Embracing Seasons

A few weeks ago, our first son, Leo, got his first haircut. And for many weeks prior to that, Aidan had been telling me over and over again that Leo needed one. I had been putting it off because I KNEW I would be so sad when he would come back looking like a little man and not my little baby with super blonde tips and a curly mini-mullet from the hairs evidencing his babyhood. 

The slowness of motherhood can feel so arduous sometimes, but it also gives me space to listen closely to His voice. When I was rocking Leo back to sleep in my arms after he woke up very upset from a nap, I could feel God shifting the perspective of my heart. As I truly enjoyed and savored being Leo’s comfort in that moment, God was teaching me that He gives us seasons, stages (ways to help us make sense of time and our existence) primarily to delight us and teach us about Himself in different ways we don’t have the same access to in other seasons.

All too often, I have made the mistake of defining seasons by what I could NOT do or receive in that season (e.g. here, toddlerhood as the solemn absence of babyhood, and let’s not forget, dating as the “no-sex-before-marriage” stage). We often are overwhelmed by crippling nostalgia or sadness for what is past (or only exists in imagined ideals!), longing for it, while we miss what He is doing and offering right in front of and within us. 

And so, when I read the verses for today, there is a similar struggle among God’s people through salvation history. We see parallel verses of Moses and Jesus from the Old and New testaments, exhorting those listening to follow and abide in the Law God sets forth for His people.  Moses, a great prophet and leader of Israel, is about to talk about the Ten Commandments and other commands about keeping the covenant with God. Jesus, the incarnate Word of God, has just preached the Beatitudes. The people Jesus spoke to hear what is different, how Jesus is seemingly changing what God had said in the past, but Jesus knows their hearts and addresses those fears by proclaiming and clarifying Himself as the fulfillment of what those laws and prophets said. Jesus is connecting these seasons of salvation history and God’s revelation of Himself to mankind; the crowds can only see the differences and, as a result, lose trust in Jesus as the Messiah.

Just like the crowds, we often resist the cusp of a new season. Many times, we are afraid of what it might bring, but I find most often for myself, the prospect of finding a new way and rhythm of life is most challenging and daunting. But, as Jesus reminds us, each season is meant to fill us more and more, not taking away from or “abolishing” the season that came before.

It is very important to take note that the way God tells us about Himself in the Old Testament is paramount to understanding how His Son fulfills them. I encourage us all to read the Old Testament readings during the Easter vigil and really meditating on what each has to offer in terms of telling us how God is revealing Himself in salvation history. We cannot understand the Son without the Father, and vice versa. We worship a Trinitarian god Who has revealed Himself over time, and the order in which this has happened is integral to how each word informs the other, culminating in The Word of God, Jesus, our Messiah. The God who called for bloody animal sacrifices and holy temples and a priestly nation set apart for Him is now a Person, a Son, speaking to the crowds of fulfilling the words of His Father.

May we receive the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to understand and fully embrace our current season of life, and live with the expectant hope that there is unique joy in this season to be uncovered and savored.

Pax Christi,
Alyssa

Treasuring our Gospels

Responsorial Psalm

PS 145:10-11, 12-13

R. Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
Making known to men your might
and the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
Your Kingdom is a Kingdom for all ages,
and your dominion endures through all generations.

Dear fellow pilgrims,

Today is the feast day of St. Luke, who is best known for writing his Gospel and the book of Acts, which details the days of the emerging Church. These books together comprise almost a fourth of the New Testament, which is not a trivial contribution! St. Luke was also a close companion of St. Paul, and is mentioned in several of his letters, so it’s clear he was very involved in early Christian missions. The Holy Spirit had a very special role for him as one of the four Gospel writers, and this – if you take some time to think about it – was probably a call that began as a very small inclination to write these things down that grew into quite the enormous task, which then led to a global impact he could never have dreamt of. St. Luke was, as the responsorial psalm proclaims, a “friend who made known the glorious splendor of His Kingdom.”

What strikes me more and more as I read about St. Luke is how attentive and thoughtful this man must have been, especially to the Blessed Mother, who is featured much more in Luke’s Gospel than any of the others. (If it wasn’t for the details St. Luke provided of the Visitation, we probably wouldn’t even say the Hail Mary!) He heard the call of the Holy Spirit to be a vessel and interpreter of these divine, earthly happenings, as a kind of appointed treasurer of nascent Christianity. I think it is definitely worth our time to contemplate the gifts of such a character, and how the age we live in presents unique challenges to treasuring our own lives. For we should desire to preserve the treasure of our life and pilgrimage with God for our own understanding and instruction as we follow Him during this life, but also for future generations to understand how He has worked wonders in our specific circumstances and time.

We live in a world where our lives are able to be constantly documented and selectively uploaded to share with others for comment and affirmation.  While there are merits to this system of life documentation (e.g. I’m so glad my iPad keeps and organizes my photos of Leo as a baby because then… I don’t have to), I think it also does some damage to the way we think about our memories and how we live our own, unrepeatable lives.

For one, we can lose our grip on personal ownership of our lives. If we constantly have the opportunity to post about our lives, we will begin to get into the habit of seeing the moments of our lives through the lens of our social media followers, thinking about how other people will react to things we post, crafting the way we tell a story for the maximum impact in the type of persona we want to project or leaving out details that would reflect a person we would rather not have others see. This view can slowly eat away at what should be our primary focus of sanctification, that is, learning to live in closer and closer communion with God, living more and more within the heart of God that is reserved for your eyes only. He thirsts for your attention and affection, and no one else but you can quench that thirst.

Secondly, we can learn to see others in a more utilitarian way, as in, value others more of what they provide to us (e.g. “Unfollow – boring feed. Follow – exciting feed.”) rather than the intrinsic goodness and likeness of God in which they were created. When there’s so much of our own choice involved with what and who we see on our feeds, as well as how we interpret the little information we receive from a visual and text rather than interpersonal communication, it can be easy to slip into uncharitable thoughts and assumptions about others or ourselves, depending on who is getting the short end of the comparison stick.

To bring this all together, let’s revisit the psalm. We Christians should be a people whose discourse is Kingdom-focused, people who are more interested in God’s work than any other economical, political, or entertainment work. This outward focus, however, begins with an inner focus on your individual relationship, work of sanctification, and destiny with God. We bless the Lord when we take care and time to remember, write down, and share with others the works of His hands. When it is a gift given to others to specific friends to cherish and care for, to really receive in an intimate way that is vulnerable and risky instead of publicizing the gift and longing more simply to be seen and acknowledged.  And when we take the time to invest in friendships beyond our screens, we will truly know the splendor of the Kingdom. There just is not a substitute for presence, for true presence with God and other believers, as anyone who has been to a Frassati retreat knows! In this Presence – when we worship and gather – we find ourselves, we are formed, we are encouraged, we are seen, and we truly see others.

I encourage us all to rethink our relationship with social media or our internet browsing, even if it’s the two thousandth time we have done so. (*raises hand*) God always wants more of us, and often times, we do not understand this truth enough to remove what hinders us to give more of ourselves to Him.

We often have that vague feeling of not being satisfied with the use of our time, but still finding ourselves slip into old habits. Here is a piece of my journal that describes a breakthrough God gave me in prayer about my own struggles with properly using social media.  I pray it will bless you as you think and pray about treasuring your life more and more in the presence of God and not the world:

“…when I seek companionship and attention and entertainment from social media, Your Heart hurts for me because You see the longing in my heart and want to give me true food, true drink. You long to satisfy me, but You submit to my own will in that You don’t force me to look at You. For the first time, I see my struggle through Your eyes. It became less about my failings and more about the reverence You give to my freewill and how the source of my desire is meant to be filled by your according to Your designs. I give my own sin too much power when I see my continued habits that do not reflect the fullness You want for me as just my own failings.”

St. Luke, pray that we may learn to see more and more clearly the treasure of the Lord’s work in our lives as an unfolding love story meant to be shared and praised among the faithful.

Pax Christi,

-Alyssa

“Learn to be in the unknowing”

Knowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up.
If anyone supposes he knows something,
he does not yet know as he ought to know.
But if one loves God, one is known by him.

Dear fellow pilgrims, 

I honestly couldn’t get past this first paragraph in the readings today. It cuts so deep to the heart of the human experience of wading through all the unknowing in our lives while simultaneously knowing that we all just want to be loved, truly and completely. 

Many of us struggle with anxiety, including myself, and it’s another way to describe struggling with fears, mostly of some (or all) unknowns. My particular brand of anxiety involves trajectories of worst-case scenarios bursting through my mind and into outer space at the speed of light. I have recently realized that this particular defense or coping mechanism “makes sense” to my unconscious mind because THEN at least I have a series of “knowns” to cling to. But these imagined “realities,” or a feigned sense of “knowing,” do not soothe the initial fear of the unknown void, but rather, inflates or enlarges the void. 

“…but love builds up.”

Love is the answer to fearing this void of unknowing, even though it can seem equally mysterious or unknown at times. Knowing what love is, however, requires us to first have faith in God and love Him back.  When we do this, we learn that we can only love ourselves and others when we primarily rest our minds and hearts in the fact that we are truly and completely known by God. And only in this knowing and loving gaze of God can we be content in our unknowing. 

If anyone supposes he knows something,
he does not yet know as he ought to know.”

But God is Love and also omnipotent: He is perfect love and perfect knowing, and so, we learn to both love and to know things through Him.  There is a certain “unknowing” needed for true knowledge, evidenced by the second sentence of the verse. Any good scientist, historian, or journalist will tell you that. A true intellectual always couches their theories and evidence between what is known and what is yet unknown, and there wouldn’t be scientific progress if people hadn’t bothered to research what is and is not yet known. In the same way, our “knowing” of anything – including and especially God – must be held with a bit of mystery or reverence for the unknowns of that subject.  We praise God for loving us, we return His love with our love, while never knowing fully what this means, at least when we are still on this earth. Unknowing plays an indispensable role in both fully loving and fully knowing, so shouldn’t we learn to be in unknowing? That is a clear message I heard in prayer: “Learn to be in the unknowing.”  So obvious, so necessary, and yet… so difficult. Learning to be in our areas of unknowing sans anxiety is only possible when believing in the primacy of God’s love and providence over our lives, which necessarily and ironically involves faith or unknowing. In other words, we are only content in our inability to be sure, completely knowing, when we have faith in the intention of the One who made us that way.

So, I hope this ramble-y musing of mine has helped you think about at least how the concepts of loving and knowing intersect and depend upon each other, but mainly, how our authentic knowing depends upon receiving love from God first and foremost. And, how loving God, being known by God, knowing God more, and loving God serve as mutually amplifying and purifying processes within our souls. 

Pax Christi,
Alyssa

Wise foolishness and the abundance of God

Dear fellow pilgrims,

Our readings today have a clear message: be humble, follow the Lord’s will and not your own. We can feel this message of “let him become a fool, so as to become wise” when we talk about our lives to some unbelievers whilst trying to explain decisions made by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, peace in prayer, and other ways of discernment. How do we explain if we left a job with no other job lined up because we “just knew” it was time through prayer? How do we explain not being truly worried about the amount of children we will eventually have? It’s impossible without a childlike trust and humility in our Lord’s provision for us and faithfulness to us. In a world where very intelligent people can chide religious people by telling us we trust in, essentially, a “flying spaghetti monster,” it is no wonder sometimes that we feel “foolish” in the eyes of the world.  But this trust we have in our Lord is not truly foolish. We have tasted and seen that the Lord is, indeed, good. I pray all of us have some moment in our hearts we can go back to to ground us in times of unbelief or difficulty in faith where the only conclusions are that God is real and God loves us.

In our Gospel today, we see a moment like that happening frame-by-frame for St. Peter. He follows the direction of Jesus, who is clearly not an expert fisherman, after following his own experienced direction for quite some time and finding no luck in a catch. But this seemingly foolish move results in something so miraculous that he is struck with the fear of God: he is faced with a catch of fish so large that even his own equipment cannot hold it. His nets tear! What a beautiful image. This detail is speaking to me today:

Sometimes we think that it is because of our own equipment and knowledge that our lives are not going the way we planned. We have worked hard, using all of the knowledge that we have, and we are not seeing results or certain events happen in our life. But in this Gospel, we are reminded of Who holds every aspect of our lives in order. You can be as prepared for a giant catch, or desired result or happy moment, in your life as possible, have all the right equipment, but still, in that moment of fulfillment, you may also an inadequacy in receiving it. Your nets may rip, your mind and heart may fall short of receiving what Jesus is giving you. It may all seem too much and actually a threat to your life instead of a blessing. But these moments, especially, so potently remind us that the Lord does not give purely according to when we fulfill some formula or when we meet a holiness or readiness quote.  God is not like humans, He gives freely and purposefully, even though the purpose is most likely lost on the receiver. God does not give only according to our little abilities to receive Him, He gives fully, which should make us want to grow to receive more.

So maybe that wasn’t even the biggest net St. Peter had, but Jesus gave him an overabundance of harvest anyways. May we also heed our Lord’s calls to seemingly foolish things in the hope that in this “foolishness” is true wisdom as His children.

Pax Christi,
Alyssa

The Forerunner

Gospel reading: Mark 6:17-29
Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison
on account of Herodias,
the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married.
John had said to Herod,
“It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
Herodias harbored a grudge against him
and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so.
Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man,
and kept him in custody.
When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed,
yet he liked to listen to him.
She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday,
gave a banquet for his courtiers,
his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee.
Herodias’ own daughter came in
and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests.
The king said to the girl,
“Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.”
He even swore many things to her,
“I will grant you whatever you ask of me,
even to half of my kingdom.”
She went out and said to her mother,
“What shall I ask for?”
She replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”
The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request,
“I want you to give me at once
on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”
The king was deeply distressed,
but because of his oaths and the guests
he did not wish to break his word to her.
So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders
to bring back his head.
He went off and beheaded him in the prison.
He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl.
The girl in turn gave it to her mother.
When his disciples heard about it,
they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Dear fellow pilgrims, 

Today is a peculiar and peculiarly brutal feast day, the Beheading of St. John the Baptist. (Side note: This was one of the two choices that Aidan and I could have gotten married, and we chose August 1st instead because 1. It was sooner than August 29th, and 2. We felt a little… weird about the prospect of sharing this feast day with our wedding day.) This is a peculiar feast day because saints’ feast days, at least in the Roman Catholic Church (I’m not sure about Eastern orthodox feast days), are usually celebrated on the day of their death, because that’s when their race was finished and they passed into eternal life. But St. John the Baptist also has a feast day for his birth. I am just learning that this is because he was freed from original sin in the moment he “leapt in the womb” because of the proximity of Jesus in Mary’s womb, and thus, was born into this world without original sin. The only other feast day for another nativity other than Christ’s in Mary’s own nativity, because she too was born into this world, but also conceived without original sin.

While I don’t know the theology behind what it means exactly to be freed of original sin, what can I observe is that this is a privilege reserved to only Mary and St. John the Baptist, and probably because of their proximity to Jesus’ mission; God was giving them an indispensable tool to fight that same mission alongside Christ, and in the case of St. John the Baptist, act as the “forerunner” of Christ. And this is why we celebrate specifically the Passion of St. John the Baptist today: this passion preceded His Passion.  

There are many parallels between St. John the Baptist’s passion and Christ’s passion: 

Both St. John the Baptist and Jesus were… 

  • … speaking truth to power
    • John was pointing out that Herodias was an illegitimate wife of Herod.
    • Jesus pointed out that many of the Pharisees were illegitimate leaders of the Jewish people. 
  • … locked up by powerful figures who were also aware of their righteousness.
    • “Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody.”
    • Pontius Pilate’s wife, and arguably also Pontius Pilate, knew Jesus was a holy man and did not deserve to die. 
  • … killed at the result of a powerful man being pulled in the direction of the crowds after feeling much tension within himself over whether or not he should kill them. 
    • “The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her.”
    • “Crucify him! Crucify him!” 
  • … displayed to a crowd after they were murdered
    • on a platter
    • on the Cross

There is a special relationship that John has with Jesus because we all follow Jesus, but, in a way, Jesus followed John, since he was the “forerunner of the Messiah.” In the linear line of human history, Jesus followed John, but in Salvation History that exists outside of time, Jesus’ sacrifice and Resurrection preceded and enabled St. John the Baptist to live a life of virtue.  What humility of Christ to follow his second cousin in death, and also to share a small portion of the genetic information of the blood they both shed because of their familial ties.  What humility of both St. John the Baptist and Christ, to die in such brutal and tragic ways… at the hands of men who were interiorly struck by their holiness, but torn between this faint truth within them and their earthly roles that pointed to killing as the only “solution.”  

Today, let us pray that we adopt the attitude of this “forerunner,” living on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and always attuning our lives to something greater than us. 

Pax Christi,
Alyssa

Unpayable Debts

Dear fellow pilgrims,

Honestly, I think the last thing I wanted to talk about today in my reflection was forgiveness, in light of the horrific news that has surfaced out of Pennsylvania.  Members of our own beloved Catholic Church have perpetuated sexual abuse from hundreds of priests against hundreds, if not thousands, of children, and this is only a thorough report from one state in one country.  Even just over the course of a few days I have said repeatedly in my mind, and discussed with friends: “Now is not the time to defend the Church. Now is the time for sackcloths and ashes, fasting, mourning, listening to victims’ stories. Now is the time for confession, not changing the subject.”  We should all be outraged and be demanding further investigations and transparency above any trying to “save face.”

But today, the Holy Spirit, through our Church, is reminding us that even though we are just beginning to realize how thick and dark this pit of sin actually goes in the hierarchical systems of the Church, it is no match for Jesus’ mercy and plan for forgiveness among His people.

In today’s Gospel, we are called by our Lord to forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven (which really means an infinite number of times). Our first pope, St. Peter, asked Christ, almost like a child… “So, seven times… that’s enough forgiveness, right?” But when Christ answered, I bet St. Peter gave quite a look: wide-eyed, silent, mouth agape, while not realizing that Christ was showing him even the deepest sins of betrayal he would commit would be completely forgiven.

However, the simplistic point here that I could make – that even priests who perpetrate unspeakable terrors to children can be forgiven – is not what I want to highlight. (This is important to think about, but I honestly don’t think I’m ready to muse about that at length in an open forum quite yet.) Rather, what I see that I want to communicate here are possible inner dynamics within the individual who has the un-payable debt that led him to immediately demand a debt be paid to him from a fellow servant.

Maybe the servant with the un-payable debt did not actually see or understand that he was forgiven of his debt. Maybe he was just so worried about his own well-being and so relieved when he was let off the hook that the thrill of being set free gave him this false sense of favoritism and superiority over other servants. Maybe his actions immediately post-forgiveness showed a glimpse into the kind of person who could accumulate such a large, un-payable debt.  Maybe somehow the extreme forgiveness shown to him actually made him think he was more like the one who forgave him than the one who desperately needed forgiveness. The servant forgot that he was a servant dealing with other servants, and even more so, a servant with a much deeper debt than others he preyed on; he was blind to his own condition, he thought he was the ultimate authority.

In light of that, I think these are key elements of true forgiveness and consequent repentance: truly knowing what it is that is being forgiven, truly knowing who you are as one who is forgiven, and truly knowing who is it Who is forgiving the debt.

Some of the most powerful news stories that have come out of tragedies, in my view, have been those of victims forgiving those who have wronged them or others close to them. Nadine Collier forgave Dylann Roof publicly after he killed her mother and eight other church members and then showed no remorse, even pride afterwards: “You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her again. I will never, ever hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul.” Rachel Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Larry Nassar, also forgave him publicly for sexually abusing her repeatedly “under the guise of medical treatment” when she was a teenager: “I pray you experience the soul-crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me—though I extend that to you as well…”.  These stories of victims sharing their stories and forgiving their abusers do not only work for justice for the victims, they seem as if they are also aimed at offering mercy for the abusers. These statements, occurring within the processes of seeking legal justice for the victims, are giving the abusers the opportunity to know just what it is they are being forgiven for; there is no doubt that they are sinners in desperate need of forgiveness.

And here is where this connects to our current situation, my dear friends: without justice and confronting the weight of sin, there can be no true mercy. These were critical aspects of the Cross, from which all mercy flows! When these hundreds of abusers and the systems that perpetually condoned abusers were not confronted with the legal, public justice system, the abuse, the sin, continued. And this is true on a much smaller scale, as well. When we hide sins, we cannot be forgiven for them. When we do not have contrite hearts, we are not fully forgiven (theologians, feel free to correct me on that if I am off). And, when we do not understand the depths of our sin, or at least seek to, we are much less likely to forgive others because of that ignorance.

Let us pray for justice and mercy to come to all those involved in these scandals, including those priests who perpetrated unspeakable abuse in their lifetime but are now deceased. For we are all servants with unpayable debts, and Christ has told us to have “pity on [our] fellow servants.” Let us pray for our Church, that she would no longer keep justice and healing away from those victims who need it the most. Lord, have mercy on us all. Lord, purify and clean our Church, Your Church.

Pax Christi,
Alyssa

The Heart-Knowing of St. Peter

Reading 1

JER 31:31-34

The days are coming, says the LORD,

when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel

and the house of Judah.

It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers:

the day I took them by the hand

to lead them forth from the land of Egypt;

for they broke my covenant,

and I had to show myself their master, says the LORD.

But this is the covenant that I will make

with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD.

I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; 

I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives

how to know the LORD.

All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD,

for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.

Gospel

MT 16:13-23

Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi

and he asked his disciples,

“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,

still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter said in reply,

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.

For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.

And so I say to you, you are Peter,

and upon this rock I will build my Church,

and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.

Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;

and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Dear fellow pilgrims, 

Our readings today remind us that the Lord wants our hearts, not merely outward actions.  His Heart and our hearts are the meeting place for this new covenant between God and His people, His children. This desire for our hearts is an equal and opposite reaction from our Lord giving us His Heart completely in His life, death, and resurrection. But this covenant, this relationship between God and Man has not always been this way.

The first reading’s description of how covenants would shift reminded me immediately of how relationships between children and parents develop: at first, a parent must take a more hands-on approach to teaching their child about how to act in the world (i.e. “I took them by the hand…”) when they are small. There are rules that are very black-and-white, involving a lot of commands, because children must understand the do’s and don’ts of the world before they develop the cognitive capacity to think more deeply about the reasons behind them.  (And, quite honestly, children need to know the do’s and don’t’s of survival so they can just literally live to develop that cognitive capacity for critical reasoning.) Then, as a child grows older, a parent has less direct control over them, and hopes and prays that the child has at least learned “right from wrong” and can make their own good decisions without constant reminders. Parents’ influences become internalized, or incorporated to subconscious habits or patterns, in older children. This human psychological shift parallels the shift in covenantal relationships between God and Man: God wrote the Ten Commandments on stone tablets, and God also “wrote,” or revealed, His new covenant on the Heart of His Son.  Jesus’ Heart reveals the Heart of the Father, the desire of the Father for a new, closer relationship with His children.  

We can oftentimes (at least I can) overly intellectualize or overthink what it means to actually know Jesus, and this is true especially if you are a cradle Catholic (so I’ve gathered).  THIS is the relationship God desires, and paid such a heavy price for even the chance to have with you, and I’m speaking to you cradle Catholics now: God desires that you would follow Him and not just the things “you know you should do.”  It’s the difference between calling your mom every weekend because you know you should do it and calling your mom every weekend because you just miss her and want to know how she is doing, and know she wants to hear how you’re doing and you know that this exchange will energize you both. (note: I know most of us do not have that ideal relationship with our parents, but these relationships can help teach us more of what our perfect Father is like according to where we may feel hurt or wounded by our biological parents.)

And so, God the Father sends His Son to earth to show His children Who He Is and not just “what He wants you to do.” And in the Gospel reading for today, Jesus holds what an overthinking, intellectual disciple might have seen as a “pop quiz.”  The disciples happily chimed in when Jesus asked who OTHER people said He was, for this was accessible objective knowledge. But… only one answered when Jesus asked who THEY said He was.  Salvation history was unfolding before their very eyes, but many disciples were probably still very unsure about the specifics surrounding Jesus. They all felt a grip on their soul, but few could take that risk to profess a specific faith in Jesus’ identity.  For this was truly a faith, especially so for these disciples who had yet to see Him die and rise again, fulfilling His role as Messiah.  We know the end of the story!  They didn’t.  But it was St. Peter who saw Who Jesus was, he saw with his heart, because he was willing to be led into an unknown knowing, a faith.  I think this is due to the “fool” of St. Peter that manifests in different ways throughout his discipleship.  This same foolish instinct led him out of the boat when Jesus called him to walk in the storm.  This seeming “foolishness” is actually the center of what Jesus heralds about children: there is a purity of reaching out towards what his heart feels but cannot articulate because he knows that this is actually the better part to act upon. 

And beautifully, Peter’s risky profession of faith in a moment of testing, proclaiming who Jesus was to him in a time of confusion and many opinions on the matter, led to Jesus proclaiming who Peter would be.  Peter’s confirmation of Jesus’ identity led to his own; seeing His heart helped him see his own.  This was a defining moment in the unfolding of Jeremiah’s prophecy: Peter was not being taught by another human about how to know God, He was getting to know Jesus, and would be led into knowing the depth of Jesus’ Heart by experiencing the weight of his own sins and redemption. His leadership of the Church would be based off of this knowing, not one of ancient books. Jesus’ law was being written within the hearts of men and women who followed Him, not on stone or paper. 

Jesus, I draw near to You. 

I ask You to silence the voices of self-revision in my mind. 

You long to hear me as I am. 

Tell me how you love me. 

Tell me how you see me. 

My heart longs to know Yours. 

Please meet me here, in my heart. 

Pax Christi,
Alyssa