Corpus Christi Blog

Twenty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time

08-27-2017HomiliesDeacon Chris Kellogg

St. Peter and Jesus went golfing. They were on a 300 yard par 3 hole. The green was surrounded by water. Jesus took out an 8 iron to hit with. Peter said to Jesus, are you sure you’re going to be able to reach the green with that club? Jesus said he saw Jack Nicklaus use an 8 iron on that hole and reach the green so he could do it too. Jesus swung and splash, the ball drops in the middle of the water. So Jesus took out another ball to hit again. Peter said, don’t you think you should use a club that will give you more distance? Jesus said if Jack Nicklaus can reach the green with an 8 iron I can too. Jesus swung and splash, the ball lands in the water. So Jesus walks down the fairway, walks on top of the water and onto the green to putt. Now a foursome of golfers behind Jesus and Peter witnessed everything. One of them said to Peter, Who does he think he is, Jesus Christ? Peter said no, He thinks he’s Jack Nicklaus.

Jesus said to his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, Son of the Living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon, Son of Jonah, for my heavenly Father has revealed this to you.” Each one of us is asked this same question, who is Jesus to us? And what does that mean for our lives? Those of us who stand with Peter and say,

“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God are making a commitment and receiving a vocation. We are consecrating ourselves to worship our Heavenly Father and to open our hearts to do His will for our lives. I was at a Deacon Conference last weekend and the presenter asked these questions. What are you missing in life by not letting Jesus affect you? I think we should all reflect on that question. He also asked, are you fascinated with Jesus? He said stay fascinated with the Holy. Catholicism is about going deep, he said let Jesus reveal His beauty to you and you will become fascinated and your mind will become configured to his.

The following is one man’s journey his name is John about following Christ.   John is Armenian, while in college in California John took a trip to a summer camp in New York. At the camp he met a man from Ann Arbor, MI. This man was a former addict who had a conversion and gave his life to Christ. While walking in the woods one day the man challenged John to commit his life to Jesus. John prayed, and said yes. From that moment his life changed. He started to love reading scripture and spending time in prayer in a way he had never known. This is the grace God will give you if you open your heart to Him.

John transferred to the University of Michigan and stayed with a household of men who were part of a Christian Outreach group who would evangelize other students to help them grow in the faith. John knew if he was going to grow as a disciple, he would need to be connected to other Catholics committed to practicing their faith.

John joined a men’s group at his parish. Again,  he understood the importance of being in community with other strong Catholics to help form him as an intentional disciple (Note: we have a Men of St. Joseph ministry starting Wed., 9/6 at 6:30 PM in the Parish Center. All men are invited to come and see how God might be calling you to grow in the faith and more fully participate in the life of the Church).

John and his family were strong witnesses to the faith. They would invite international students to live with them. He mentioned how a woman, a graduate student, from China who was an atheist stayed with them. They taught her about Christ, she came to believe and was baptized one year later. John became involved with an organization called Renewal Ministries. He was invited on a missionary trip to Turkey. This was a big deal for John because the Armenians had been persecuted by the Turks and over 1 ½ million of them lost their lives. John would share his testimony of faith in Jesus and many people were inspired by his story. John was invited to continue in this ministry as he touched many people’s lives, and seemed to have a calling for missionary discipleship. But John knew he had to work through some issues which surfaced after the trip. He had some issues of bitterness and anger towards the Turks for what they did to his people. He learned of a ministry called Unbound. A ministry to help people be delivered from the influence of past hatred and evil in their lives and to enjoy a greater fullness of life in Christ. John has applied  key principles of this ministry to all aspects of his life and this has given him a roadmap for learning the faith and being able to present it to others. He now has traveled to several different countries teaching about this ministry and the message of Christ. John said how he doesn’t have a degree in Theology or Philosophy, how he considers himself timid and afraid but because he gave himself to Christ, God has been able to use him to spread His Gospel message throughout the world.

We must understand that God will use us to do His work if we give Him our unconditional Yes. We should ask ourselves, am I an intentional disciple willing to give my life completely to Christ or am I perhaps a lukewarm Catholic (only willing to give part of myself to Jesus). If you give your life fully to Jesus you can count on this. He will lead you into deeper prayer, lead you deeper into His word and deeper into union with God. Your heart will fall more in love with Him and the Holy Spirit will lead you into a deeper communion with others. The next step is then mission.  You see a Christian has one main goal as an apostle of Christ which is to spread the word of Christ—the Gospel. They are to share Christ’s love so that others may enter into relationship with Him and participate in His redemption. Every single member of the Church has a role to play in this regard. We must be fervent in living out our faith and not allow ourselves to be lukewarm.

Pope Emeritus Benedict 16 would have this to say, that being lukewarm is the greatest danger for a Catholic. A lukewarm Catholic may only give a half-hearted yes to God and the gift of His love. They may say their prayers but rush through them without love. They show up to Mass out of a sense of duty, but their hearts are not there. Lukewarm Catholics need to be more passionate about God speaking to them and feeding them at Mass. Today Jesus is telling each of us what he wants of us, what he expects of us. If we say that Jesus is our Lord, then we need to be energetic and totally committed to Him in faith and to the life and mission He has planned for us. Christ wants us to be focused on Him and to lead others to Him.

Let us return to the Gospel where we hear Jesus say, “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.” Why does Jesus choose Peter? Jesus chooses Peter to lead the other Apostles for two reasons.  First, because his Father chooses Peter by revealing to him what flesh could never know, that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah. Peter is the only one who knows the answer to Jesus’ question: “Who do you say that I am?”

Second, Jesus understands that Peter can only preach God’s reconciling love if he first experiences it himself. It is because Peter will fail so completely and weep so bitterly over his denial of Jesus, that when he is finally reconciled with Jesus at the Sea of Tiberius, he will truly understand God’s message of mercy. In that heart-rending scene Jesus will walk Peter back through his denials by asking him three times, Simon, do you love me? To be the rock on which the Church is founded, Peter must first experience the breaking open of his proud heart. Peter’s tears were his baptism of mercy. It is because of his suffering that he was able to proclaim God’s unconditional love to sinners. Peter was a sinner saved by that love.

Peter has primacy because he was first in failure, first in suffering, and first in need of God’s mercy in order to serve the Church. Let us ask God for his mercy and forgiveness for the times we have been lukewarm in serving Him.  Let us be a committed Catholic and go out and spread the Gospel. Most of the people you know will not hear the Gospel in Church. If they have any hope at all of hearing it, it will be from you. And remember too—you cannot give what you do not have. You cannot share whom you do not know. Respond to God’s grace, be passionate about learning your faith, spend time in prayer, come to know and imitate Jesus so that when others encounter you they will have an encounter with Jesus. Ask yourselves, are you willing to be a bridge that brings the Catholic faith to the world?