12 Sunday C – Messaih -Homilies

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 Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration

We have gathered here as we call ourselves ‘Christians’ — literally ‘followers of the Anointed One’. But what does it mean to follow the Anointed One of God? Today we get a stark answer to that question: ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me.’ Let us begin our assembly by reflecting on how well we follow him.

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Michel de Verteuil

General Textual comments

Today’s gospel reading is clearly divided into sections. In your meditation, start with one alone, although you may eventually find a connection between the different sections.

In verses 18 to 21 Jesus puts to his disciples the deepest and most sacred question that we can ask one another: “Who do you say I am?” Identify with Jesus doing the asking, or with the disciples being asked. You can then concentrate either on the content of Peter’s answer or on the way Jesus asked the question, e.g. why did he ask it the way he did, or why at this particular moment of his life.

In verse 22 Jesus says clearly that he knows the difficulties that his chosen path will bring him, and at the same time he is confident that he will eventually be victorious.

In verses 23 and 24 we have two of the most famous sayings of Jesus. In meditating on such paradoxical sayings, you must let yourself make a journey into the paradox, identifying with each part of the saying, and feeling that they are contradictory, but eventually discovering that they are not really so, and in the process entering into a new insight that touches you deeply. You might also ask yourself why is Jesus giving that kind of teaching today, to you personally or to the world. 

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Gospel Notes

This is the scene conventionally labelled ‘the confession at Caesarea Philippi’. It is found in all three synoptics. But Luke’s version is the most distinctive, by far the shortest, and the most stark. In Mark this is the very centre of his whole story and there is the complaint of Peter that draws out the cry from Jesus: ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ Then in Matthew we have all that is in Mark, plus the Petrine commission: ‘You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church.’ Indeed, Matthew’s text has been used so often that this reading from Luke is virtually unknown, and when it is known we silently conflate it with Mt / Mk.

Read Luke and note the starkness:

(1) There is no location given — Caesarea Philippi is mentioned in Mark (who is followed by Matthew) but this detail is omitted by Luke — this is just an event that has happened on the road as part of the following of Jesus by his disciples.

(2) There is just Jesus and ‘disciples’ — note there is not even a reference to ‘The Twelve’; the scene is one of Jesus with the followers (i.e. the church who are listening to Luke) for Luke has made this an archetypal encounter. Peter is only there to give the essential answer; he is not the focus of Jesus’s attention as he is in differing ways in Mark and Matthew.

(3) There is no banter: the conditions of discipleship are given as statements of what life will be like.

(4) Just in case there is any mistake about the nature of discipleship, Luke adds a single word to the text of Mk 8:34 (which Matthew takes over from Mark without change): ‘daily’ — discipleship will not just involve taking up a cross or some spectacular suffering which one might well avoid, but it will mean taking up the cross every day.

Luke takes a scene and story that is localised as part of the memory of the times of Jesus in Mark and Matthew, and universalises it for the experience of the church. This is the Christ of God speaking to every community in every time about whom they are following and what that following will involve.
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John Littleton
Gospel Reflection

Jesus once asked his disciples: ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ (Luke 9:18). They replied: ‘John the Baptist, others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life’ (Luke 9:19). It is easy to speculate generally about other people and their opinions. However, it is often much more challenging to be specific about ourselves when the attention is on us.

Who do we say that Jesus is? This is a central question regarding the fundamentals of the Christian faith. It challenges us to know what we claim to believe as Christians and, after prayerful reflection, to reaffirm our belief in Jesus the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Without any doubt, the answer to Jesus’ question ‘Who do you say that I am?’ is: Jesus Christ is the universal Saviour, our Lord and God. For example, Peter’s answer was: ‘The Christ of God’ (Luke 9:20), that is, the Messiah, the Anointed One.

Unfortunately, however, we often answer the question ‘Who do you say that I am?’ by using well- rehearsed phrases that, while theoretically correct,have not been internalised because they have not arisen from our personal experience of the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives. There is a vast difference between knowing about Jesus Christ and knowing him personally — in the same way that there is a significant difference between knowing about a colleague at work and knowing that person personally. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, many people who knew about him did not know him personally. Sadly, that situation has remained unchanged today.

Human civilisation is, in one sense, advancing greatly. Our ideas and our language are increasingly sophisticated. We live in a rapidly expanding information age. Yet, in another sense, our civilisation is slowly but surely disintegrating. It lacks meaning and a definite purpose.

Traditional values and well-established principles are being abandoned. For many people, the name of Jesus Christ is just another piece of the huge jigsaw of knowledge and information. His name is not acknowledged as unique in the history of humankind. Indeed, his name is frequently used blasphemously. In such a culture, Christians are losing their sense of identity.

Our identity is rooted in Christ Jesus, the Lord of the universe and Saviour of humankind. At baptism we became brothers and sisters in Christ, co-heirs to the kingdom of God. If we acknowledge seriously the baptismal dignity that is ours, then we can never ask ‘Who am I?’ without simultaneously asking ‘Who is Jesus for me?’ Our true identity can only be found in the salvation he has won for us by his suffering and death.

We need to ‘go back to basics’. Who is Jesus for us? What words and phrases do we use when describing his significance in our lives? Do those words merely communicate knowledge about him or do they communicate a deeply personal relationship with him that acknowledges him as the only Son of the living God? We need to be wary about using language that sounds attractive but actually means nothing because it has not been internalised. Let us avoid making the mistake of knowing about Jesus Christ while not knowing him personally.

 Homily Notes

1. Who is Jesus? On this question hangs not only the whole of Christian theology, but every aspect of our life of faith. ‘Christology’ – which is the attempt to provide the answer to the question – is not an abstract academic study within a theology course, but the constant activity of believers: when we celebrate, when we act or write or paint or sculpt, when we engage in social activities, in all of these there is implicit christology. Every action of the church in some way says or betrays how Christians in their hearts and lives – as distinct from their repeated rhyming off of creeds or formulae of or­thodoxy – answer the question. Some of those statements and actions might show him as merciful; others might show him as a killjoy or as a tyrant (but in the spiritual realm). Then there are attitudes that are tantamount to docetism: he never really became an individual human in the midst of the circus of life; and there are attitudes that are tantamount to reducing Jesus to a moral philosopher or a ‘God-like’ chap. And, there are actions of Christians that imply he is irrele­vant to the actual living of life in society.

2. So we have our two starting points: (1) who is Jesus is as much a question for our gathering today as it was in the as­sembly in which Luke was telling his story; and (2) there are as wide a diversity of opinions among those who have heard his words as ever before. It is a rare occurrence when a situ­ation in the gospel and a situation in a community today have such complete congruence.

3. But how do we make this question small enough to say something focused in the course of a homily? Perhaps one could begin with a seemingly frivolous question: what is Jesus’s surname? Is it ‘Christ’? This is quite a common prac­tice in indices in books on the history of ideas where Jesus is referred to as a kind of populist philosopher: ‘Christ, Jesus, pp n, n, n.’ Funnily enough, this is not a new phenomenon: it is Luke who records that the followers of Jesus were called ‘Christians’ in the Greco-Roman world, and many Romans such as Tacitus and Pliny thought so as well and assumed that ‘Chrestus’ or ‘Christus’ was simply the name of the orig­inator of our cult. The trend continues today when people say ‘you followers of Christ’; and we are often just as guilty when we say ‘we are followers of Christ’. But the word ‘christ’ is not a name, but the basic title by which we ac­knowledge who Jesus is.

4. Our confession of faith is: ‘Jesus is the Christ.’ He is the indi­vidual we call ‘the anointed one’. Chosen by the Father to enter into the totality of our human experience, Jesus is Lord; and he is the Son giving to all reality a worth such that it can exist in the presence of God. To say ‘Jesus is the Christ’ is to say that all humanity is offered the chance to be transformed into the divine image. It is a wholly different way of looking at the world and at the human condition. And if we really see the world in this new way – as countless brothers and sisters of Jesus have down the centuries – then we will react in a wholly different way to human joys and human sorrows. All that is good and noble can lead us towards holiness; all that is sordid or sad can be transformed.

5. However, a small start would be to stop using ‘Christ’ as if it were a surname – that is the practice of those who have not encountered Jesus but just heard about him – and begin using it as the our basic confession of faith: Jesus is the Christ. Amen.

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Scripture Prayer

Lord, people today think they can know themselves through objective tests,
that can be bought in a store and “administered” by strangers.
But, as Jesus taught us, the question “Who am I?” is a sacred one.
Others can help us only if they have walked with us for years,
if we have been alone with them for long hours and they have prayed with us.
And when they have helped us it will be something so personal
that we will not want them to tell anyone about it.

Lord, we remember with gratitude a retreat we made with some companions.
We remember how after those days we knew them so much better,
partly because we had shared deeply,
but more from the mere fact that they had prayed alone in our presence.
Before that retreat, we – like “the crowds” –
had put them into categories according to their age, race or social class,
or as other people we had known who had come back to life in them.
Now we looked on them with reverence,
seeing them as unique individuals, your own specially anointed ones.

Lord, forgive us that we want to be known as “prophets”
or “the presence of God in the world” or “light of the world”.
Teach us to be humble like Jesus,
so that when people give us these titles
we will give them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.

“There is no way on this earth that you can say yes to human dignity and know that you will be spared any kind of sacrifice.”     Cesar Chavez
Lord, once we give ourselves to a noble cause
there comes a time as it did for Jesus when we know for certain
that we are destined to suffer grievously,
that we will be rejected by people who have been our teachers,
and others whom we looked upon as holy and learnéd,
and that we will be defeated many times.
But deep down within us we know too that we will always start again.

“In Caribbean politics, the moon is promised by politicians, and democracy consists in making a choice between competing sets of promises which are dangled temptingly every four or five years.”    Michael Manley
Lord, we pray for our political leaders, that they may be more like Jesus,
that they will respect us sufficiently to tell us honestly
that we must renounce our natural desire for easy solutions to our problems,
and that we must take up every day
the burden of solving these problems from our own resources.
But of course they must also be like Jesus in setting the example by doing this themselves.

Lord, it is one of the marks of Western civilization today
that we need to be superior to others in order to establish our identity:
* men humiliate women to prove their masculinity;
* nations arm themselves to the teeth to gain the respect of other nations;
* as a Church, we prove others false so that we can call ourselves true.
Send us teachers like Jesus to remind us
that we can never find our true vocation by concentrating on ourselves,
but if we serve others after his example you can lead us to our true selves.

“If today’s flourishing civilizations remain selfishly wrapped up in themselves, they could easily place their highest values in jeopardy, sacrificing their will to be great to the desire to possess more.”       Pope Paul VI
Lord, we thank you that the Popes are reaching nations with the message of Jesus
that if they want to save their true greatness
they must be willing to give up some of their power and security.

 

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Homily 2:


Today's First Reading from the Book of Zechariah [Zech. 12:10-11] was prophetic in nature. Seven hundred and fifty years before its fulfillment, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the prophet Zechariah foretold the piercing of the Lord Jesus on the Holy Cross in Jerusalem and the mourning of many for the One that they loved so much. This prophecy foretold of the tears of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the other women who were present, the Apostles and the many followers of the Lord who admired Him as a great Teacher.
This prophecy also foretold that Jesus, the promised Messiah, would be a descendant of King David who had lived two hundreds and fifty years earlier in time. How marvellous are the prophecies that are received from God. They are one hundred percent accurate, even when foretold one thousand years ahead of time. Truly, for God, all times, past, present and future, coexist as one, He knowing all things. From today's Second Reading from the Letter to the Galatians, [Gal. 3:26-29] we are reminded that through the Sacrament of Baptism, we have become children of God, sons and daughters of God. Our adoption in the Divine family echoes that we are of Abraham's seed. This does not mean that we are of Abraham's biological seed but rather his spiritual seed. He was the first of God's people. Us, we are counted among the endless number of believers who have embraced the God of Abraham through faith in Christ Jesus.

As a body without a spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead. It is insufficient to just have faith in Jesus. Christ commanded us to receive the Sacraments of the Holy Catholic Church that He has instituted on earth. He commanded us to receive the Sacrament of Baptism, the Sacrament of Confession and the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist through participation in the great Feast of the Holy Mass on a weekly basis. He commanded us to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony by marrying a believer to protect and defend the precious gift of faith that we have received from our ancestors by the grace of God.

To clothe ourselves with Christ means to continuously receive the Sacraments, to live as Jesus lived, to obey God's Commandments, to be faithful to the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church, to live holy lives by loving one another as Christ loved us. So great was the love of Jesus that He laid down His life for each and every one of us.

Today's Reading from the Gospel of Luke [Lk. 9:18-24] delivered a number of spiritual messages to us.

First of all, the attention is drawn on Jesus. Who was Jesus? Who did the crowds think that He was? Who did Saint Peter think that Jesus was? There were those who believed that Jesus was John the Baptist who had returned. Some believed that He was Elijah. Others believed that He was one of the prophets of long ago who had come back to life. These answers echoed either returning from the dead or reincarnation. Both of these beliefs are rejected by the Holy Catholic Church. The dead do not return for a second chance. There is no second chance. When we move on after death, we are judged accordingly to the way we have lived in this life, this one and only life.

When Peter was asked who he thought that Jesus was, He answered, "The Messiah of God." The word "Messiah" is Hebrew for the word "anointed." The Greek translation is "christos" from which comes the word Christ. In Israel, kings, like priests, were anointed. The future King, who was to be the Saviour of His people and the world, came to be spoken of as "the Anointed One." The word was applied to the future Saviour in the Old Testament [Psalm 2], in telling of the conspiracy of the enemies of Jehovah and "his Christ." It was used in later Jewish writings; and the New Testament shows that it was in current use in Our Lord's time.

Secondly, the Gospel draws our attention to Jesus' prophecy that He would suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law. And finally, He would be killed. But on the third day, He would rise from the dead. Such a prophecy must have been hard for the Apostles to swallow. After all, no one comes back from the dead. When you die, your time here on earth is finished, now and forever. What was spoken by Jesus to the Apostles was meaningless at the time. It was only after His glorious Resurrection that the Apostles would remember his prophecy.

Thirdly, the Gospel draws our attention to the necessity to renounce one's life and to follow Jesus by persevering in the trials that may cross our daily path. Those who strive for fame, wealth, pleasures, they are lost. For these goals oppose spiritual growth. It is better to have little and to be happy with it, being thankful to God for all that one receives. It is better to be humble, submissive to God, obedient to the Commandments, than to elevate oneself above all others. Those who defend and spread their faith, they shall be glorified by God throughout eternity. Those who are ashamed of Jesus and their faith, refusing the defend and spread the Catholic faith, they shall be eternally lost. For one cannot serve two masters, the God of glory and the god of indifference.

Jesus said, "Take up your cross and follow me." That is not just a bunch of words; it is a strict command by the Lord Jesus Himself, to follow Him. This week, let us reflect on these Sacred Words of Jesus. Let us ask ourselves if we are being obedient to the Lord Jesus, if we are taking up our cross and following Him. If so, then praise the Lord. If not, then it is never too late to begin. This week, let us also pray for one another, especially for those who need to take up their cross, that they may find the strength to do so for the glory of the Lord Jesus.
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Homily 3 (ACP):
 
The Big Question
One day, somewhere in the foothills of Mount Hermon, where Jesus had brought his disciples for a quiet time, he asked them straight out, “Who are people saying that I am?” It marks one of the most crucial moments in the public life of Jesus. St Luke suggests that the whole episode took place in a brief period of stillness and reflection, far withdrawn from the hectic course of events prior to it. Indeed this chapter in Luke’s gospel marks a turning point in Christ’s mission, for towards the end of it we are told, “As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, he fixed his face firmly to go to Jerusalem.”
Heading for Jerusalem cost an interior struggle in the heart of Jesus. Was he feeling apprehension to what was to be his fate in Jerusalem? It seems clear he knew quite well that he was going to meet his death there at the hands of his enemies. Or was he looking back at what he had achieved, trying to see what understanding of himself and his mission his disciples had learned? By way of answer to, “Who do people say that I am?,” his disciples listed for him some of the popular rumours that were circulating about him, that he was John the Baptist restored to life, or a reincarnation of Elijah, one of the greatest prophets in Jewish history. Then came a breathless silence, and he put the question which meant so much to him, “Who do you say that I am?” It is never enough to know what other people have seen in Jesus. Christianity never consists in knowing about Jesus; it always consists in knowing Jesus, and this in a more intimate and personal way. In other words, the discovery o Christ must ultimately come from a person-to-person experience between each of us and Christ, an experience moreover that matures within the Christian community that begets it and plays such a prominent part in sustaining it.
Peter’s answer to this question about the identity of Jesus is the only one recorded, and it is interesting to examine the different wordings given in the three synoptic gospels. The oldest one, that of Mark, simply states, “You are the Christ.” The title Christ, or Messiah, means “the anointed one,” and in Old Testament times only kings, priests, and prophets were anointed, and Christ was seen as all three. Luke’s gospel has the slightly longer answer, “You are the Christ of God.” The version in Matthew, written later still, is the longest, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” “You are the Christ,” “You are the Christ of God,” “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” At least two of these answers, you might argue, are not exactly what Peter said. But a religious message with computerised exactness, in every detail, was never what the evangelists set out to give us.
They Gospels reflect the faith of the Christian communities out of which they grew. And what we are witnessing, in the short period between the writing of Mark’s gospel and that of Matthew, is the growth in their understanding of the significance of Christ. The active faith of the first Christians was penetrating deeper and deeper into the mystery that was Christ. It was only after deep reflection on the sayings of Christ, on the miracles he worked, and especially on his post-resurrection appearances that they arrived at the conviction that he was a divine person.
The successors to the contemporaries of Jesus continued to find a more meaningful answer to that query, “Who do you say that I am?” And Christ to this day continues to issue the same challenge to each one of us also. St Paul writing about the faith to his young companion Timothy said, “I know whom I have believed.” Note he did not say, “I know what I have believed.” Christianity does not mean saying “yes” to a list of truths. It means knowing a person – not a person away out there, remote from us, but the person of Jesus Christ as he dwells by faith within us, for each of us is called to be the temple of the risen glorified Son of God.
 
Justice and Discrimination
People today are more ready to listen to a message about rights and freedoms and personal dignity than about self-denial or taking up the cross. Yet I suggest that today’s readings show us a nice balance between human dignity and equality for all and the need for self-sacrifice and keeping the crucified and pierced Christ whom we profess to follow clearly in view. Modern freedoms are welcome and too long delayed, but they bring attendant dangers and often a deceiving loyalty to Christ’s teaching (for example, the woman who says “My body is my own” as an excuse for abortion.)
One of the following could be developed:
(1) Each should know and rejoice in our own dignity as child of God. But each other person is as good as we are in the eyes of God, equally a brother or sister of Christ.
(2) The first duty of a Christian towards his neighbour is to give him his proper dignity as a son of God. Allow him or her to be what he or she is.
(3) It is only if you know your worth in God’s eyes, and that worth is respected by others, that you can reasonably be asked to deny yourself.
(4) Remember the one they pierced on the cross. That’s the Master we follow. And remember that he is pierced often today in the oppressed, the poverty-stricken, the sick, the neglected. I must seek for them the dignity I claim for myself.
 
Has the Cross a place still?
Medicine has improved remarkably and today the prospect of sudden grave illness has greatly diminished. Half a century ago, the life of a priest was dominated by what were called “sick calls.” Day or night he could be called, and often was, to administer the last sacraments to the dying. He daren’t leave his house without leaving explicit instructions as to where he could be found and if for some reason he had to leave his parish, he would always contact a neighbouring priest, to cover his parish in his absence.
No priest today feels this awesome responsibility. Nowadays most people  die in hospitals, where they are cared for by chaplains; back then, most died in their homes. Everybody, including children, would have seen death at close quarters. They would have watched over a dying member of the family, for days arid weeks and months, as life slowly ebbed away until at last it flickered out. Sooner or later, “the Great Reaper’ (depicted as a skeleton wielding a scythe,) was an occasional visitor in every home. Almost the only use made of the “parlour” in country houses was to lay out the dead and hold the wake.
Before pain-killing drugs became widely available, mainly due to the Hospice movement, sickness and death were always accompanied by suffering and in response  people turned to what they called “the consolations of religion.” They had an instinctive empathy for the suffering and death of Christ, which we can barely comprehend now. The Stations of the Cross had an enormous appeal for them. It helped them make sense of their own lives. They were urged to join their sufferings to the sufferings of Christ. Unavoidable suffering was seen as “the will of God” and “resignation” in the face of suffering was the great virtue. We were taught “to offer it up” in reparation for personal sins and those of others. It explains the enormous popularity of somebody like St Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower, who was canonised not long after her death. She died from tuberculosis in her early twenties and her diary “The Little Way” had enormous appeal in Ireland, where there was scarcely a home that had not lost a young boy or girl prematurely as a result of tuberculosis.
Now tuberculosis has been eradicated, only to be replaced by cancer, which in turn seems about to be conquered by medical science, through carefully targetted anti-cancer agents. Suffering no longer occupies centre-stage as it did formerly, but it will remain, like death, a permanent part of the human condition. The cross will remain forever at the core of Christianity, although at this time in history, in our post-Christian era, it is probably more worn as an ornament rather than as a religious symbol. But what Christ said in today’s gospel, he says to all: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me.”
 
What do YOU answer?
Today’s gospel poses the central question of our faith: “Who do you say that I am?” If we reply that Jesus is someone we are prepared to follow, he makes very clear what that will imply. Imagine, if you can, Jesus posing that same question to a group of intellectual theologians. The answer would go something like this: “You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being; the kerygma in which we find the ultimate meaning of our interpersonal relationships.” I could well imagine that Jesus’ reply would be: “WHAT?’!
“And you, who do you say that I am?” Jesus is a personal God, who asks personal questions. “Will you also go away?” “Do you love me more than these?” The question is addressed to each of us personally, and the answer must come from personally too. We will not find that answer in a book, but in the heart. If we are to follow him, we must join in his journey, as Peter did. We must take up the cross of daily living, faithful to his call, so that he can lead us to the fullness of life. If we follow him, we need not expect much in the way of earthly glory for our pains. Just as he was rejected and marginalised for refusing to conform to the standards of this world, whoever takes him seriously may expect a similar response.
The complete answer to the question is “You are my Saviour, my Lord and my God.” “You are Saviour in the room of my past; the Lord of the room of my future, and you are God in the room of today.” God is totally a God of now. “I am who am.” If he is Saviour, then I don’t have to be back in the past, with regret, guilt, or self-condemnation. If he is Lord, then I don’t have to live in the future, with worries, anxieties, and fear. I need have no fear of the future, if I believe that he holds the future. If he is God today, then “there is nothing impossible with God.”
 

ILLUSTRATIONS: 

1.     Walking on Water 

There is an old story that has often been re-told in especially the Eastern Orthodox part of the church. According to the tale, a devout abbot from a monastery decided to take a prolonged spiritual retreat in a small cabin located on a remote island in the middle of a large lake. He told his fellow monks that he wanted to spend his days in prayer so as to grow closer to God. For six months he remained on the island with no other person seeing him or hearing from him in all that time. But then one day, as two monks were standing near the shore soaking up some sunshine, they could see in the distance a figure moving toward them. It was the abbot, walking on water, and coming toward shore. After the abbot passed by the two monks and continued on to the monastery, one of the monks turned to the other and said, "All these months in prayer and the abbot is still as stingy as ever. After all, the ferry costs only 25 cents!"

2.     Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was acquainted with failure.

It dogged him all his life.
In 1832 he was defeated for the legislature.
In 1833 his business failed.
In 1836 he had a nervous breakdown.
In 1843 he lost the nomination for Congress.
In 1854 he was defeated for the Senate.
In 1856 he lost the nomination for vice president.
Then, in I860, he was elected president. 

Lincoln was well prepared for the defeats and setbacks that bruised the nation during the Civil War years. Another man might have collapsed under the ordeal, but not Lincoln. Failure and setback had taught him how to ride out the storms of discouragement. Recall some setback that we weathered well. "God selects his own instruments, and sometimes they are queer ones; for instance, he chose me to steer the ship through a great Crisis."     

-Abraham Lincoln
 

3.     A Boy’s Self-appraisal: Who do people say I am? 

A little boy went into a drug store, reached for a soda carton and pulled it over to the telephone. He climbed onto the carton so that he could reach the buttons on the phone and proceeded to punch in seven digits (phone numbers). 
The store-owner observed and listened to the conversation: 
Boy: "Lady, Can you give me the job of cutting your lawn?
Woman: (at the other end of the phone line): "I already have someone to cut my lawn." 
Boy: "Lady, I will cut your lawn for half the price of the person who cuts your lawn now."
Woman: I'm very satisfied with the person who is presently cutting my lawn. 
Boy: (with more perseverance) : "Lady, I'll even sweep your house and your sidewalk, so on Sunday you will have the prettiest lawn in all of Palm beach , Florida."
Woman: No, thank you. 
With a smile on his face, the little boy replaced the receiver. The store-owner, who was listening to all this, walked over to the boy. 
Store Owner: "Son... I like your attitude; I like that positive spirit and would like to offer you a job."
Boy: "No thanks, 
Store Owner: But you were really pleading for one.
Boy: No Sir, I was just checking my performance at the job I already have. I am the one who is working for that lady I was talking to!"
This is what we call "Self-Appraisal"
 

4.     Would you please occupy my room for the night?

One stormy night many years ago, an elderly man and his wife entered the lobby of a small hotel in Philadelphia. Trying to get out of the rain, the couple approached the front desk hoping to get some shelter for the night. "Could you possibly give us a room here?" the husband asked. The clerk, a friendly man with a winning smile, looked at the couple and explained that there were three conventions in town. "All of our rooms are taken," the clerk said. "But I can't send a nice couple like you out into the rain at one o'clock in the morning. Would you perhaps be willing to sleep in my room? It's not exactly a suite, but it will be good enough to make you folks comfortable for the night." When the couple declined, the young man pressed on. "Don't worry about me; I'll make out just fine," the clerk told them. So the couple agreed. As he paid his bill the next morning, the elderly man said to the clerk, "You are the kind of manager who should be the boss of the best hotel in the United States. Maybe someday I will build one for you." The clerk looked at them and smiled. The three of them had a good laugh. As they drove away, the elderly couple agreed that the helpful clerk was indeed exceptional, as finding people who are both friendly and helpful isn't easy. Two years passed. The clerk had almost forgotten the incident when he received a letter. It was from the old man, who recalled in it that stormy night and enclosed a round-trip ticket to New York so the young man could pay them a visit. The old man met him in New York. He then pointed to a great new building there, a palace of reddish stone, with turrets and watchtowers thrusting up to the sky. "That," said the older man, "is the hotel I have just built for you to manage.” “You must be joking," the young man said. "I can assure you I am not," said the older man, a sly smile playing around his mouth. The older man's name was William Waldorf Astor, and the magnificent structure was the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, one of the world's most glamorous hotels. The young clerk who became its first manager was George C. Boldt. Here is a striking proof of what Jesus tells us in today’s gospel, “Whoever wishes to save his life…..” Young George Boldt buried his own comfort and convenience by giving up his room. His sacrifice sprouted and brought forth the reward of becoming the manager of the most outstanding hotels in the world.

5.     Being a Messiah in Life: A doctor’s story: 

Newspaper columnist George Plagenz once told the story of a young doctor who delivered a baby into a poverty-stricken family in Montana. The child had one cruelly deformed leg. He also had difficulty breathing. "The other children will call him 'Limpy'," the doctor thought. "His life will be miserable. If I don't do anything for his breathing, he will die. Wouldn't that be better?" he asked himself. Then he remembered his Hippocratic oath and began blowing into the baby's mouth. Soon the child's lungs were acting normally and he gave his first cry.

Several years later the doctor's daughter and son-in-law were killed in an auto accident. The doctor's ten-year-old granddaugh­ter was left an orphan. He took her in. One day the child was stricken with a crippling and incurable condition. The doctor learned there was a young doctor in the Midwest who had been getting excellent results in the treatment of this particular disease. He took his granddaughter to see the doctor.

The young physician was lame. He was the deformed baby into whose mouth the older doctor had breathed 35 years before. Because of his own infirmity, the young doctor had specialized in this crippling disease. The treatment on the older doctor's grand­child was successful and the little girl was returned to normal health.

From Fr. Tony’s collection: 

6.     Shakespeare and Jesus. 

It was the 19th century British essayist Mr. Charles Lamb who moved the 17th century playwright William Shakespeare from his undeserved obscurity to the limelight of fame. Charles Lamb was once involved in a discussion of the question, who is the greatest literary genius of all time? Two names finally emerged: William Shakespeare and Jesus of Nazareth. Lamb put an end to the debate when he said: “I’ll tell you the difference between these two men. If Shakespeare walked into this room right now, we would all rise to greet him, but if Christ came in, we would all fall down and worship.” There is the essential difference between the Man from Nazareth and all other great people you can think of. Jesus Christ is God and all others, no matter what their deeds, are but fools strutting on the stage for a brief time and then exiting. Today’s gospel describes who Jesus really is and what the unique conditions for Christian discipleship are.

7.     The Witness Of History:

In 1896, after fifteen centuries, Athens renewed the Olympic Games, thus fulfilling the dream of Baron Pierre de Coubertin of France. You can imagine how proud the Greeks were to host the first modern Olympics. You can also imagine how disappointed they were at their athletes' lack of success in event after event. The last competition was the marathon. Greece's entrant was named Louis, a shepherd without competitive background. He'd trained alone in the hills near his flock. When the race started, Louis was far back in the pack of marathoners. But as the miles passed he moved up steadily. One by one the leaders began to falter. The Frenchman fell in agony. The hero from the United States had to quit the race. Soon, word reached the stadium that a lone runner was approaching the arena, and the emblem of Greece was on his chest! As the excitement grew, Prince George of Greece hurried to the stadium entrance where he met Louis and ran with him to the finish line.In this sports tale we have something of the history of the human race. Most historical figures make their impact, achieve a measure of fame and have books written about them, but as the years go by they begin to fade. With Jesus Christ, however, one finds quite the opposite phenomena! Christ started from way back in the pack. He was born in relative obscurity, never had many followers, wrote no books. He died young, was buried in a borrowed grave, and you'd think he'd be quickly forgotten. But, no! His reputation has grown so that today he is worshiped on every continent and has more followers than ever before. Sixteen times has his picture been on the cover of Time magazine, and his sayings have been translated into more than 200 languages. Consider: Socrates taught for forty years, Plato for fifty, and Aristotle, forty. Jesus Christ only taught for three years. Yet which has influenced the world more, one hundred thirty years of classical thought or three years of Christ's? In the Library of Congress there are 1,172 reference books on William Shakespeare, 1,752 on George Washington, 2,319 on Abe Lincoln, and 5,152 on Jesus Christ. Perhaps H. G. Wells best summed up the runaway difference in interest. "Christ," he wrote, "is the most unique person of history. No man can write a history of the human race without giving first and foremost place to the penniless teacher of Nazareth." From poverty and obscurity to teacher to death on the cross, to ascended Lord - Jesus Christ is the growing figure of history. He is unique, for while all others decrease, he increases - until, as the Bible predicts, "To him every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." Today’s gospel reveals his true identity and describes what one must do to follow. 

8.     What does Jesus mean to us?  

Founder of a religion like Buddha and Confucius? Revolutionary Jewish reformer? One of the great teachers? Son of God and personal savior? This can perhaps be broken down into other questions: "How do I really see Jesus? Is Jesus a living experience for me, walking with me, loving me, forgiving me, helping me and transforming my life and outlook? What difference does Jesus make in my life? Have I really given my life to him? Are there areas where I have excluded Him, where my life is not noticeably different from the lives of those who see Jesus as irrelevant? Who do we say that Jesus is in our daily life? Who do we say that He is when we are in the presence of those who don't know him, those who aren't interested in him? What does the way we live and behave say about who Jesus is? Is the joy, the love, the peace that we find in Jesus reflected in the way we live our lives? We are gathered here today in the name of Jesus. We have not come together to celebrate a long past memorial for a merely good man who died long ago. We are here to celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ, the Messiah, our Lord and personal Savior in this Eucharistic celebration. 

9.     “Who do you say that I am?”  

On Sunday morning a man showed up at church with both of his ears terribly blistered. So his pastor asked, "What happened to you Jim?" Jim said: "I was lying on the couch watching a ball game on TV while my wife was ironing nearby. I was totally engrossed in the game when she went out, leaving the iron near the phone. The phone rang, and keeping my eyes on the TV, I grabbed the hot iron and put it to my ear." "How dreadful," gasped the pastor. "But how did the other ear get burned?" "Well, you see, I'd no sooner hung up, the guy called back!" He just didn't get it. Lots of folks never get it and never understand how life really works, even at the simplest levels. That's why Jesus is pressing his followers — and us with a challenging question in today’s gospel: “Who do you say that I am?” (Msgr. Dennis Clarke)

10.  The Catholic general knowledge about the Bible and the Messiah:

A Sunday school teacher was telling the students of how the walls of Jericho came down amazingly by the blowing of trumpets and shouts of the people. Observing that Johnny was day-dreaming, the teacher asked him: “Johnny who knocked down the walls of Jericho?” Johnny started shouting furiously, "I didn't do it, I didn't do it!, and he quit the class in protest. That evening the teacher met his parents in the park and spoke to Johnny’s mother. She told her the story of what happened in the class and about Johnny’s unreasonable outburst in the class. His mother said, "If my son said he didn't do it, then he didn't do it! I trained him not to tell lies.” The perplexed teacher asked Johnny’s mother if she could speak to the boy's father. When she explained the incident to him he said: "Let's not fuss about this. Just tell me how much it will cost to repair the walls and I'll write a check."

11.  What happens when sermons become sleeping pills:  

"I hope you didn't take it personally, Father," an embarrassed woman said to her pastor after the Mass, "that my husband walked out during your homily." "I did find it rather disconcerting," the preacher replied. "It's not a reflection on you, Father," she insisted. "Ralph has been walking in his sleep ever since he was a child."