You are my God whom I seek
We Americans are a restive people, always seeking contentment in some new place or new possession, but never quite finding it. Nor are Americans the only searchers. All mankind suffers the same gnawing affliction. As the English writer, Samuel Johnson, said, we are all engaged in a “weary pilgrimage.”
But if we who believe in God are weary pilgrims, we are not hopeless ones. We may have to keep moving on, but we know that when we reach our goal, there will be rest.
God must have wanted to give us a concrete reminder of our “pilgrimness” when he presented to us the extraordinary “pilgrim saint,” Benedict Joseph Labre.
St. Benedict Joseph, eldest of the fifteen children of a French shopkeeper, was born in 1748. His uncle, a priest, tutored him in various subjects; but from the start it was the Scriptures and lives of the saints that captured the youngster’s mind and determined him to devote his life wholly to God.
First, he decided to become a monk in some very strict monastery. But both the Trappists and the Carthusians rejected him because he was too young. When the Cistercians finally took him in on trial, the trial was enough to convince Benedict that he was not called to the cloister after all.
In 1770 he discovered his true, if unusual vocation. He would spend the rest of his life as a lay pilgrim to holy places, living out in the world the virtues of poverty, chastity and obedience. Today’s psalm reflects his quest: “O God, you are my God whom I seek.” For years he tramped on foot through Italy, Switzerland, France and Spain devoutly visiting the major shrines. After 1774 he remained in Rome, touring the churches especially where the Forty Hours of the Eucharistic Exposition were being celebrated. He slept in the ruins of the Colosseum, he dressed like a vagabond, he seldom even begged, and what he was given he usually passed on to others more needy. Some cities might have dismissed him as a hobo. Romans who saw this gentle soul rapt in prayer in their churches know he was the real thing.
On Wednesday of Holy Week, 1783, the “Begger of Rome” took ill outside his favorite church. A neighbor took him in, but he died peacefully the same evening. The children of Rome raised the cry “The Saint is dead” and countless others joined the chorus. Benedict had become a living parable of mankind in pilgrimage, a living exemplification of St. Augustine’s famous prayer, “You have made us for Yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
-Father Robert F. McNamara
Q272: Why does Jesus “rebuke” the disciples for reporting on what others say about “who he is,” even after Peter responds in a burst of faith, “You are the Messiah”?
The question sounds simple enough: “Who do you say that I am?” We have already heard Peter’s confession of faith. He responds, “You are God’s Messiah!” And immediately Jesus rebukes them all for their answers. They must be missing a major point, if one of their number recognizes Jesus as the Messiah, and everyone gets rebuked.
The key to today’s gospel passage (Luke 9:18-24) seems to be the last four verses, where he introduces the fact that the Messiah must suffer and die. This addresses their faulty understanding of “Messiah.” But then he immediately links that to what he expects his Disciples to do; he invites (commands?) them to take up their own crosses daily and follow him.
There lies the challenge for every single Catholic: not to “talk the talk” but to “walk the walk.” Jesus had asked who do you say that I am? But he is more interested in what they do, by imitating his live of self-sacrifice — if called upon to do so. Just about every Catholic, I suspect, has made one or more Retreats where this point is the central focus: what are you doing about following Jesus, as he invites/commands? Do you “prepare” to follow Jesus, no matter what the cost (a topic that will be key to understanding the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time)? Here is the point: this is not just an “academic question,” but zeroes in on your heart: what you believe about Jesus, truly believe, will be reflected in how you live! And the world can see how you live!
KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! We don’t like to hear that nasty business about “taking up our cross,” but that is what true Catholicism is all about. Our own conversion to the values of Jesus is reflected in our understanding of this invitation from Jesus (CCC #1435). If we are not doers of the word, but only hearers, then we have deceived ourselves (James 1:22). Who do you say that Jesus is? Do your actions back up your words?
The Prophet Zechariah invites us to mourn for the sufferings of the Just One. St. Paul invites us to reflect on our oneness with Christ. Jesus himself invites us to discipleship and to the cross that goes with it. Those who share Peter’s confession of faith in Jesus as the Christ will have to experience what Jesus experienced. As St. Paul points out to the Corinthians, the unity we share in Christ is a unity that transcends human divisions, whether natural or imposed. — no more Jew or Greek; no more slave or free; no more male or female. All are one in Christ. Disregarding these lines of separation and division and seeing Christ in everyone and everyone in Christ is costly — not the once and for all price of martyrdom but the price of daily commitment and service to others.
Lord, you told us to take up our cross and follow you. Help us to subordinate our own wishes and desires to those that build up the Body of Christ. This may be the hardest cross we have to bear but help us to bear it.