This week’s memory verse: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17
  • 8/30 – Galatians 2:20
  • 8/31 – Psalm 51:10-12
  • 9/1 – 1 John 1:9
  • 9/2 – Ephesians 4:29
  • 9/3 – Philippians 1:6
  • 9/4 – Colossians 3:10
  • 9/5 – 2 Timothy 2:15

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, I have accepted You as my Lord and Savior. I have confessed my sins before You. Your great love has now trapped me. Grant that I may never go back, but rather move ever forward to You.

Trapped.

I urge you, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

It is said that a Sunday’s first reading and gospel deliver the same message. They closely follow the same theme. The Epistle however always seems to stand out as something different and apart.

The key to understanding the Epistle, the letters, is that they effectuate the Old Testament readings and gospels. Epistles are the game plan for how we are to carry out what God has given us. It is what we allow ourselves to be trapped into doing in accepting the great love of God.

Jeremiah laments the fact that God has given him a very hard message to proclaim. He has to preach the disaster that will come upon Israel if they will not turn away from their evils, their worship of false gods. 

In lamenting what he must preach, Jeremiah realizes that no matter how much he would wish it, he cannot hold it in. He has to do as God has asked. I will not mention Him, I will speak in His name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart. Jeremiah is trapped because the powerful love and truth of God are irrefutable.

Now, Peter thought he knew what he must say. After proclaiming Jesus to be God, Peter decides he is going to teach God. Jesus gives him a quick lesson which is also meant for us. If we wish God’s love, we must surrender. We must stop thinking our way and start thinking God’s way. We must be willing to hand it all over to God and be trapped up by and in Him.

Our instinct is to escape being trapped, to free ourselves and do as we please. Humans hate being trapped, we feel like we’re in the Poseidon, an overturned ship, trying to find a way out. Paul knew that, he realized it on the road when Jesus confronted him. His choice, allow himself to be trapped up into Jesus’ way, or get back on his donkey and live a valueless life.

Today, Paul tells us how we put those lessons from the first reading and gospel into action. We offer ourselves, our wills and ways sacrificially allowing ourselves to be trapped into the life of God. True love is to give oneself over. Once trapped in the life of God, we do His will, because like Jeremiah, we can do no other. We let our old ways dissolve as our minds are renewed. Getting rid of our ‘conformity to the as-is,’ allows us to be good and pleasing and perfect. In being trapped we are freed.

This week’s memory verse: Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:9
  • 8/23 – John 3:16
  • 8/24 – Acts 16:31
  • 8/25 – John 14:1
  • 8/26 – John 15:1
  • 8/27 – John 14:6
  • 8/28 – 1 Timothy 2:5
  • 8/29 – John 8:42

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, You are God, my God. Grant that I may live each day by the faith I proclaim with my mouth.

Less God?

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

It is the question of the ages, Who do you say that I am? This question, to the Apostles, should not have been a surprise. It is the same question God presented to Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, the Judges, kings, and prophets. In each instance, Who do you say that I am?

Peter answers in the same way the rest would answer. He answers in the same way the faithful have always answered. In faith (which is the rock), he clearly stated that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. You are God, my God.

As with the rest of the Apostles, and as was done before them by the prophets, judges, kings, and every person on earth, we quickly go from proclamation to a failure to follow through. We somehow lose touch with the fact that we just proclaimed God to be our God, and suddenly consider Him ‘less God.’

It happened to Peter right after this bold proclamation, He suddenly saw Jesus as ‘less God.’ He told Jesus He believed Him to be God, then told Him – You’re wrong.

This is our predicament as Christians. We are really asked to do very few things. Proclaim salvation in Jesus. Accept Him in faith, live the gospel message by doing love, and give God the worship. All Church laws and dogmas come down to that. We worship Jesus, who is God, and do what He said, for that is the perfection of truth; God’s wisdom laid out before us. All we have to do is take up and do what God said, but we don’t.

When we proclaim the creed, we will attest to the fact that Jesus is true God and true man. He is not half-and-half, more of one, less of the other. He is the fullness and completeness of both. So, His words and example are the way to live. His is the way we are to follow. Perfect instruction.

Consider the question of faith; our desire to cling to and fully believe: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Let us ask ourselves whether our lives speak the truth of our belief. Is Jesus God for me, or is He ‘less God?’

Much seems to get in the way. What does for us? Desires, politics, personalities, angers, having it our way, hypocrisy, thinking we are right, property over people, nation over God, the need to state our opinion? It is the question of the ages. If He is nothing less than God, let us put all that aside and live like He really is our God.

This week’s memory verse: Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

John 3:36
  • 8/16 – 1 Peter 3:21
  • 8/17 – Acts 22:16
  • 8/18 – Mark 16:16
  • 8/19 – John 3:5
  • 8/20 – Galatians 3:27
  • 8/21 – Ephesians 4:5
  • 8/22 – Colossians 2:12-13

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, I was baptized into You. Grant that I may live in that commitment, and doing so sit at Your table in eternity.

I brought dinner.

But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” 

Yesterday, after Holy Mass for the Dormition, I had the opportunity to spend time with our friend, Bishop Judy Murphy-Jack, Miss Adrienne from Team Esteem, and the Hon. Owusu Anane, a member of Albany’s Common Council. We sat on Bishop’s porch in a beautiful neighborhood on a great day and strategized ideas to address the serious matters pressing on the people of our region and the city. While weighty matter, just spending time on a porch in an old school way and talking with people of faith uplifted us and gave us renewed hope.

The Canaanite woman had serious weighty matter to discuss with Jesus. She wanted to sit on his porch and tell Him about her daughter and her needs. In hope, she sounded the age-old cry of people of faith, “Lord, help me.”

Jesus’ response was not welcoming. He basically said, Look, I brought dinner, but it is not for you. He referred to her as a dog, a Jewish term of contempt for Gentiles. Yet, He would not concede to the disciples request to send her away. He left the door open as He had in prior encounters with the Gentiles. Jesus leaves the door open to all who want to come onto His porch, to talk with Him, and to eat at His table, but we must take action.

In Jesus’ day, Canaanite was an ancient term for a people who did not know God, worshiped false gods, and were God’s enemies. This Canaanite woman, at face value a false god worshipper, needed to show the truth of her faith; Jesus could not just snap His fingers and make her a believer. She does and hangs on through Jesus ignoring her and telling her that the dinner was not for her. She does not take silence or “no” for an answer. She takes the action necessary to show herself as God’s faithful daughter, not an enemy of God. Jesus then grants her request.

Sophia comes here today as an outsider and will leave as one who will now have the opportunity to fully grow into a person of faith, a believer. It won’t just happen, no magic finger snapping here. To help her grow and enjoy porch time with Jesus and the dinner Jesus brought will take work. Sophia, those who brought her, and we commit to taking on the work of building her into a faithful daughter. Let us all commit to helping her become that woman of wisdom who hears Jesus say: “O woman, great is your faith!” and whose hope is constantly renewed.

This week’s memory verse: Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”

Joshua 3:5
  • 8/9 – Proverbs 13:12
  • 8/10 – Micah 7:7
  • 8/11 – Romans 8:24
  • 8/12 – Galatians 3:6-9
  • 8/13 – 1 Corinthians 2:9-10
  • 8/14 – James 1:5-7
  • 8/15 – 1 Peter 1:3-4

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, prepare me and make me eager for Your presence. Dwell with me and calm every storm that besets me.

Stand up.

“Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.”

The Lord is passing by, stand up, get ready.

As a youth, I loved the anticipation visits from family held. We had family in Hamtramck, Miami, and parts of Delaware. We also had loads of family locally in Buffalo. 

We were fortunate to have my grandmother, my Busia, living with us. She and my aunt moved in with us after my dad died. Beside just having Busia in the house, we were blessed to have in her a wonderful, from scratch cook, and someone who could garden better than anyone I have ever met.

With Busia in the house, our home became a required stop for family. Her seven surviving children (three died during the epidemics of the late nineteen-teens and early nineteen-twenties) and their children came to visit their mom and spend time.

Anticipation was always present because you never knew who would stop by, or even when. I remember a car pulling up with relatives from Hamtramck one night at about 9pm. No cell phones then, no way to text. People just came by. Hi, where are we staying? We weren’t ready!

Elijah at least knew the Lord would be passing by. The Lord gave him that message. Elijah looked and looked, exploring every event to see if it was the Lord. Like a child standing at a window, anticipating a visit, so Elijah waited at the mouth of the cave. Finally, he experienced the Lord’s presence in the most unexpected of ways, in a whisper.

The disciples in the boat did not even know the Lord was on the way. Suddenly, like relatives from Hamtramck, there He was. Sometime between 3 and 6am, Jesus came toward them. Where am I going to stay?

Yes, Jesus is passing by. We have the opportunity to enjoy His all-abiding presence. He desires to reside with us, to stay, and we miss out if we are not anticipating, if we are not standing up, waiting at the window. We miss out and sink if we take our eyes off the possibilities of Jesus’ presence.

Faith calls us to live in eager anticipation. We do that by regular focused prayer, biblical reading, Sunday worship, and contemplation of His dwelling with us. The Lord is passing by, stand up, get ready. He is right outside our window saying, ‘Where will I stay?’ It is time to invite Him in to stay. He will, and He will calm the storms, give the reassurance we so need, and save us from the troublesome depths.

This week’s memory verse: Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

John 6:35
  • 8/2 – Ecclesiastes 9:7
  • 8/3 – 1 Corinthians 10:31
  • 8/4 – Genesis 1:29
  • 8/5 – 1 Timothy 4:4-5
  • 8/6 – Proverbs 15:17
  • 8/7 – John 6:27
  • 8/8 – Matthew 5:6

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant me that food I need today, Your sweetness, Your goodness, and Your grace to lead me to be Your food to all I encounter.

Every taste.

Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare.

I’m going to ask for some votes, those of you here, and those watching remotely: Who likes steak the best? Fish? Veggies? Cake?  Ice cream? A full-on breakfast with bacon, eggs, sausage, pancakes, and waffles? Salads?

Now imagine I were to walk among you and offer each of you a wonderful slice of Wonder Bread. Plain, white, bland Wonder Bread. Actually, growing up, I would pass by the Wonder Bread factory in Buffalo, just off Genesee Street. It smelled wonderful each morning. So, ok, I like Wonder Bread.

Now, imagine you are holding that plain old piece of Wonder Bread. I ask you to sniff it, to taste it, and your taste buds come alive. You taste that thing you love the best. For you it is steak, fish, veggies, cake, ice cream, bacon and eggs, sausage and pancakes and waffles, that favorite salad.

Wisdom 16:20-21 speaks of the Manna that God gave to His children as they wandered through the desert: You nourished Your people with food of angels and furnished them bread from heaven, ready to hand, untoiled-for, endowed with all delights and conforming to every taste. For this substance of Yours revealed Your sweetness toward Your children, and serving the desire of the one who received it, was changed to whatever flavor each one wished.

The Manna was not simply flakes that could be made into a dough, it was real food that fulfilled the needs and desires of each of the Father’s faithful. It was an expression of God’s sweetness and care toward His children.

God’s great love is wonderfully expressed in the manner in which He feeds us, fulfills us, and brings us to completion. He feeds us in every way we need, never bland Wonder bread, but as Isaiah tells us: a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines. We eat well and delight in rich fare when we partake in what God provides, His word, His way of living and interacting, in worshiping Him and living that kingdom moment out each day.

In feeding us His Body and Blood, in allowing us to be the people to Eucharist as one, Jesus renews His covenant with us forever. He feeds us. He is our waybread, the perfect food for the journey to the kingdom, the food that grows us into His image. From Jesus to us, the crowd. We have His free, rich, untoiled-for food; a pure blessing poured out on us over and over.