men. They set down the Scripture narratives as stupid fables and lying stories: the prophecies and the oracles of God are to them either predictions made up after the event or forecasts formed by the light of nature; the miracles and the wonders of God’s power are not what they are said to be, but the startling effects of natural law, or else mere tricks and myths; and the apostolic Gospels and writings not the work of the Apostles at all.

Human attempts to take God out of the equation

These detestable errors, whereby they think they destroy the truth of the divine Books, are obtruded on the world as the peremptory pronouncements of a certain newly-invented ‘free science;’ a science, however, which is so far from final that they are perpetually modifying and supplementing it.

Man-made “free science”, so far from final that it gets changed constantly

And there are some of them who, notwithstanding their impious opinions and utterances about God, and Christ, the Gospels and the rest of Holy Scripture, would fain be considered theologians and Christians and men of the Gospel, and who attempt to disguise by such honourable names their rashness and their pride. To them we must add not a few professors of other sciences who approve their views and give them assistance, and are urged to attack the Bible by a similar intolerance of revelation.

Disguising rashness and pride; striving for human acclaim

And it is deplorable to see these attacks growing every day more numerous and more severe. It is sometimes men of learning and judgment who are assailed; but these have little difficulty in defending themselves from evil consequences. The efforts and the arts of the enemy are chiefly directed against the more ignorant masses of the people.

The spread of the deadly poison

They diffuse their deadly poison by means of books, pamphlets, and newspapers; they spread it by addresses and by conversation; they are found everywhere; and they are in possession of numerous schools, taken by violence from the Church, in which, by ridicule and scurrilous jesting, they pervert the credulous and unformed minds of the young to the contempt of Holy Scripture.

Champions that are needed in this momentous battle 

Should not these things, Venerable Brethren, stir up and set on fire the heart of every Pastor, so that to this ‘knowledge, falsely so called’ may be opposed the ancient and true science which the Church, through the Apostles, has received from Christ, and that Holy Scripture may find the champions that are needed in so momentous a battle?”

– From the Encyclical Letter Providentissimus Deus, 18th November 1893 (Pope Leo XIII) [headings in bold added afterwards]

 

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TODAY’S GOSPEL READING (MATTHEW 16:13-20)

(21. Sunday in Ordinary Time)

YOU ARE PETER, AND I WILL GIVE YOU THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.

And Jesus came into the quarters of Cesarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is?

But they said: Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am?

Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.

And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven.

And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.

Then he commanded his disciples, that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ.

V. The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 
 

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TODAY’S BIBLE READING I (ISAIAH 22:19-23)

(21. Sunday in Ordinary Time)

I PLACE THE KEY OF THE HOUSE OF DAVID UPON HIS SHOULDER.

And I will drive thee out from thy station, and depose thee from thy ministry.

And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliacim the son of Helcias,

And I will clothe him with thy robe, and will strengthen him with thy girdle, and will give thy power into his hand: and he shall be as a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Juda.

And I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder: and he shall open, and none shall shut: and he shall shut, and none shall open.

And I will fasten him as a peg in a sure place, and he shall be for a throne of glory to the house of his father.

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

 
 

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“FOR US ST PETER, AND HIS SUCCESSORS, IS THE SIGN OF THE UNITY OF THE FOLLOWERS OF JESUS”

“One of the saints that we celebrate in our solemnity today is St Peter. We recall that Jesus said to St Peter, ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.’ (Mt 16:18-19)

For us St Peter, and his successors, is the sign of the unity of the followers of Jesus. St Cyprian of Carthage said, ‘It is on Peter that He (Jesus) builds the Church, and to him He entrusts the sheep to feed. And although He assigns a like power to all the Apostles, yet He founded a single chair, thus establishing by His own authority the source and hall mark of the Church’s unity.’ Because of this truth St Cyprian can also ask, ‘If a man does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, does he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he deserts the chair of Peter upon which the Church was built, does he still have confidence that he is in the Church?’

The great saints always understood this great truth about the need to show respect and loyalty to St Peter, and the Popes throughout the ages who have succeeded him. St Jerome wrote to Pope Damasus, ‘I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but Your Blessedness, that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that this is the rock on which the Church has been built. Whoever eats the Lamb outside this house is profane. Anyone who is not in the ark of Noah will perish when the flood prevails.’ St Catherine of Sienna wrote to Pope Gregory XI, ‘Take care that I do not have to complain about you to Jesus crucified. There is no one else I can complain to, for you have no superior on earth.’

Let us always believe that where St Peter is, there is the Church. And where the Church is, no death is there, but eternal life. Today we give our respect and loyalty to Pope Francis and pray for him, that he may always have the strength needed to lead us in the Church.”
– From: “Spiritual Thought from Fr Chris” (June 2014)

 

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INTERCESSIONS ON THE SOLEMNITY OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL, APOSTLES

You sent your Apostles to preach the Gospel to all nations. With gratitude, we pray:

R. Your word, O Lord, is spirit and life!

For the Pope and bishops to whom you have continued to entrust the apostolic task so faithfully carried out by Saints Peter and Paul:
– strengthen them to preach your Gospel by word and deed. (R.)

For the whole Church to whom you have given the word of life through the ministry of the Apostles:
– confirm your people in fidelity and zeal. (R.)

For the world which awaits the good news:
– illumine those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death. (R.)

(Personal intentions)

Our Father…

O Lord our God, you have given us this day of holy joy to celebrate the memory of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul; grant your Church wholehearted fidelity to their teaching. Grant this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

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“MY FATHER WORKS EVEN UNTIL NOW, AND I WORK” (Jn 5:17)

THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MEN AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: THE FORMATION OF THE DISCIPLES

“The first year of the public ministry of Jesus ended in failure. Most of those who had followed Him deserted Him. His miracles had excited their admiration and raised their hopes of deliverance from Roman rule. But His refusal to conform to their idea of a triumphant political Messias had alienated their allegiance to Him. He had offered Himself to them as the ‘Bread of Life,’ but they had refused to accept Him.

SOME FEW REMAINED FAITHFUL TO JESUS

Some few remained faithful to Him, especially the Apostles. They refused to leave Him, saying, ‘To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.’ By so acting they cut themselves off from the majority of their fellow-countrymen. Jesus Himself knew, as He had indeed said, that He would be rejected by His own countrymen. From this time on He would continue to preach His message of salvation in the spiritual Kingdom of God. Only now He would seek to increase in His faithful Apostles and disciples the true understanding of the kingdom which He was to establish. He would show them how different was this kingdom from the earthly kingdom and domination sought by His countrymen.

A SPIRITUAL KINGDOM

Some time after the discourse on the ‘Bread of Life,’ Jesus went to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. Almost at once He came into conflict with His enemies. At the pool called Bethsaida, near the Sheepgate in Jerusalem, Jesus cured a man who had been a paralytic for thirty-eight years. He told the man to pick up the pallet on which he had been lying and to walk home. Now He did this on a Sabbath day. The Jews, on learning that He had done this, were angry. In their eyes Jesus had broken the law of the Sabbath-day rest. He had Himself worked the miracle and He had even ordered the cured man to carry his pallet. When they objected to this, Jesus replied, ‘My Father works even until now, and I work’ (John 5:17).

The Jews understood Him to mean that He was equal to God. Since they perceived Him only a man, they regarded His claim as blasphemy. Hence they determined to oppose Him.

THE JEWS DETERMINED TO OPPOSE JESUS

Jesus, for His part, was kind to them and He tried to explain His position clearly. ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever he does, this the Son also does in like manner’ (John 5:19).

By saying that He can do nothing of Himself but only what He sees His Father doing, Jesus attempted to soften for the Jews who did not believe in Him or His claims His right to be accepted by them as one sent from God.

JESUS EXPLAINS TO THE PEOPLE THAT GOD HAS SENT HIM TO RESTORE LIFE

But He goes on to explain that God has sent Him to restore life, spiritual life, to men who are dead in their sins. As God the Father has power to give this life to men who are dead, so also has He, the Son, the same power. And because He has this power, He has also from His Father the right and power to judge men. Those who hear Him and believe the Father who has sent Him will rise to life on the last day; but those who do not hear Him and accept Him will rise to judgement.

‘IF YOU WILL NOT ACCEPT MOSES, HOW WILL YOU ACCEPT ME?

Then Jesus tried to show the Jews the justice of His claim to be sent to them by God. Since this mission of Jesus from God is a fact, and indeed a divine fact, it is not susceptible of ordinary means of proof.

Only witnesses can testify to the truth of such a fact. Jesus calls upon the witnesses known to the Jews. John the Baptist, He says, gave testimony to Me and to My mission. If you accept John as a man of God, then you should accept Me to Whom he has given witness. But Jesus was not content to adduce only the testimony of John. There is a greater testimony to Me, the testimony of God Himself.

‘For the works which the Father has given me to accomplish, these very works that I do bear witness to me that the Father has sent me. And the Father himself, who has sent me, has borne witness to me’ (John 5:36-37).

The works to which Jesus refers are the miracles which He has performed. These miracles are the divine seal placed upon His message and His claims. Through the miracles God Himself has testified that Jesus is the Son sent by the Father to establish the Kingdom of God among men. Lastly Jesus refers His hearers to the Scriptures. Moses, He says, has written of Me. If you read Moses rightly you would see that I am what I claim to be. But if you will not accept Moses, how will you accept Me?

JESUS EXPLAINS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE LAW OF MOSES WHICH HE HAS COME TO FULFIL

But the people would not believe Him. Knowing their enmity Jesus, for the time, left Jerusalem and Judea and returned to Galilee. But His enemies pursued Him. Scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem came and reproached Him because His disciples were not keeping the Mosaic Law as they interpreted that Law. The disciples of Jesus, they claimed, were at fault because they did not wash their hands before they ate food.

Jesus made this complaint of the Pharisees and occasion to instruct His disciples and the people. God, He told them, is not so much interested in external observance which may cover an inner impurity and evil; rather He desires an internal goodness and purity of heart. The aim of external observances of the Law of Moses was to preserve internal purity of heart. To interpret the Law (and in this instance there was question of the Pharisaic interpretation of the Law) in such wise as to render it impossible to preserve real purity of heart was to act like a hypocrite. Hence Jesus applied to the Scribes and Pharisees the words of Isaias [Isaiah]:

‘This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; but in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines precepts of men’ (Matthew 15:8-9).

Jesus then summed up His teaching in the words:

‘What goes into the mouth does not defile a man; but that which comes out of the mouth, that defiles a man’ (Matthew 15:11).

The Pharisees took offence at this statement and their attitude alarmed the disciples of Jesus. But He told them that the Pharisees were blind leaders of blind men. Then, at the request of Peter, He explained His meaning to them.

‘Do you not realise that nothing from outside, by entering a man, can defile him? For it does not enter his heart, but his belly, and passes out into the drain. And the things that come out of a man are what defile a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, come evil thoughts, adulteries, immorality, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, shamelessness, jealousy, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and defile a man’ (Mark 7:18-23).

In St Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus adds the words, ‘but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man’ (Matthew 15:20).

EVEN THE PAGANS GAVE GLORY TO THE GOD OF ISRAEL

After this instruction to His disciples He left Galilee and went to the district of Tyre and Sidon. While there He expelled a demon from the daughter of a Syro-Phenician woman. Then He went to the district of Decapolis. There He restored hearing and speech to a deaf-mute. As a result great crowds came to Him, bringing their sick, the blind, the lame, the dumb and the maimed. Jesus cured them and the pagan inhabitants of that district gave glory to the God of Israel. Also, on one occasion, Jesus repeated the miracle of the multiplication of loaves, feeding over four thousand with only seven loaves of bread and a few fishes.

MORE UNWELCOME AND HOSTILE ATTENTION

This renewed activity brought upon Him again the unwelcome and hostile attention of the Pharisees. They came to Him and demanded from Him a sign from heaven. But Jesus, knowing that signs would not really convince them, replied:

‘Why does this generation demand a sign? Amen I say to you, a sign shall not be given to this generation’ (Mark 8:12).

Jesus and His disciples then entered a boat and went to the western side of the Lake of Tiberias. During the journey Jesus cautioned His disciples against the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

When they came to Bethsaida Jesus restored sight to a blind man. But He forbade the man to publish abroad what had happened.

‘WHO DO MEN SAY THE SON OF MAN IS?’ (Mt 16:13)

Some time later, when they had come to the district of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus questioned His disciples, asking them, ‘Who do men say the Son of Man is?’ (Matthew 15:13). The disciples replied that some took Him for John the Baptist, some for Elias, some for Jeremias or one of the prophets. Jesus then asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ (Matthew 16:15).

Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus then said to him:

‘Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to thee, but my Father in heaven. And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever thou shalt lose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’ (Matthew 16:17-19).

TWO FACTS OF GREAT IMPORTANCE

This incident contains two facts of great importance. First of all, in this dialogue with His disciples Jesus acknowledges to them that He is both the Messias, the Christ sent by God, and that He is the natural Son of God, equal to God the Father in divinity. Secondly, acting as the Christ and as the natural Son of God Jesus makes Simon Peter the rock or foundation on which He will build the Church, the Kingdom of God.

When the crowd would have accepted Jesus as a king who would lead them to earthly glory, a political Messias, Jesus refused to play the role and left them. But on this occasion Jesus allows Himself to be called the Christ, the Messias and the Son of God.

Why does Jesus allow to Peter what He had already refused to crowds of His countrymen?

The answer is clear. The crowds had wanted a Messias modelled after their own desires, a Messias who would lead them to world power. But this was not God’s plan, and so it was not the mission of Jesus. The crowds, stubbornly bound to their own desires, deserted Jesus.

But the Apostles and a few disciples, still believing in Jesus, even though they did not completely understand Him, remained faithful to Him. In their sight, and for their benefit, Jesus continued to do His works, to work the miracles which were a sign of the divine power He possessed. And while their wonder and admiration grew Jesus emphasised to them the spiritual nature of His kingdom and contrasted it sharply with the views of the Scribes and Pharisees.

Now Jesus would carry His disciples a bit further; He would initiate them even more into the understanding of His plans for the kingdom.
First, however, it was fitting that they should recognise Him for what He really is. He questions them gently, not asking them at first Who they think He really is, but asking them Who men say that He is. They reply: His countrymen see in Him surely someone remarkable; perhaps Elias, who is to come before the Messias; perhaps Jeremias, who also might be a forerunner of the Messias; perhaps John the Baptist, the recent martyr for God’s law, come again to herald the Messias; or at least a prophet. Then Jesus leads them on. ‘But who do you say that I am?’

Spontaneously Peter speaks. ‘Thou art the Christ,’ he says, ‘the Son of the living God.’ At last it is said openly by those to whom Jesus has come to preach the Kingdom of God. Jesus is the Christ, the Messias. Even more, He is the true, the natural Son of God, equal to the Father in His Godhood. When the crowd would make Him king, Jesus refused. But when Peter declares that He is the Messias and, indeed, the Son of God, Jesus does not deny it. Rather, He confirms it. Flesh and blood, He says, have not revealed this to Peter. Rather it is God Himself Who has revealed this to Peter, and Peter, in faith and love, through this divine enlightenment, accepts Christ Jesus as the Son of God.

GOD REVEALED JESUS’ TRUE IDENTITY TO SIMON PETER

This moment then is a most solemn one. In it the little band of followers which Jesus has drawn to Himself acknowledges Him as the Anointed One of God, even as the true Son of God, God Himself. With this acknowledgement made openly Jesus goes on to reveal to them His plans for the future.

JESUS REVEALS TO SIMON PETER AND THE APOSTLES HIS PLANS FOR THE FUTURE

It is Simon, speaking under divine enlightenment, who has made this declaration of belief in the Messiahship and divine Sonship of Jesus. Speaking to Him in the presence of all Jesus tells him that He will make him the foundation of his kingdom, the Church.

When Simon first met Jesus, Jesus had told him that his name would be changed to Cephas, that is, to Peter (John 1:42). Now Jesus reveals the reason for the change. The name Cephas (or Peter) means rock. Simon is to be the rock on which Jesus will build His kingdom. ‘Thou art Rock (Peter),’ He says, ‘and upon this Rock (on you, Peter) I will build my Church.’ Simon Peter then is to be the foundation rock of the Church of Christ, the strong rock which will give the stability of truth and love to the kingdom. The ‘gates of Hell,’ that is, the kingdom of the devil, will be arrayed against the Church, but the strength of Peter, of the Rock which is Peter, will prevail against the power against the power of the devil.

To make His meaning even clearer Jesus goes on to say that He will give to Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Now the possessor of the keys of a house is the master of the house; he can admit whom he pleases and exclude whom he will. The goods of the house are his to dispose of as he will. The kingdom of heaven is Christ’s own kingdom; He is the master of it. But at some future time, not yet clearly determined, Jesus will make Peter the faithful steward of this kingdom, this household of God; He will give to Peter the keys which control this kingdom. The authority to rule this kingdom will be entrusted by Christ to Peter.

And as if even this were not enough to make clear that Peter was to rule the kingdom for Christ, Jesus adds, ‘whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’ The decisions that Peter shall make, acting as the steward or vicar of Christ, will be ratified in heaven. God Himself, Christ Himself will ratify Peter’s decision, Peter’s rule of the kingdom of heaven on earth.

Jesus refused to accept the title of Messias from the crowds who wished to make Him an earthly king. But He accepted this title from Peter, even the title of ‘Son of God.’

In return for Peter’s faith and love He made (or here He promises to make) Peter His vice regent in the Kingdom of God on earth. Since He would not accept and earthly kingship from the people, it is clear that Jesus accepts Peter’s homage only because Peter and, through him, the disciples are willing to believe in and accept the spiritual kingdom which Jesus has come to establish. This willingness on their part need not at this moment mean that they perceive clearly the essentially spiritual nature of Christ’s kingdom. The subsequent actions of the Apostles seem to show that they had not yet reached that full understanding of the kingdom which they were later to possess. But they had not deserted Jesus when He refused to become an earthly king. They had not left Him when He offered men His own flesh, spiritually received, as the life of the world. Now, in Peter they accepted Him as the Christ, the Son of the living God. They were men of faith and good will. This was enough, for the moment; Christ responded to their faith with a new revelation of the nature of His kingdom.

THE NATURE OF THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST

The kingdom of Christ is in its inner essence spiritual. But it is also to be ‘Church,’ a community of men called to membership in the kingdom. They will enter this kingdom by faith in Christ, by hearing His word and accepting it, especially by accepting Jesus as their life, their spiritual life, the source of their spiritual life. But as a community of men in this world, they will have to contend with the powers of darkness, the kingdom of the devil. To ensure the firmness of their faith, the stability in this community of the God-given truth which Christ brings to them, Jesus establishes (or will establish) Simon Peter as the head of the community of believers in Christ. Thus, though the kingdom is in its inner essence spiritual, it is also in this visible, tangible world a visible and tangible reality. By making Peter the head, the ruler and keybearer of the community of the Kingdom of God, Jesus will make His Church a visible recognisable reality in the world. Those who wish to come to Christ will submit to Peter, the Rock of the Church of Christ, the keybearer of the kingdom. From heaven Christ will ratify the rule, the decisions of Peter, His vice regent on earth. As we shall see later, the actions of the Apostles and of the first Christian community show that this was their understanding of Christ’s words and intention. The Kingdom of God on earth will be a spiritual kingdom, but it will also be a visible kingdom. The spiritual authority of Peter will be the visible rock on which the kingdom will be built.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959 (headings in capital letters added afterwards)

 

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TODAY’S GOSPEL READING (JOHN 21:15-19)

FEED MY LAMBS, FEED MY SHEEP.

After the meal Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?” He answered, “Yes Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Look after my sheep.” Then he said to him a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” and said, “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

“I tell you most solemnly,
when you were young
you put on your own belt
and walked where you liked;
but when you grow old
you will stretch out your hands,
and somebody else will put a belt round you
and take you where you would rather not go.”
In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, “Follow me.”

V. The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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