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.
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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**.
Anyways, if you enjoyed learning about the awesomeness of the Holy Trinity become an email subscriber. Enter your email address in the Subscribe to Blog Via Email box and hit the Subscribe button. It’s that easy! Soon you will be receiving cool Catholic content in your inbox.
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.
The process pearls are created is a wonder of wonder. A speck of sand or small piece of a shell finds it’s way inside an oyster. Due to the irritant, the oyster secretes a substance called nacre. It covers the irritant and over time (on average seven years) the nacre builds up to form a beautiful pearl.
Rita of Cascia— Beautifully Holy Saint
God often works in a person’s spiritual life like a grain of sand provokes the oyster. Over the course of time, God allows individuals to suffer, participate in the Passion of His Son Jesus Christ, as a means to grow in holiness. One of the greatest saints whose life mirrored the beauty of a pearl is Saint Rita of Cascia.
Rita was born in 1381 in the republic of Cascia. In the local dialect her name meant “pearl” (what a coincidence!). Growing up, Rita became acquainted with the Augustinian nuns of St. Mary Magdalene Monastery. Their lifestyle attracted Rita but her parents wanted her to marry. Rita had an arranged marriage to Paolo Mancini and had two sons.
The political climate of her time was volatile (not unlike today). Fighting between families broke out often. Rita’s husband was murdered as a result of this violence. She already was following the will of God when she gave forgiveness to her husband’s murderers. Shortly after, both of her sons fell seriously ill and died. Instead of allowing the loss of her entire family cripple her spiritually, Rita plunged further into trusting God’s Providence.
Rita sought to join the religious life after 18 years of marriage. Initially, the Augustinian nuns rejected her requests because Rita’s extended family still refused to forgive her husband’s killers. Her peacekeeping and persistence finally helped her family (and others in the region) reconcile and give up hatred.
At the age of 36, Rita was accepted into the religious life under the Rule of Saint Augustine. She lived out this vocation for forty years. Shortly before dying, Rita received one of the wounds of Christ— the crown of thorns.
Patron Saint of Impossible Causes
One of the things Rita of Cascia is most known for is her patronage of impossible causes. God works in mysterious and wonderful ways. He allowed Rita to experience the full gamut of life: daughter, wife, mother, widow, and religious nun. Seemingly ordinary vocations, the process by which God allowed Rita to follow those paths was anything but ordinary.
Forgiving those who have hurt you may seem like an impossible task sometimes. How can you find it in your heart to show mercy to those who bitterly rejected or hated you? Rejection is a natural part of life. But continual rejection? It can make even the most ardent wills downcast and doubt God’s plan.
Three years ago, my wife and I thought she was going to miscarry our youngest daughter. She had some bleeding and other same signs as our previous miscarriages. We implored the intercession of many saints—Rita of Cascia was one of them. Since Mother’s Day 2017, my wife and I had never forgotten to include Saint Rita in our nightly litany.
Rita is an excellent saint to petition for help. We all experienced chaos, tumult, and confusion the past year. No matter your circumstance please take refuge in the fact God uses all things for good (Romans 8:28).
Dear St. Rita,
during your entire life on earth
you found your happiness by following the will of our heavenly Father.
Help me to be as trusting of God in all His plans for me.
Help me this day to give myself to Him as you did,
without limit, without fear, without counting the cost.
Help me to be generous in serving the needs of others,
patient in all difficulties,
forgiving toward all who injure me.
Help me to learn more deeply the great mystery of the Cross of Jesus,
so that by embracing it as you did,
I may come to experience its power to heal and to save. Amen.