Matthew 14 is a jam-packed chapter. It begins with the beheading of John the Baptist. Next, Jesus feeds the large crowd of 5000. Finally, Peter walking (and sinking) in water occurs in Matthew 14: 22:36.
The miracle of Jesus walking on the sea waters is astonishing by itself. But it takes on a whole new and deeper meaning when looking at the events leading up to it.
Jesus was in a state of mourning. His cousin and friend, John, was murdered by King Herod. Christ is fully God AND fully human. In his human nature, Jesus experienced human emotions. Losing John the Baptist most certainly caused him deep sadness.
How have you reacted when a family member or friend dies?
When my grandpa passed away a few years ago I needed a bit of alone time to process his death. And I also needed time to pray.
Likewise, Jesus sought solitude to properly grieve. Saint Matthew tells us, “Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself” (Matthew 14:13). The evangelist doesn’t detail how long Jesus stayed alone but the crowds followed Christ in the next verse. Experiencing hunger and there not being enough bread to feed everyone, Jesus intervened and multiplied the loaves and fish to satisfy the people’s hunger pains.
According to Matthew 14: 22-23, “Immediately, He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away.23 After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.” Jesus persisted in seeking a time and place to pray to God the Father. He still needed time to pray.
That’s the context leading up to Jesus (and Peter) walking on water. Later this week, I will go over a few of the insights I gained from this Gospel story during Mass and my priest’s homily.
Stayed tuned for the rest of the story! Become an email subscriber to receive Catholic content from The Simple Catholic in your inbox.
Our world needs God. This year has definitely reminds us sin exists. We don’t require a dictatorial Supreme Being who imposes rules and restrictions. The backlash caused by the lockdowns across the United States reminds me of the Israelite people in the book of Exodus.
Freedom from slavery didn’t free them from selfish tendencies. Moses asked God, “O Lord, do come along in our company. This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own (Exodus 34:9).
The easy thing to do during a crisis is to play the blame game. Bad police. Inept politicians. Rage-filled rioters. But the way to true change is not in resentment or scapegoating. Authentic change for a better world is a narrow gate.
Saint John tells us, “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Trinity Sunday is about unity. The devil divides. In fact, the Greek word for devil, diabolos, means “to divide”. Satan aims to please the self and divide us from the multiplying force of God’s love.
Jesus came to save us from the Great Divider. Last week the Church celebrated the Feast of Pentecost, the Arrival of the Unifying Holy Spirit. While Jesus ascended back to the Father he did promise the Apostles (and us) to send a Helper. Two thousand years later, the Holy Spirit has continued to guide the Church.
The Feast of the Most Holy Trinity celebrates the truth that God is love. Three Persons. One God. It is the simplest, yet most mysterious Christian truth.
Know Thy Enemy
Our common enemy hates Love and works to sow division. Satan’s common tactics include:
Destroy the family–> the family is an image of the Holy Trinity. Satan despises this reminder of God to the world. Divided families lead to divided societies.
Attack when holiness is increasing–> Venerable Fulton Sheen said, “Satan always tempts the pure (holy)—the others are already his.” I find that temptations find me quickly after I receive the Sacrament of Confession. The Devil wants to wound healed souls.
Transform suffering into hopelessness–> Satan “hopes” pain leads people toward despairs. He wants suffering to remain at the chaotic (meaningless) level.
Love Transforms Suffering
C.S. Lewis wrote in A Problem of Pain, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world” (p.91). I used to think suffering meant I did something wrong. My understanding of suffering was immature— obey God’s laws and receive rewards but disobey and get punished. The Israelites didn’t listen to God even when He freed them from Pharaoh’s tyranny. Read about the Golden Calf incident in Exodus 32. Moses was PISSED OFF. And rightfully so.
Who else remembers watching “The 10 Commandments” every Palm Sunday? What a classic!
What was the Israelite’s punishment for worshipping a false god? Longer time spent wandering (aimlessly) in the desert. God could have compelled their obedience, yet Love doesn’t operate as a dictator. Freedom necessarily involves the potential of suffering (based on our choices).
Our world is always going to be in turmoil (2020 is not the exception on suffering, but the rule). No amount of sin can separate you from God as long as you sincerely seek repentance **stops typing and jumps for joy**. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit— undivided Unity. Reflect on the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity this week. Ask God to give you the strength to endure your daily struggles and joy to notice the wonders in your life.
P.S. Congratulations for reaching the end of this article (or maybe you skimmed). I would play a fanfare on my silver trumpet but I think my mom sold it **jots down ‘new trumpet’ on post-it note**.
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Over the course of the past 500 years, Saint Joan of Arc has experienced arguably more variance of opinion than any other figure in the Catholic Church. Born in 1412 the French saint grew up during the Hundred Years War—the most turbulent time in the history of England and France. She led a siege on the English which proving instrumental, and as a turning point toward France’s ultimate victory. Vilified by a pro-English bishop, Joan was burned at the stake in 1431 as a heretic.
Although cleared of charges by Pope Callixtus III in in 1456, Joan was not officially canonized a saint until 1920—by Pope Benedict XV. Patron saint of soldiers and France, Joan also serves as a solid role model for women and for those facing corruption. Along with her being an epic national heroine for France, here are six other amazing facts you should know about St. Joan of Arc.
She was a tenacious teenager
Parents of children currently in middle and high school are quite aware of the fieriness of teenagers. Joan was no example. Dying at the mere age of 19, she accomplished more than the average adolescent. Aided by the Holy Spirit, Joan withstood the intense scrutiny of the ecclesial court trial. Listen to this portion of her 8th Privation Examination to get a sense of the hard-lined questioning she faced:
Examiner:“Do you know if Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret hate the English?”
Joan:“They love what God loves: they hate what God hates.”
Examiner:“Does God hate the English?”
Joan:“Of the love or hate God may have for the English, or of what He will do for their souls, I know nothing; but I know quite well that they will be put out of France, except those who shall die there, and that God will send victory to the French against the English.”
Examiner:“Was God for the English when they were prospering in France?”
Joan:“I do not know if God hated the French; but I believe that He wished them to be defeated for their sins, if they were in sin.”
Sounding like a typically obstinate teen, at least to prideful clergy, Joan quipped back without being baited into judging the English. She was simply carrying out the will of God!
She experienced victory through her visions
A second amazing fact about the life of Joan of Arc is that she received visions and guidance from God, angels, and saints. The most common “Voices” as she initially called them included a star-studded crew: St. Michael the Archangel, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Margaret of Antioch. The French saint achieved hope and strength in the face of adversity because of her devotion to the saints. In the Second Private Examination, Joan was questioned about the role of her visions. Here is a sample of that exchange:
Examiner: “Has not the Angel, then, failed you with regard to the good things of this life, in that you have been taken prisoner?”
Joan: “I think, as it has pleased Our Lord, that it is for my well-being that I was taken prisoner.”
Examiner:“Has your Angel never failed you in the good things of grace ?”
Joan: “How can he fail me, when he comforts me every day? My comfort comes from Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret.”
Examiner: “Do you call them, or do they come without being called?”
Joan: “They often come without being called; and other times, if they do not come soon, I pray Our Lord to send them.”
She had complete trust in her convictions
Another interesting thing about Joan was her complete and utter trust. Her convictions were so strong that she even ran away from home to join the army. This left her parents distraught! Certainly, if my children suddenly disappeared without my knowledge I would be full of worry. God does work in mysterious ways. Seriously though, he guided a young girl to join the ranks of the military! Not sure if I would possess that much trust.
As crazy and reckless Joan’s decision was she trusted in a greater Divine Plan. If you ever get told to trust in God’s will plan for the unexpected
— Joan definitely did!
She wore antagonistic apparel
While Joan’s expeditious enrollment into the French army seems odd enough, her refusal to don women’s clothing throughout her trial is even more interesting. As I read over a hundred pages of trial documents including both public and private cross examinations, a common theme persisted: her insistence to wear her military uniform. Maybe it was to gain influence in a male-dominated society. Perhaps Joan genuinely hated dresses. Regardless, she definitely would be considered a “tomboy” by today’s standards.
Her fashion idiosyncrasies together with her persistent temper certainly surprised the prosecution. So much that Joan was given at least 5 times to switch her garb. The next time a Catholic student complains about the uniform advise them at least it is not a life or death matter!
She was also intellectually brilliant
A fifth fact about St. Joan that I found truly amazing was her theological acumen. Along with being a courageous solider, she has great insight to offer the faithful. The Catechism of the Catholic Church directly references Joan four times: CCC 223, 435, 795, and 2005. When Joan’s judges attempted to create a false dichotomy and trap her into siding with God or the Church, she quipped, “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.” The wisdom and simplicity of her response reminds me of Jesus’ interrogation by Pilate.
She was likely a Southpaw
The sixth fact about St. Joan of Arc that I found fascinating relates to penmanship. According to modern handwriting experts, the French saint may have actually been left-handed. They determined this by looking at the stroke angles of the surviving manuscripts with her signature (https://www.jeanne-darc.info/biography/letters/ ) As a fellow southpaw, this is a cool connection I have with Joan. If you have a left-handed family member or friend please share this neat fact with them!
Joan of Arc exhibited high moral character in spite of a hostile secular and religious climate. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke exceptionally of her in his January 26th, 2011 General Audience:
Dear brothers and sisters, with her luminous witness St Joan of Arc invites us to a high standard of Christian living: to make prayer the guiding motive of our days; to have full trust in doing God’s will, whatever it may be; to live charity without favouritism, without limits and drawing, like her, from the Love of Jesus a profound love for the Church.
Let us also trust in God with the same fervor and consistently as St. Joan of Arc. Lead us in the battle of sin and into communion with our Savior Jesus Christ!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 4, 2018.
The great Italian saint Philip Neri once said,
“We are not saints yet, but we, too, should beware. Uprightness and virtue do have their rewards, in self-respect and in respect from others, and it is easy to find ourselves aiming for the result rather than the cause. Let us aim for joy, rather than respectability. Let us make fools of ourselves from time to time, and thus see ourselves, for a moment, as the all-wise God sees us.”
How easy it is for us to perform acts of charity in hopes of the reward? I struggled with this temptation recently– instead of serving others out of love of God and neighbor, I oftentimes think of the long-term benefits I may receive—the favor may be returned, customers act nicer towards me, work is lessened in the time-run, etc. Seeking the results, the cause [as Philip Neri put it] leads to joylessness.
I started this blog bring joy into my life and into my readers lives as well. Pursuing my daily feed, I came across a post about the patron saint of joy—Philip Neri. His name and patronage stuck with me throughout the workday. “I need to learn more about this saint of joy!” I thought to myself driving back home from work.
As soon as my wife went to bed, I google searched Philip Neri and discovered the along with being the patron saint of joy he is an advocate for humor and, interestingly enough, U.S. Special Forces!
I’ll be incorporating more quotes, writings, and wisdom from St. Philip Neri over the rest of the year. I am excited for this journey to deepen my relationship with God through the witness of Philip Neri this year.
I will close with a prayer to incorporate into my spiritual arsenal (and I hope you do too!):
Prayer to Saint Philip Neri
Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice! (Phil. 4:4)
O holy St. Philip Neri, patron saint of joy, you who trusted Scripture’s promise that the Lord is always at hand and that we need not have anxiety about anything, in your compassion heal our worries and sorrows and lift the burdens from our hearts. We come to you as one whose heart swells with abundant love for God and all creation. Hear us, we pray, especially in this need (make your request here). Keep us safe through your loving intercession, and may the joy of the Holy Spirit which filled your heart, St. Philip, transform our lives and bring us peace. Amen.