Psychological operations on the Sea of Galilee

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God and Man. In today’s gospel reading the actions of Jesus and the actions of the Apostles needs to be compared. In that reading, after preaching to the crowds, Jesus tells the apostles to get into their boat and cross the lake. At that time Jesus dismisses the crowds goes to the mountaintop, and prays. Jesus often seeks solitude to pray.

Mt 14:22-33

For certain preaching to a large crowd had left him tired. For certain there were those in the crowd that eagerly listened to his word. For certain there were those in the crowd that sought to do harm. Allies and enemies. No wonder Jesus went to that mountaintop, to pray.

How similar the waves of people were to the waves of a stormy sea. Jesus told the disciples to get into a boat and cross the sea. A challenge? A storm kicks up, they panic. Who can think clearly with such pressure? They spot Jesus walking on the water. The Christ they had just walked with is barely recognizable? Would they have recognized him had the situation been different? Would they have recognized him from across a quiet street? They saw him walk on water in a violent storm. They cried out in fear, I wonder who they cried to? My guess is they cried to God. They got something right. Jesus went to the mountaintop to pray. Jesus said “take courage” “It is I “, and “do not be afraid”. Peter obeyed with a courageous response. ”

  • Storms mess with emotions, and they cloud judgement.
  • Navigating difficulties takes practice. It requires a plan.
  • It’s always a good idea to pray.

Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” A prayer answered, and all goes well until Peter loses sight of Jesus. The violent storm caused him to shift his vision. Vision is clouded by fear and uncertainty. It is blinded by all that comprises the storm. How easy is it to stay focused amongst chaos? Peter begins to sink. Then he cries out “Lord save me.” Peter does something right. That cry is a prayer.

(a little side-note, probably not worth inserting)

Take note: Isn’t noise and chaos a great diversion?

Panic ! Panic! Panic! Panic! Panic!

Fear ! Fear! Fear!

Psychological operations (PSYOP) are planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.

(end of side-note)

Isn’t it interesting how Jesus seeks solitude for prayer? Isn’t it difficult to maintain focus under certain situations? Don’t constant commotion and noise cloud judgement? Imagine trying to think clearly in a protest. Imagine trying to think clearly with a television blaring its opinions. Imagine trying to maintain peace while surrounded by antagonists. Jesus sought the mountaintop to pray in solitude. I wonder if those disciples appreciated the quiet after the storm. that’s the whisper of God mentioned in the first reading. 1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a. Here is a blurb from that reading:

but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was fire—
but the LORD was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When he heard this,
Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance of the cave

Storms seem popular today, people seem to enjoy the conflict. They enjoy taking sides. Elephants and Asses take note! They enjoy their opinions and their gangs. Politicians are gang members, they like to incite riots. They enjoy and thrive on the violence.Then, they toss out their solution hoping that no can think clearly in the midst of their storm. That’s the political storm of today.

Today the storm is turbulent and treacherous. It is violent and deadly. Such a social climate. Deadly. Jesus went to a mountaintop and prayed. Peter trusted in the LORD, yet amongst the violence he had trouble maintaining focus. Bluntly stated: quiet meditative contemplation, and prayer, and a life focused on Jesus Christ are worth remembering today. There is a storm on the horizon.

(yes, the post is about the importance of having a prayer-life)

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Assumption of Mary

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“By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory”.

-Pope Pius XII    November 1, 1950   Munificentissimus Deus

Mary lived her life as an example to the human race, and her assumption is our hopeful reward for a life faithfully lived.It is the promise made by Jesus to all faithful Christians that they too will be received into heaven. Mary’s incorruptibility in life does not end once her earthly life is completed, it is an immaculate life. In Pope Pius XII’s dogma of the Assumption he refers to her death before the assumption but since the dogma does not emphatically state her death,Catholics are free to believe that Mary did die not before the Assumption.

In the Orthodox Church’s tradition the Dormition of the Theotokos  is celebrated on the same day , August 15. Their teaching does state that Mary did die a natural death, the same as all humans. Her soul  was received  by Christ at the time of death, and her body was resurrected three days after. An empty tomb was found on that third day. The Orthodox Church  places emphasis on Mary’s natural death as to emphasize that Mary was truly human and a true example on how to live.Her example was fidelity to God and the simplest description of that fidelity can be found in the first two lines of the Magnificat, the Song of Mary:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant
From this day all generations will call me blessed
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.”

These are words fitting to be said of any human being. To declare a wondrous God that continuously desires our love and success.  In these lines we also declare our own humanity, just as Mary did,  and our role as humble servants of the Lord.

Aside

”  Mt 19:3-12. ” Let me make this quick and to the point, it HONESTY, it is TRUTHFULNESS, it is not deceit, or legislation or legality, or promulgating, or democracy. It is the simple and honest and often bitter truth. Truth is not something we decide, we do not take a vote. We do not get to shout “YEH!” or “NAY!”. It is something that exists without our input. It is independent of our feelings or emotions or opinions. It is the truth, plain and simple. With this our vote most definitely does not count. Thank you for listening. That’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Honestly, it is!

Father Jacques Hamel and the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time

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Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,
for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.

Lk 12:32-48

This is my time to write about Father Jacques Hamel, the Catholic priest that was slain by extremists while saying the Holy Mass is a small church in France. The gospel readings this 19thh Sunday of Ordinary time urge us to keep vigilant because we do not know when the Son of Man will come. The gospel preaches vigilance, and that often is interpreted to be prepared for our final hour, or the darkest hours when we ae put to the test. It urges us to turn towards the LORD so that we might enter the kingdom promised when we are called. The message isn’t all about death, it speaks much about living life and surviving the trials of life. Father Hamel was vigilant. Did he expect the murderous thief to enter the church on that his final morning? Probably not. Was he prepared? Definitely yes. Father Jacques did not expect to be murdered as he said that morning Mass, but in saying that Mass he was prepared. The thief did not catch him off guard. The rituals of that priest’s vocation were put into place to offer him protection, to maintain his vigilance. The priest is a man of prayer. Prayers to protect and guide both himself and others, and prayer plays an important part of vigilance. They are the conversation with the Lord, and priests pray a lot.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Gird your loins and light your lamps
and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding,
ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.

The Mass the father was saying as he was murdered would not have been his first prayer of the day. Fr. Jacques would have started his day with “Lord, open my lips and I will sing thy praise.” It is the opening line of the prayer that begins his day. Equally important was how Father closed the day before with an examination of his conscience and a plea for the forgiveness of his sins. He closed that day acknowledging his acknowledging his own faults, and then asking for forgiveness. Father Jacques knew that forgiveness would be granted, he knew the gospel Jesus preached. In knowing that gospel narrative he would have known the final words of Jesus on the Cross. “Father forgive them, they know not what they do” and “Into thy hands I commend my spirit.” He knew God’s forgiveness, he confessed and heard confessions. Fr. Hamel forgave sins in the name of Christ. Father Jacques Hamel was vigilant, he knew how to act. He both began and ended his day in prayer. He knew what was expected of him.

Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself,
have the servants recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.
And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants.

Father Jacques Hamel did not just begin and end his day in prayer, he prayed throughout the day. That is what is necessary for vigilance, the threats are numerous. They are continuous and the constant bombardment tends to wear one down. He prayed in the morning and evening and throughout the day, they are part of his obligation and what is needed to carry out his duties. Those prayer are the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours, a scheduled set of prayers said regardless of what the day brings. They prepared Fr. Jacques for his final moment, even for one that was as brutal as his. Father Jacques Hamel had his throat slit while saying the Holy Mass in France. How can one possibly prepare for that? The priest knew how to prepare, he prayed. The disciples once asked Jesus, teach us to pray. Father knew the Lord’s Prayer. The forgiveness of sin, and give us our daily bread.

Be sure of this:
if the master of the house had known the hour
when the thief was coming,
he would not have let his house be broken into.
You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect,
the Son of Man will come.”

Give us our daily bread, the duty the priest was fulfilling at his final hour. News accounts suggest he was preforming the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Preparing that bread for himself and others. Food for a journey and companions of the Lord. The priest was vigilant and he was prepared, and he was helping others. So relevant in the light of these gospel readings of vigilance, of being prepared for the thief that comes unexpected. Prayer, nourishment, and forgiveness. Father Jacques was prepared, he was vigilant. He taught others to follow by example.

Even the location of that priest’s death speaks of his preparation. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” The location of his slaughter speaks of preparation. He resided in the Church that is the likeness of Mary. Mary, mother of God. Mary free from sin. Mary, the Holy Virgin. Her song, the Magnificat, he prayed at Vespers. A reminder of the joys of Gods grace.  A fortress built to guard against temptation. Vigilance. Father Jacques Hamel, Pray for us.

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 117

Food for a journey

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“I am the bread that came down from heaven.” I wonder how I would have reacted when Jesus said this. If someone declared that at a lecture or a conference I sat in on, I likely would have declared them crazy. It is quite the statement, especially when one thinks of the first century view of heaven. For those people, Jesus would have had to break through a firmament high in the sky. I think the statement might have been phrased to generate much of the reaction it received. Eyes and ears would have been at attention awaiting a response to their criticism. I am the bread come down from heaven is a statement that demands attention.

It is a statement that describes whom Jesus is, the Son of God. It describes His mission to lead Gods people back to heaven. It also describes Jesus method, He feeds and nourishes us on our journey. Jesus also challenges us, the evidence is the statement made. Challenge is also evident in his use of parables. He challenges us to look at our life and our world differently. Jesus turns life on edge and he turns things upside down. Jesus’s methods and message is radical. He is not another prophet as described in the past, and He is not like the other messianic leaders that have come and gone. The disciples had expectations for who Jesus was, and they were wrong. He is the bread of life, sent down from heaven, to nourish us and guide on our journey.

In Jesus defense, He mentions the manna from heaven that the Hebrews ate on their journey. Jesus also states that those people ate that bread and died, and then declares that His is “the bread that grants eternal life.” The manna did not come from Moses, it came from God. Jesus’s Father ! If declaring” I am the bread of life” is shocking, Jesus certainly must nourish their faith to carry them through the events to come; His crucifixion and resurrection. This is the statement that will sustain them on their journey and that journey will be challenging. If this statement gets His disciples to look at their relation to God a little differently, the crucifixion will challenge them more, and they will see a crucified Christ as the victorious Son of God.

The proof is the disciples 2000 years later, the twenty first century Christians. The bread of life did sustain the Apostles, it is radical yet true. Think of that bread of life at Eucharist. To Christians it should still bring amazement. To non-Christians it still brings out the cynicism that was present 2000 years ago. It is Jesus Christ we receive, the bread of life. That is not a casual event, but one of wonder and amazement. It is an event that should open our eyes and our ears. It should cause us to look at life differently, we should see life through and in Christ. It nourishes us for the trials and tribulations of today. There are many.

The bread of life. “I AM,” don’t forget those first two seemingly insignificant words. If the bread of life references to Moses and the Hebrews in the desert calling to be nourished on their journey, “I AM” is Moses at the burning bush. He asks God what should I call you, and God responds “I AM.” I am the bread of life points to the father, a heavenly king and not an earthly one. The destination is a heavenly one, not simply a land. Jesus disciples are both nourished and challenged. They are called to journey, to open their eyes, ears, hearts and minds to something new. That is not easy, it is something I still struggle with today.

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time