On the Road Together, August 31, 2017
For September 2&3, 2017
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
From the Responsorial Psalm:
My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.
Director of RCIA
I had a theology professor in undergraduate studies who was a beloved teacher. Students flocked to his classes, even when they did not need any more theology credits to graduate. He often offered memorable phrases about faith and spirituality that you could hold onto, and for me, ones that come to mind even over twenty years later. One such phrase he often said was, “God is the God of the white knuckles. Hold on.” He went on to explain that at times in our lives, we are just holding on for dear life. When you grasp onto something so hard, your straining hands make your knuckles white. Often in times of confusion and hardship, I recall this phrase from Fr. Eugene Zoeller, and I keep the mantra in my head: “Just hold on.”
Our readings this weekend present us with two very prominent figures in our tradition who probably had some white knuckles. In our first reading from Jeremiah, often called the weeping prophet, he is filled with anguish and downright anger at both God and himself. He laments so powerfully and honestly: “You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped…” He tells God a litany of the horrible things that have happened to him since he became a prophet. He is ready to hang it up and turn away. But just when he is ready to stop, God makes His word like a fire burning in Jeremiah’s heart, imprisoned in his bones - he grows weary holding it in. He cannot help himself. This suffering prophet knows the God of the white knuckles, and he keeps holding on, even when he is ready to let go.
In our Gospel today, Peter (who just in our reading last week is praised for his insight into the person of Jesus and named the rock of the church) has now become a stumbling block to Christ’s mission to the Cross. In Matthew’s Gospel, our reading is the first time Jesus predicts His passion and death to the apostles. Peter, stunned and confused, replies with something that we would all think is loving and compassionate: "God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you." But Jesus strongly rebukes Peter for not understanding the cross -- that He must suffer and die. Certainly Peter and the other apostles are like Jeremiah and are thinking that this is not quite what they signed up to do. We know that later Peter has his ups and downs, but he truly becomes the solid rock who is so transformed by the cross and resurrection of Christ, that he himself holds on to the end and dies for his Lord.
These readings really hit home that we do not proclaim a Gospel of Prosperity, rather we preach a Gospel of the Cross. Like Jeremiah and like Peter, there will be times of suffering and death, but we must not forget the last part that Jesus mentions…and then be raised! That is what our white knuckles can hold onto in our times of suffering and pain.
We proclaim a Gospel of hope. And the hope is that God of the white knuckles wants us to share in His divine life. When we look to so many others, Jeremiah, Peter, and all the saints, we know that we can keep holding on with them. We know that the God of the white knuckles is with us, helping us grasp on, grasping even with anger and fear, even when we feel like we need to let go. Just hold on…because He will be raised, and our Christian hope is that so will we.
May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
enlighten the eyes of our hearts,
that we may know what is the hope
that belongs to our call.
Readings for Mass, September 2&3:
Sent by Beverly Aviles on Thursday, August 31, 2017 at 12:06PM