Cost and Promise: denial

The Scene Changes. “Then Jesus said to his disciples” With these words the scene moves from the personal debate with Peter to a general pronouncement about discipleship, the first part of it echoing what Jesus has already said to his disciples in 10:38–39: “whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” The disciples first reaction was not the softened “self-denial” or “take up one’s burden.” They understood the cross as the sign of Roman torture and death: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (16:24) Continue reading

Cost and Promise: suffering

The Suffering Messiah. “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do” (v.23) neatly summarizes the nature of the problem. The way the disciples react to the idea of messianic suffering and “defeat” shows that this concept of Messiah is going to be very hard to get across. Here, as elsewhere, the mention of resurrection on the third day gets lost. It is apparently so overshadowed by the suffering and death which precedes it that resurrection seems to pass unnoticed. Continue reading

Cost and Promise: context

Matthew 16:21–27 21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. 22 Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” 23 He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? 27 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct. 28 Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” Continue reading

This is our faith

There are weeks that are so marvelous that you want to relive them, hold them and keep them ever safe. I hope your summer had one of those weeks. A family reunion, a vacation, a solar eclipse in totality, evenings at the coast watching sunsets, the week when the all-grown-up kids were home, time with the grandchildren – a week that was by any measure, “a keeper.” Continue reading

What they need to know

Last week, it seemed that daily we were updating the Prayers of the Faithful for our weekend Masses as each day brought news which called out for prayer. It was the last change that was, for me, the most heart wrenching. It was a call from a close friend, struggling through the tears to tell me that her teenage daughter had unexpectedly passed away. I had known the young woman since grade-school age. She was bright, beautiful, and beyond charming. I was devastated – and so I cannot begin to imagine what her parents and sister are experiencing. Continue reading

Confession: upon the rock

Jesus’ Response: an emerging church. What history has made clear is that Jesus’ response had been a source of controversy in so far as how it is understood and thus what kind of church was expected to emerge from Jesus’ earthly ministry. Clearly whatever emerges is under the blessing of Christ.

The disciples as a group had already received a blessing: “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it”(Mt 13:16-17). Here this blessing is for Peter alone, as the plural address of v.16 shifts to the singular of v.17: Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah – notably keeping the original given name. Continue reading

Confession: questions

This pericope is located in a section of Matthean narrative that portrays the formation of the church (13:53-17:27) in the midst of the continuing conflict with all levels of Jewish society that is leading towards a growing rejection of Jesus as Messiah. This story forms the hinge of the section because after this Jesus will heighten his attention to the preparation of the disciples for their mission as a community once Jesus has died and resurrected from the dead. It will be a community who perceives and professes his true identity. Continue reading

Confession: a context

Matthew 16:13-2013 When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”16 Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”17 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.18 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.19 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.”20 Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah. Continue reading


“You will be my people and I will be your God” Those are the words of a covenant, an oath, forever binding God and the descendants of Abraham, binding all who would believe. It is a covenant renewed some 400 years later under the leadership of Moses. It is the covenant that prophet Isaiah speaks about in the first reading – only it’s now another 700 years passed. For more than 1,000 years the people of Israel had understood that they, and they alone, were qahal Yahweh, the people of God. Understood that they, and they alone, were the inheritors of salvation and God’s justice. They were the people of the divine manifest destiny, privileged, and the chosen people. Continue reading

How to Read the Bible

It was a simple email. The writer said that she was committed to reading and studying the Bible. For her first time through, she wanted to accomplish it in a two-year period. She had already researched the internet for Bible study plans and discovered there are tons of plans, lots of perspectives, and advice a plenty. So much so, it was hard to sort through it all. And such was the genesis of the email asking for advice on “the plan.” Continue reading