Divisive. It is not common these days to think of Jesus as a divisive person. It seems the popular notion is that Jesus is a warm fuzzy teddy bear. He loves us. He does not challenge us. He never scolds us or thinks we do anything wrong or sinful. Jesus reaffirms what we already believe. But today is different. Today we read in the gospel about a Jesus that comes to bring division, not peace.
O St. Thomas, the Apostle of India, Father of our faith, you spread the light of Christ in the hearts of the people of India. You humbly confessed “My Lord and My God” and sacrificed your life for love of him. We pray to you to strengthen us with love and faith in Jesus Christ so that we may dedicate ourselves totally to the cause of the kingdom of justice, peace and love. We pray that through your intercession we may be protected from all trials, dangers and temptations and be strengthened in the love of the Triune God, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Do you have faith? Do you really believe God can do anything? Do you really believe that God will always do what is best? Obviously, the thought that an old woman can have a child is remarkable indeed? It is so unbelievable that Sarah laughs. Abraham laughs. But the Lord comes through, as always. Faith is rewarded. Abraham and Sarah listen and ultimately believe.
What seems impossible in faith? What is it that seems unimaginable? Can you believe in God even when it is difficult? When it is hard? Today’s readings remind us that for people of faith, God can do anything.
O My God,
I place my trust and confidence in You,
who will reward the good and punish the wicked.
I believe in You and accept everything
You have taught and revealed.
Act of Hope
O my God, relying on your almighty power and infinite mercy and promises, I hope to obtain pardon for my sins, the help of your grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer.
Act of Faith
O my God, I firmly believe that you are on God in three divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins, and that he shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths the holy Catholic Church teaches, because you have revealed them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived.
Almost 9,000 attendees arrived in Saint Louis for this year’s National Catholic Education Association Convention. While it had been a few years since I had attended an NCEA Convention, this one did not disappoint. Every NCEA I have been to has reminded me of the size of the Catholic School mission in the United States. It has always been exciting to me to pray, socialize and learn with so many educators committed to a similar Catholic mission.
How do friars of the Order of Preachers — an Order founded around study, preaching, prayer and community — best commemorate eight-hundred years of their intellectual and spiritual tradition? Fr. Jay Harrington, OP, Regent of Studies for the Dominican Province of St. Albert the Great and Associate Academic Dean at Aquinas Institute of Theology (St. Louis, MO), invites the modern reader to glimpse into the lineage and tradition of the Dominicans through various lenses in his compilation, Christian Faith and the Power of Thinking: A Collection of Essays, Marking the 800th Anniversary of the Founding of the Order of Preachers in 1216.
In addition to his own chapter on the 13th-century Dominican, Augustine of Dacia, OP, Fr. Harrington includes the essays of Dominican friars from the Provinces of St. Albert the Great and St. Martin de Porres: Fr. Charles Dahm, OP; Fr. James Marchionda, OP; Fr. Thomas O’Meara, OP; the late Fr. Paul Philibert, OP; Fr. Scott Steinkerchner, OP; Fr. Benedict Thomas Viviano, OP; Fr. Mark Wedig, OP; and Fr. Richard Woods, OP. The authors treat their subjects with expertise, the fruits of the labor resulting from extensive intellectual work and practical ministerial application, and definitively within the charism of the Dominican Order.
Priorities. Living a good life means choosing the right priorities. What is important to you? What activities matter to you? What people matter to you? What choices do you make about how you live your life? What choices do you make about which people get your time, your care, your concern? Today’s gospel especially focusses on priorities and making those choices that matter for ultimate and eternal happiness.
Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. This line of the gospel makes it clear. If your vocation is married life, then you seek the Kingdom of God in a way that makes you the best father, the best husband, the best mother, the best wife. You make decisions based upon bringing yourself and those around you to Jesus. You recognize that nothing is more important than living your life for Christ.
This is really what life is all about. Yet, how often do we seek other things? How often do we seek Netflix, or social media, or games? How often do we first seek job and career success, money, success and wealth? How often do we seek to satisfy sexual desires, not as intended by God, but in pornography? How often do we seek security for our family by working so hard we never see them? How often is our quest first our smart phone, and not the people we find ourselves with?
Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. As we stand on the cusp of Lent, this is a good time to think about priorities. This is a good time to consider exactly what is important. This is the time when we ask ourselves if we are seeking God and his kingdom first, which causes us to value all of the right people and goals, or whether we allow ourselves to seek something far less.
Unbelief. In the midst of everything that happens in today’s world, it can be difficult to believe. First, there are the things that have always been difficult for people of faith. Such things as an innocent child who gets sick and dies. Or an inexplicable car accident or other type of accident which takes someone’s life to early. Perhaps there are those instances where a relationship fails, and we seek answers. Maybe the difficulty is simply that we cannot seem to believe in what we cannot see, or experience, or touch. There can be many challenges to belief.
That is true even for people who do believe. Such is what we witnessed in today’s gospel. A man brings his son in faith for a cure. But the disciples are incapable. The disciples simply cannot bring about a cure for this man’s son. And the scene seems more than a little chaotic. Not only is there the inability of the disciples for a cure, we hear that there are scribes arguing with a large crowd and the disciples. One can only imagine the depth of this argument in confronting something that is evil.
For anyone who has been involved in pastoral ministry, in trying to console those who grieve, it becomes clear that there is nothing more difficult, or at least few things more difficult, the parent who has a sick child, or a child who dies. It is in this vein that Jesus reminds us in the gospel that faith makes anything possible. But here’s the interesting line: I do believe, help my unbelief! In the midst of a difficult life even for people of faith, there is the recognition of the need for a closer relationship to God. Let us pray that God strengthens our faith as well.