Sunday, November 27, 2011

Nov 27 - 1st Sun of Advent - Of New Masses and Expectations

Readings -

After many months of Ordinary Time, today with the beginning of Advent, we enter into the "busy portion" of our Liturgical calendar.  We have been already "ramping up" since the beginning of November, with the celebration of All Saints and All Souls on Nov 1st-2nd as well as our American feast of Thanksgiving this past week.  And things will really not slow down completely until after a number of the Feasts that follow Pentecost (which ends the Easter season) in late Spring.  But with the beginning of Advent the pace does certainly speed-up.

Now Advent is a Season of Preparation (for the Season of Christmas).  It's theme, of course, is of "joyful expectation."  We remember during this season that the people of Israel had been predicting the coming of a Messiah (of an/the Anointed One) for hundreds of years before the coming of Jesus and slowly developing their understanding of what his arrival would mean.  In a time when we throw a dish into the microwave and tap our watches while our meal heats up, or feel frustrated when a page does not download immediately on our computer screens from the internet, it's probably very hard to imagine preparing for something that didn't take place for _generations_ or even hundreds of years.  Yet that was Israel's experience.  And in our impatience we could perhaps learn to respect that experience because some of the great questions of our time may not be settled in the course of our lifetimes.

Then Advent is a time of preparation for Christmas.  And so it is a hectic time at home trying to make everything "just right" for the family's celebration of the holiday.  Hopefully at least some of those preparations would concern more than just getting the material things ready (the Christmas tree, the food, etc) but also getting ready spiritually -- looking at the relationships that need to be fixed, etc.

And this then touches on the final level of preparation that we're asked to reflect on during this season: Christ's second coming or perhaps more importantly, Christ's coming for us at the end of our lives.  We will have to make an account of our lives (in one way or another) and so yes, we are asked to keep (or bring) our lives more or less in order.  Again, what are the things or relationships that we need to fix?

Some of these frayed or even broken relationships may seem hopelessly lost.  Can we at least be ready to fix them when the time arrives?  Jesus does tell us that "The Day of the Lord" could really come at any time: "during the middle of the night," "just before dawn," or "first thing in the morning the next day."  We're asked to be ready, or at least work on making ourselves ready.

Finally, the First Sunday of Advent, being the first Sunday of a new Liturgical Year is often a time for changes in various practices of the Church.  It's hard to avoid mention that today after many years of preparation we are beginning our use of a new translation of the Mass. 

The new translation seeks to be more faithful to the imagery present in the Latin original.  And that will be nice because some of the recovered imagery is frankly quite interesting.  We will be asking the Lord, for instance, to send down his Spirit "like the dew fall" upon our gifts before transforming them into the Body and Blood of Christ.  LIKE THE DEW FALL ... what a nice image really.  Usually when we think of God's action we think of lightning bolts.  Here, we're asked to imagine God's action coming _as gently_ "as the dew fall."

Another effect may strike fear into the hearts of English teachers everywhere who've previously been the ones casting fear into the hearts of generations of middle and high school students by insisting on a very rigid form of grammar where each sentence was to express only one idea and as a rule of thumb would be no longer than about 10-15 words.  The new translation of the Mass simply blows these expectations to pieces as it retains not just its Roman imagery but also much of its grammar.  So high school students, from this day forward you'll have an excuse when you write a run-on sentence ;-).  And you were right before in arguing with your high school English teacher that sometimes it is impossible to adequately express an idea without a couple of extended relative clauses ;-) ;-).

Indeed, it may be that in the coming years there will be more gentle changes to the English translation of the Roman Missal as even Bishops start to say "The order of this (or that) sentence or is just too cumbersome."

But then, such changes have occurred repeatedly and largely peacefully for decades as the various Liturgical commissions in charge of these things tinkered with the translations for the Readings in the Lectionary.

So let us give thanks for the Big change that has arrived in the Liturgy.  Some of the recovered imagery is very nice.  And the recovered imagery, like of God's action as coming "like the dew fall"  _may_ even change hearts.

But let's also pray that the Bishops become brave enough to allow the text to be smoothened out a bit in the future just like this has been done over the years with our Lectionary.

In any case, change has come.  Let us glory in some of the newly recovered imagery.  And let us take the time during the Season of Advent to work on the aspects of our lives that we really need to fix as well.

God bless you all and have a happy and blessed Advent!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Oct 16, 2011 - 29th Sun of OT - On Relating to Authority with Wisdom

Readings -

As I’ve said here many times, the Readings each Sunday during Ordinary Time give us a theme from our day-to-day lives and then invite us to see God’s Presence or God’s Good News to us in this aspect of our day-to-day existence.

And the theme this week is rather obvious – our relationship with Authority, with the “powers that be” in this world.

And yet, each time we hear these Readings we, again hear them differently, and they present to us new insights, new promises and new challenges.

Take for instance the first Reading today.

We hear from the Prophet Isaiah reference to what happened when the Persians under their King Cyrus liberated the Israelites from Babylon: The Israelites were allowed to go home.  And not only that: they were allowed to go home and worship their own God again, in peace.  And not even only that: When the Israelites asked the Persians for help to pay for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Persians “opened up their check-book” and asked in a sense “how much?”

The Persians were the ancestors to the Iranians of today.  Today we Americans think of the Iranians generally in negative terms.  We think of them as supporters of terrorists, as religious fanatics, intolerant of others.  Yet, back in the day – and this any Iranian proudly would tell us this – the Persians were probably the most enlightened Empire of their time: Sure they did ask the various peoples of their empire for tribute (a sort of “subscription fee” to belong to the Empire) and “membership” wasn’t exactly voluntary.  But in return for accepting being “members” of the Persian empire, they were given peace, given access to the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of all the other peoples in the Empire and they were largely left alone.

How many people saw the movie ‘300' of some years ago?  That movie was about how the Greeks, led by the Spartans fought-off and eventually defeated the Persians (though perhaps not in that battle in which 300 Spartan Greeks faced and held-off for three days a Persian army of hundreds of thousands at the Pass at Thermopolae, where eventually all 300 Spartans died in defense of their homeland).   We understand and sympathize with the Greeks perhaps because we have more in common with them.  But at the time the Persians simply didn’t understand why the Greeks were so stubborn, why they could not see the benefit of becoming part of their huge multi-ethnic, multi-cultural empire. 

And indeed, in Biblical history, the Israelites remembered the Persians as the best of the Empires that dominated them.  The Egyptians had enslaved them.  The Assyrians destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel from which the 10 tribes that were part of that Northern Kingdom never, ever returned.  The Babylonians destroyed the remaining Southern Kingdom of Judah, destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.  And dragged the survivors back to Babylon as slaves.  It was actually the Persians who liberated the Israelites from Babylon and allowed them to come back to Jerusalem.  And ironically, in the closing books of the Old Testament just before the arrival of Jesus, during the time of the Maccabees, the Israelites were fighting the Greeks (who had eventually conquered the Persian Empire) for their independence. 

Again, as surprising as it may be – though not to an Iranian – the Persians were remembered by the subject peoples of their empire as being a “good” Empire. 

So accepting all the complaints about Iran’s current Islamic regime, about its support of terrorism, human rights violations, still let us remember that the history that their children learn and become proud of is that of a civilization that in its day was actually very enlightened and arguably _kind_ when compared to the empires that preceeded the Persians and even succeeded them.

Very good ...

Now the Gospel Reading of today is one that probably adults here know.  Jesus gives the famous response to a very dangerous and almost certainly loaded question of whether it is right to pay taxes to the Romans with “Render onto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

But even here, each time we come to this passage, we may hear it a little differently.

In recent years, I had been struck by the Herodians’ “laying it on thick” in their introduction to the question, for we hear them say:

"Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man
and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
And you are not concerned with anyone's opinion,
for you do not regard a person's status..."

Before they spring the trap:

“Tell us, then, what is your opinion:
Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?"

Lawful?  Indeed.  The question was set-up in a manner in which no matter what Jesus would say, he could be destroyed.  If he told them not to pay the tax, they would “applaud him” and then as soon as possible denounce Jesus to the Romans as a revolutionary.  On the other hand, if Jesus responded by simply saying “pay the tax,” then the Herodians and Pharisees would denounce Jesus to the people at the time as a “collaborator.”  So this was a tricky and _probably_ a malicious question....

However, it did occur to me this time, that it was _possible_ that at least on the part of the Herodians (and perhaps even the Pharisees, who were “experts in the law” after all) that the question was at least in part sincere.

Why do I say this?  Because similar questions have come-up in recent decades in our time.  What do I mean.

Well the most famous time where the question of collaboration with a presumed enemy occurred was in France during World War II.  Among the French Civil Authorities of that time, there was a real question of what to do.  They all did feel themselves to be patriots.  But they did lose the War and the legitimate government of France did surrender to the Germans and an accomodation was worked out between the defeated French government and the victorious Germans.  What to do?  Reject the “armistice” made by the French with regard to the Germans.  But half the country was occupied and in both occupied and unoccupied France, life had to go on.  The power had to work, the water had to flow, food and basic commerce had to continue.  And it was the responsibility of the local (French) authorities for this to continue to occur.  As a result complete opposition to the occupying Germans was impossible and arguably immoral.

On the other side of conflict, the Germans also faced dilemmas.  Today, we roundly condemn the German SS as having been self-evidently evil.  But this was not nearly as clear to young patriotic Germans in the 1930s.  The SS were ‘the elite forces’ of their country.  It was like joining the Green Barets or the Rangers.  It was only when the war started that it became clear that the SS were expected to perform tasks hardly commensurate to their “elite” status – burning entire villages and slaughtering civilians, most prominently the Jews.  And today we know that even within the SS there was resistance to such orders.  It wasn’t open.  Open resistance to military orders was a capital offense in every army (including the American and British armies) at the time.  However, faced with immoral orders such as these, it has been documented, fairly large numbers of SS soldiers started to feign illness.  “I’m sorry boss, I’m too sick to shoot people today.” 

And in the aftermath of Vietnam, the U.S. bishops have also gone on record in their 1983 pastoral letter The Challenge of Peace, postulating a soldier’s right to _selective conscientious objection_ (a concept utterly unheard of in any army fighting World War II), so that a soldier or pilot today would have the right to say: “Sorry sir, I will not follow your orders to carpet bomb (or drop/launch a nuclear weapon on) the city ...”

So the question of the Herodians in particular could have been at least partly sincere, in effect asking Jesus: “What would you do in our position?  The Romans are here.  We can’t drive them out.  So are we supposed to completely not cooperate with them to the detriment of our own people?  Or do we give in, at least partially for the sake of the people?”

Jesus’ response is even more general and is at the foundation in fact of the concept of conscientious objection – that there are some things that can not be compelled, that some things truly belong to God.

So today we find ourselves challenged in several ways.  First, we’re asked to look perhaps at the Persians (ancestors of today’s Iranians) and even the Herodians in the Gospel passage kinder than perhaps we would have before.  And second, we’re asked perhaps to look more deeply into the questions of morality in public life and in our relationship to authority.  We’re asked to relate to authority wisely.  And that can be a true challenge for us all.

Oct 9, 2011 - 28th Sun of OT - Learning to Live Prepared For All Seasons

Readings -

In our Sunday Liturgies, we follow a three year cycle, which means that every three years the Readings that we hear on a given Sunday repeat.  However, it has long fascinated me that each time we come to the same readings – three years later – we hear them differently.

The Reading that struck me this Sunday is the second Reading where St. Paul writes to the Philippians:

Brothers and sisters:
I know how to live in humble circumstances;
I know also how to live with abundance.
In every circumstance and in all things
I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry,
of living in abundance and of being in need.

And it struck me because 3-4 years ago, we were living in a very different time.  Then things were looking up, or just beginning to look down.  Today, three years after entering into the Great Recession, many of our lives are very different.  We’ve come to have to learn to live with less and to perhaps better appreciate what we have.

And yet the reading also speaks a second truth -- that things will eventually get better.  We may have perhaps taken for granted past prosperity but perhaps the difficulties that we live in now will not last forever either.  That things will improve again.

Indeed, the first Reading, coming from the Prophet Isaiah reminds us that ultimately everything will turn out okay.  Isaiah proclaims to the Israelites:

On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
the web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.
The Lord GOD will wipe away
the tears from every face;
the reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken
No matter what our difficulties may be, financial, personal, with regard to health, etc, everything will ultimately turn out well.

However, we are also reminded then in the Gospel Reading that we do have to choose to accept God’s promise and yes, to be prepared as the case of the man in the parable that we heard today who perhaps suddenly was invited to the King’s banquet but found himself woefully unprepared.

How prepared are we?  Can we learn what St. Paul is writing about in his letter today – to be prepared to live in good times and in bad, in times of plenty and in times of need?  What do we need to do to be prepared to meet God, when we are told in fact, that all will come out well?

That then is both the Good News and the challenge for us today. 

Oct 2, 2011 - 27th Sun of OT - On Tending and Sharing the Goods of our Lives

Readings -

The Readings on the Sundays of Ordinary Time normally give us a theme or an image touching on our experience to reflect on and then to come to see an aspect of the Gospel through that theme or image.

Today the image given us is rather obvious – it is that of the Vineyard.  Now most of us here probably don’t have much experience with vineyards.  Perhaps the Italians among us do.  But many of us have experience with tending a garden.  And the key to understanding the first reading and the Gospel today is that the Vineyard (or Garden) that we are given we’re really in trust and really belongs to God.  And it’s expected that the Vineyard/Garden that we’re given produces fruit. 

But both the Gospel and the 1st Readings are cautionary.  They present possible problems or temptations that we may encounter while tending our Gardens.

In the first Reading, the temptation is to do nothing, to just assume that the Garden will grow well and produce fruit without our effort.  And we’re told that without our care, our effort the garden will grow wild and produce nothing.

In the Gospel Reading, the temptation is to assume that the Garden (a metaphor really to our lives) belongs exclusively to us and whatever we harvest belongs exclusively to us.  The Gospel Reading tells us that the Garden (or Lives) really belongs to God and therefore God has a right to a portion of that harvest.

Do we believe that our lives (and this world) really ultimately belongs to God?  And how are we sharing that which we harvest here?  That is really what we are being asked here.

Now this can be a challenge to us.  We live in a time where “self-actualization” is considered a predominant value.  “Be all you can be.”  We admire the sentiment expressed in Frank Sinatra’s song “I did it my way.” 

But do we understand that ultimately it doesn’t matter if we “became all that we could become,” especially if in doing so we trampled over others?  And do we understand the fundamental contradiction between the Gospel and “doing it (only) our way.”

We’re asked to tend the vineyard _together_ and always to remember that this vineyard (our lives, our world, all creation).  Ultimately belongs to God.  Do we appreciate that?  And how can we tend our vineyard, our garden, our lives, our community better together?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sept 25, 2011 - 26th Sun of OT - Seeing Others as God Sees Them

Readings -

Each Sunday during Ordinary Time the Readings offer us an opportunity to reflect on some aspect of our daily lives.  Today, it would seem to be how we relate to those around us.  Do we see them as Children of God worthy of love, or do we focus on their flaws?

I say this because in the Gospel Reading, Jesus was responding to a common charge leveled against his disciples by others who probably should have known better.  Jesus’ disciples were being accused by the priests, elders and scribes of their time to be “a bunch of tax collectors and prostitutes.”

So let’s ask ourselves, how many of the first apostles actually were tax collectors?  One, Matthew, who _himself_ calls himself a former tax collector.  The others were simple – four fisherman, a zealot (local “PLO guy” basically) a bunch of others of non-descript occupations – but _not_ the worst possible of sinners (collaborators with the Romans).

And then how many of the women around Jesus were actually prostitutes?  Possibly one, the future St. Mary Magdalene.  And even then there’s some question there.  Da Vinci Code aside, it is clear that St. Mary Magdalene was an important figure in the early Church.  In the Gospels, she is the first person to see Jesus after his Resurrection.  Perhaps out of jealousy, this particular aspect of her past was raised-up against her and it did stick.  Was it true that she was a Prostitute.  At this point we can not know.  What we do know is that even if she had been, she had changed.  And there would be some reason to believe that perhaps this aspect of her life before meeting Jesus was exaggerated to hurt her, indeed, supporting my point.

The “tax collector and prostitute” reputation of Jesus’ followers was being exaggerated by opponents of Jesus and the early Church to hurt them.  One tax collector and one possible prostitute does not “a den of tax collectors and prostitutes” make.  But no matter, that’s what they were accused of.

This then comes to our present day, and effects all kinds of relations, from home, to parish, to community to even Ecumenism.

I remember that when I was in Rome during my years in the seminary, the Professor teaching our Course in Ecumenism, a teacher who was in fact a leading functionary at the Vatican on the question of Ecumenism, pointed out to us that doctrinally speaking, we are really close to the Orthodox Christians.  The only matter in which we really differ is in the our understandings of the authority of the Pope.  We say that when push comes to shove, the Pope can speak on his own for the whole Church.  The Orthodox maintain that while he is the “first among equals” he must speak in concert with the other bishops (patriarchs).  But when it comes to the Sacraments, Mary, morals, etc, we hold the same doctrinal views.  Yet, my Professor noted we do almost nothing together.

And separately, I do remember finding myself a few years back in an argument with a Serbian Orthodox Christian my age over the question of why U.S. Catholic Relief Services was doing relief work in Bosnia.  I told her that I get the history the Balkans, but that certainly U.S. Catholic Relief Services were out there in Bosnia simply to help, that American Catholics generally aren’t out to convert anybody (true almost to a fault), and that actually the bigger problem with Americans is that most probably wouldn’t know where Bosnia is.  But to her it was an affront for Catholic Relief Services to be out there feeding hungry people, including hungry Serbs...

Now my Professor contrasted that with our relations with the Protestant faiths, saying that there are all kinds of doctrinal issues with the Protestants but that all over the Western world and especially in the English speaking countries, Protestants and Catholics (even the most radical of Protestants, like the Baptists or Pentacostalists) naturally work together to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, provide basic services to the poor.  And he made it a point that this kind of PRACTICAL ECUMENISM needs to be given its proper recognition as well.

But this cooperation extends even beyond the Christian denominations.  Every 3-4 months, a Moslem group now feeds the homeless at the Soup Kitchen at our Sister Parish of Our Lady of Sorrows.  Why?  Well partly because thanks to the legacy of slavery (white Christians enslaving blacks many of whom were actually originally muslims or lands that have become muslim since) a not insignificant portion of the African American population is muslim.  And if knows a little about Islam then one would know that there are basically two commandments that moslems are to follow – (1) pray and (2) give alms, feed the poor.  Just because someone is wearing a head scarf ought not to disqualify them from helping us help the poor.

I just happen to note this case at Our Lady of Sorrows where the local muslim community periodically helps us help the poor, but if one were to go north, into the more Jewish communities of Skokie and so forth, similar cooperation takes place among the Christian and Jewish communities there as well.

We can choose to look for reasons to not like each other, or we choose to work together for the benefit of all, and then especially of those in need.

But then, let’s go back home to our own lives...

I am absolutely positive that if we don’t like someone, we can find all kinds of reasons to not like them, and some could even be rather solemn sounding / impressive.  That’s easy.

But we should really ask ourselves:

(1) Is this negative opinion that we have of someone even true (or even largely true)?  Nobody is simply the sum of their flaws.  (Even John Wayne Gacy, probably wrote a number of very nice Mother’s Day cards when he was a child.  And probably some aunt somewhere probably remembered him fondly).  God who sees all, sees those good aspects of others as well (and therefore sees the good aspects in ourselves as well).

and (2) even if it is true, that someone is horribly flawed in some way, what good is it really to dwell on it?  Because either the person is quite aware of his/her flaws and is trying actually quite hard to deal with them, or the person is in great denial and is happily pursuing the positive aspects of his/her life, and chances are is probably doing both, dealing with his/her flaws and trying really hard to utilize the positive aspects of his/her life as well.

If we dwell on the negative in others, it brings us down, makes us less likable and almost certainly results in others judging us as harshly as we judge them.

In contrast, we all have the ability to choose to be positive, to try to see the good in people, that which they can offer to others.

Because honestly folks, life is hard enough as it is.  We really can’t afford to throw people under the bus.  Those people we dismiss or put-down are people who have gifts that could help raise us all up. 

But it’s really our choice, we can choose to complain, to put people down and even accuse God of being unfair as we hear in Ezekiel. (Ezekiel reminds the people that it’s actually they who are being unfair because they choose not to see the repentance that God sees). 

Or we can choose to try each other like God sees us.  After all, we’re reminded in that second reading that Jesus didn’t come and die just for the “good people.”  Jesus came and died for everybody, because every one of us is child of God worth saving.

Can we try to start seeing others in the same way?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sept 4, 2011 - 23rd Sun of OT - Of Working Together / Back to Work Concerns

Readings -

We find ourselves at the beginning of September.  In the United States we celebrate Labor Day this weekend and this weekend has traditionally come to mark the end of the Summer for us here.

And the Readings that we hear today can help us to reorient ourselves from the summer which is generally a time of rest and relaxation, to the fall, which to most of us means “back to work,” “back to school,” “back to real life.” 

In the life of a parish, “back to work,” “back to real life” means back to “a lot of meetings.”  And with meetings come inevitable conflicts.

So the Gospel Reading offers a gentle suggestion of how to deal with a ‘brother’ causing problems.  We’re advised not to embarrass the brother, to try to turn him back gently, privately.  If that doesn’t work then to call in a few witnesses, to document the case.  If that doesn’t work to bring the matter up to the whole Church/community.  And finally if that doesn’t work to simply consider the person someone outside the community from then on (as a pagan or tax collector ...).

But the Gospel Reading does not stop there.  Nor is it the only the only Reading that we hear today.

We are reminded by the rest of the Gospel Reading (and then by the other two readings, the first and especially the second from St. Paul) that the purpose of such correction is _not_ to prove our superiority over that person but (1) to literally save that person’s life (the first reading from Ezekiel) and (2) to recognize that we are a community of love (the second reading from St. Paul).

Indeed, we are reminded at the end of the Gospel Reading that when 2-3 are gathered in Jesus’ name that Jesus is present and that whenever 2-3 together ask God for anything that it will be granted them.

So the reprimand of the wayward brother (or sister) is _not_ to look for pretexts to expel him/her, so that we could “be right” (or perhaps to get a “better position” in the Church, or even society).  It’s only to remind us that we really are “in this together,” and are being asked to work as brothers and sisters toward a common goal – heaven, the Kingdom of God – and yes, one’s selfishness, egotism, or problematics, can distract, derail us from this goal.

But let’s be clear, we need everybody.  Even the person expelled from the community is, in fact, to be missed.  His/her absence does (and, in fact, by definition) diminish the whole.   And indeed, even if we often focus on _the problems_ that someone may pose us, _all of us_ are more than just a summation of our sins or failings. 

So conflicts do diminish us.  They diminish the life of families, they diminish life of communities, they diminish life in parishes.
So then, as we approach a new beginning of the “busy time of the year,” let us take this time to seek to put aside the temptation to be “petty” and seek to work for the benefit of all, for the benefit of the parish and indeed the for the benefit of the Kingdom of God.

(And if we reflect on this, it ought to be clear, that this working toward a common purpose has been, in fact, largely the goal of the labor movement that we remember in this country during this weekend as well).

So God bless you all, and may we work together to make this a better parish, better community and better world in the year to come.

Aug 28, 2011 - 22nd Sun of OT - God’s Promise in Good Times / Bad

Readings -

We are coming to the end of a summer that hopefully was a time of rest and refreshment.  During this time, we’ve been fed here each Sunday by a nice set of Readings that gently invited us to reflect on some of Jesus’ parables, some of Jesus’ most famous miracles and finally on two professions of faith of people living in Jesus’ time, the first a simple Canaanite woman (who wasn’t even expected to have faith in Jesus) and the second being of St. Peter, a profession of faith for which Jesus blesses him and promises to build his Church upon him.

Today the Readings become rapidly much bleaker.  And they perhaps remind us why it is important to have times of rest and refreshment in our lives, and why it is perhaps important for us to gently learn our faith in those times, because not all life will be easy.

Immediately after St. Peter’s profession and Jesus’ blessing of him for having made it, Jesus tells his disciples that they are going to head to Jerusalem, that he, Jesus will be arrested there by the chief priests and scribes and he will killed (but that this will not be the end, that “after three days, he will raised”). 

St. Peter’s head spinning from first the blessing that he received and then from Jesus’ subsequent words tries to tell Jesus “don’t talk like that.”

Jesus instead reprimands the future St. Peter for trying to dissuade him telling the truth (even if it seems like hard/bad news).  And then reminds everyone no one is ‘fit to be a disciple of his unless they are willing to take up their cross and follow him.’

Wonderful.  What to make of this?

Well it strikes at the heart of Jesus’ mission.  If life were always okay, if there was no suffering that we experienced in this world, then there’d be no reason for Jesus to come.  He came precisely because all of us will experience pain, difficulty, betrayal, and yes, death, during the course of our lives.

So the Cross will be part of our lives whether we like it or not.

Hopefully though there will also be times like this summer (or other summers) that will be times of gentleness and rest for us, in which we can reflect on our relationship with God without great stress and thus be ready when the hard times come.

I also know very well, that for some here, this summer has been _really difficult_, despite the gentleness of the Readings heard here during this time.  We all walk together but we’re all also on our own paths, and God comes to us with various challenges at various times.  So yes, every year some of us are presented with challenges that others may not face for a while (or may have faced some years before).

Still hopefully all of us will have had times of tranquility in our lives (and perhaps _come to appreciate_ those times of tranquility when they are with us) because these times can help us have strength to meet the challenges, the difficulties, the Crosses that will inevitably come our way.

So as we approach the end of this summer, for those of us form whom this summer was peaceful and gentle let us give thanks for that.  Let us then pray for those for whom this time has _not_ been so gentle or has really been a time of great difficulty.  And finally let us give thanks to a God who came to us precisely to give us strength for the times of difficulty in our lives.