Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Sibling Rivalry

August 8, 2017

Memorial of Saint Dominic, Priest

Lectionary: 408

NM 12:1-13

PS 51:3-4, 5-6AB, 6CD-7, 12-13

MT 14:22-36

Growing up my brother and I, like almost all siblings, had our share of “I told you so moments.”  As the younger child, I was often the one left supervised by the eldest.  One of the most dreaded things to hear come out of his mouth was “Wait till mom and dad get home.”   That meant that I had done something (or had not done something) that he felt I should have been doing.   In today’s modern times that hasn’t changed much, except now with instant, portable communication my kids don’t have to wait for us to get home.  We instead get phone calls or text messages saying “so and so isn’t cleaning.”  Or “so and so won’t give me back my stuff.”

In the first reading, we see the ultimate opportunity for an I told you so moment.  Moses, Aaron, and Miriam are brothers and sisters.   Moses has been chosen by God to be His mouthpiece.  Aaron and Miriam start to be a little jealous of that and seem to want some of that glory for themselves.   In the process, they begin to complain against Moses and against God.  God appears in a dramatic fashion and punishes Miriam for her role in the mutiny.  There she stands before Moses punished for speaking out against him, and instead of the reaction many of us would have, Moses immediately begins to pray for his sister to be cured.  God cures her and things go back to their normal, everyday life.  

That’s one of the interesting things about the readings today.  As I was watching the news yesterday, I saw a story about a Priest in Africa who has left the Catholic church.  He isn’t just any priest, but a very prominent, celebrity type persona.  In his statement as to why he left, he kept saying things that indicated he didn’t understand Catholic teaching.  All the things he said he believed about God were already the teachings of our Church.  I think the thing he missed the most was the fact that God established it.  How often, like Aaron and Miriam, do we begin to tell God “If I were in charge I’d run it this way.”  “If it were up to me, there would be none of that and more of this!”  God established a Church on the foundation of the one disciple who had enough courage to get out of the boat.

Most theologians would agree that the boat in the story represents the Church.  When the storms begin to rock the Church, our best bet is to be like Peter keeping our eyes on Jesus.  The waves can beat on the bow, and the winds can blow across the sail, but only Jesus can help us walk across the turbulent waters of the world.  Water often represents sin.  Peter was fine as long as he was watching Jesus when he instead began to focus on the world around him, he fell into the water.   Jesus pulled him out and sat him back on solid ground.  The water didn’t change, but Jesus kept him above it, out of it.  Like the Priest who left the Church, we have to be careful where we get our spiritual direction from.  Our eyes should be on Jesus, as He revealed it and chose to do so, through His church.  

Our Saint for today knew that with all his heart.  Saint Dominic knew that people needed to find out what authentic Catholic teaching was.   So he established the Order of Preachers, the Dominicans.  They were set about on the task of teaching, and have greatly influenced our theological thought and practices throughout the years.  He didn’t do this by going outside of the Church as do some but instead sought to reform and grow with the Church.  Not trying to change who was in charge, like Aaron and Miriam, but instead following the appointed head of the Church, the see of St. Peter.

He also gave to us one of the most powerful tools we can use to grow closer to Jesus and further understand who Jesus is.  Mary revealed to St. Dominic the devotion that we now know as the Rosary.   It wasn’t a new concept.   People had been praying all the Psalms, or simply meditating on the name of Jesus with 150 beads.  What this did was change our focus and help us to use common and popular prayers to meditate on the life of Christ.   That is the true purpose of the rosary.  We aren’t to sit there simply saying the same words over and over.  Rather, we should be thinking about what each mystery means.  Who it tells us we are, who it tells us Jesus is, and what example of discipleship can we learn from Mary and the Saints.  

Mary always leads us closer to Jesus.  She never points to herself or asks for worship. Rather she tells us to follow the established teachings of the Church.  The Rosary, while it is indeed a devotion to the Blessed Virgin, is not a prayer that so much lifts her up, as reveals to us who Jesus is in light of the events that lead to the Incarnation, the Nativity, the death and resurrection of Christ.  It also helps us more understand the promise to each of us, that if we keep Jesus at the center of our lives, we too can hope to be brought to eternal life and through His sacrifice united with our own, we can win the race and merit a crown in heaven.  

If you haven’t prayed a rosary in a long time, take some time today to truly pray the mysteries and to allow God to speak to you through it.  Above all, learn to trust that the Holy Spirit knows what He is doing through the Church.  The Scriptures say that the gates of hell will not prevail against her.  Do we truly believe that?   If we do, then when we start to doubt some teaching or find difficulty in our understanding of it, instead of walking away… find the answers.  Learn the truth of what the Church teaches and why, and above all, keep your eyes on Christ that He may lead you through the storms of this life to safety.  Worry less about the waves and more about His outstretched arms.