Dear Ones in Christ,
I woke up this morning with words from Psalm 3 in my thoughts, “But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of my head. I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me.” (Ps. 3:3-5 KJV). I don’t have any deep insights into this psalm; I just rejoiced to have something this comforting as my first thoughts today, and I wanted to share it with you all.
Our Gospel reading for this weekend (Mt. 16:13-20), however, touches a different place in my heart. This portion of scripture has been a touchstone for me from my very first retreat after I had made my Profession of Faith and became a Roman Catholic Christian. On the first day of that retreat, my retreat director, after putting me at ease since I was a very new and somewhat nervous novice to this whole idea of a private retreat, asked me a little bit about myself, and then quoted this passage to me. Being a Jesuit, he set the whole scene for me, reminding me that Jesus had brought the disciples into a very unfamiliar part of the country that was close to Gentile country. The surroundings were different to them all, as were the language and the customs. My director rephrased Jesus’s question, “But who do you say that I am?”, by saying that Jesus’s deeper question was, “Who do you NEED me to be for you right now?” I spent the rest of that retreat reflecting on that question, and every time this reading comes up in our cycle of readings, I ask myself that question anew, “Who do you NEED me to be for you right now?” May I invite all of you to sit with that same question and probe your own hearts for your own personal answer? For some reason, in answer to this question this time, I found myself singing the scriptures which the composer, Handel, used in his great oratorio, “Messiah.” He used titles from Revelation 19, “… Lord God omnipotent,” “King of Kings,” “Lord of Lords.” Handel also used some beautiful titles from Isaiah: “Wonder-Counselor,” “The mighty God,” “The everlasting Father,” “The Prince of Peace.” Scripture is filled with such titles which, when we reflect on them, can bring us such comfort because they cause us to realize that the Lord is greater than every problem, every situation, every sorrow, every question and fear. I needed that gentle reminder again as it has helped me to put things into perspective about the times in which we find ourselves. The Lord God omnipotent will, I believe, turn these sometimes-excruciating days into great blessing if we allow Him to work out His plan and His will. My problem is that I sometimes find myself trying to run out ahead of His plan, and without fail I end up making a mess of things. I forget that HE is the Lord of Lords, HE is the mighty God; it is He whose hands are stronger than mine and whose will is perfect. My heart returns to its rest as I reflect on all this, and I hope that by sharing these few thoughts with you today, that you’ll find your heart gently resting in Him too. May I end my time with you today with just a little homework? Please read all of Psalm 27. Let the whole psalm wash over you in gentleness, but in particular rest in the last two verses, “I believe I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord!”
Your parish staff is doing well, and I thank so many of you for taking the time to ask about all of us. Be well, and know you are all ever in my prayers.