From the Pastor's Desk

August 13th

      “The Stroll” was a popular song and dance of the 1950’s. The dance involved a group of people divided into two rows. One row contained men and on the other, women. Facing each other, the two rows moved simultaneously to the music. At the appointed time, each couple walked and danced between to two rows of partners. Everyone had an opportunity to express his or her vision of themselves to the joy and laughter of their friends.            
     In the Gospel today, Matthew shows us St. Peter’s walk. This episode is only found in Matthew’s Gospel and contains one of his favorite themes: “Grace conquers fear.”            
     As Jesus’ miracles increase so does the hostile response to Him. This unexpected reaction is confusing and frightening to the Apostles. Our Lord stands in the middle of humanity’s illness and sin without fear of contamination and for the emergence of something good.            
     St. Matthew is teaching us that Christians sometimes must leave security behind. It is in our nature to cling to some form of refuge, but Jesus is always with us. To follow Christ we must venture out into the storms of life and trust that the One who calls us, is calling us forward, just as He called St. Peter.            
     The storms of life are furious, strong and cause confusion. Sometimes, we let the storms drown out the voice of Jesus. In the First reading, only after Elijah ignored the elements of creation which were worshipped by other peoples, could he perceive the God of Israel.            
     While St. Peter was in our Lord’s presence and heard the summons, “Come!”, he still could not ignore the fury of the world. As a fisherman, he knew the danger of the water. He did not yet learn the power of faith.            
     Some today are drawn to the noise of the world. When we pursue power, wealth, fame or ego, we cling to idols that cannot give us life. When that occurs, we find ourselves in St. Peter’s company: followers of Jesus and recipients of His grace. With some practice, we can walk peacefully over the fury.            
     The CCD Teacher who volunteers to teach Sixth Grade Religion is walking on water. The college student who actively participates in the Newman Club performs works of charity on campus is walking on water. The parents who choose, against the advice of their doctors to give birth to a child with special needs are walking on water.            
     St. Peter’s brief walk led to the rescue of his companions. Our acts of faith, no matter how imperfect and sporadic, can also assist in the salvation of others. Let’s join St. Peter, and Stroll to Jesus.

     In Matthew’s Gospel, the Transfiguration of Jesus is a lesson in faith. Jesus performs most of His miracles for the benefit of others. The healings, the raising of the deceased, and other wonders were gifts that brought people to right faith.
     When Matthew recounts the Transfiguration of Jesus, he puts it among the events that mark the growing faith of the Apostles. Shortly before the Transfiguration, Pharisees and Sadducees, who were demanding a sign of His authority, confronted Jesus. Our Lord refuses to comply but urges them to look more deeply at His ministry. There, in His words and actions, people will see the sign they seek.
     After that confrontation, St. Peter offers his dramatic profession of faith. His words stand in stark contrast to the challenge of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Peter’s faith had grown so strong that he could take Jesus at His word. Just like Peter, James and John’s faith had also grown.

     The Gospel Passage today closes the seven parables of the Kingdom found in Matthew’s Gospel. Over the past two weeks, we were taught that admission into God’s Kingdom is dependent on faith. Not only will Christians experience an abundance of God’s mercy, we will also face opposition.
     In the parable about the weeds among the wheat and the parable of the dragnet, we learned that the members of the Kingdom of God are known to God alone. The stories we hear today teach us that participation in God’s Kingdom is worth great sacrifice.
     In the First Story today, a treasure is discovered in a field. According to the ancient laws, the treasure does not belong to the one who discovers it, but rather, to the property owner. This is why the person in the parable must sacrifice everything in order to possess the land, which possesses the treasure.
     The Second Story speaks of a merchant who finds a pearl of great value. In order to possess it, the merchant must liquidate all of his assets. The merchant is confident that possessing the pearl will be a greater value to his life.

     In the Gospel last week, St. Matthew tried to explain why some people reject Jesus. Today, the Apostle explains how to live with them. Jesus answers the question by saying, “Let them live together. If you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. At harvest time, the harvesters will do their job and separate the weeds from the wheat.” This is something we cannot do. Only God’s wisdom can determine the proper separation.            
     Neither Jesus nor St. Matthew identify the weeds with a specific group of people. What truly separates humanity is mysterious. None of us truly understands the heart of our enemy. Despite our rush to judge our neighbor, people are more complicated than we can understand. Jesus is saying, “Let them grow together. My disciples will be obvious.”            
     In the middle of the lesson about the weeds among the wheat, Jesus offers two short parables. They are both about abundance and amplify His lesson about the weeds among the wheat. Jesus is comfortable with the weeds growing with the wheat. Even though their presence among the wheat is annoying, they will cause no harm.