In today’s Second Reading Saint James the Less affirms the meaning of the Ephphatha rite in the baptism of infants that is based on the healing of the deaf and mute man in last Sunday’s Gospel. The priest touches the ears and mouth of the newly-baptized infant, saying:
“May [the Lord Jesus] soon touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.” In other words, the seed of faith planted by God’s grace in baptism must take root in us and bear fruit; otherwise it is just dead. It is the same lesson Jesus teaches in the Parable of the Sower. (Cf. Luke 8:4-15) The symbolism of the Ephphatha rite is also found in the opening words of today’s First Reading: “The Lord God opens my ear that I may hear.”
In today’s Gospel Peter expresses the faith in his heart when he says of Jesus, “You are the Christ.” However his mind will not allow him to accept what he cannot understand when Jesus begins to teach about the necessity of his passion and death, going so far as to argue with him. Peter and the other disciples had yet to grow in their faith.
The word “faith” has two meanings. What we call the theological virtue of faith is a grace or gift from God: the power to believe what God has revealed. Our response of accepting what God has revealed is also called “faith.” This is faith in the sense of doctrine. It is what we profess in the creed. It is the fruit produced by God’s grace. It is expressed in the way we live. If not, it is dead. As people of faith we are called, like the disciples, to give up our preconceived notions and think as God does, not as human beings do. (Cf. today’s Gospel) This entails self-denial, sacrifice and adherence to the gospel.
Because of the early bulletin deadline due to the Labor Day holiday, I am not able to give a report on the threshing event. I hope to have a good report in next week’s bulletin.
This weekend we mark the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our country. Let’s hope and pray that nothing like that is in the offing, especially with the Taliban now given free rein in Afghanistan. Those of us old enough to remember that day will not forget it. I was pastor at Annunciation of the BVM Parish in Viroqua and Acting Director of the diocese’s Office for Sacred Worship. After celebrating 8:00 AM Mass, I turned on the parish computer and saw a screen with smoke coming from the World Trade Center towers with the caption, “Terror in New York and DC.” I thought it was just a promo for another disaster movie when I got a call from Rose Hammes, then the diocese’s Director of Communications. She told me that Bishop Burke wanted me to come to La Crosse because of the attacks. I said, “What attacks?” So she told me and I realized what I had seen was real. So I turned on the television and saw the eventual collapse of both towers. It was unbelievable.
Bishop Burke and Lutheran Bishop April Ulring Larson had spoken and wanted to have an ecumenical prayer service at St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral that evening. A meeting was scheduled in the Bishop’s Vestry of the Cathedral with ministerial leaders from various denominations. They asked for ideas and I suggested an outline for a prayer service. They all said that sounded good, so Rose Hammes, Bishop Larson’s assistant Pastor Lanny Westphal and I went to work fleshing out the prayer service and photocopying a worship aid. We had a full Cathedral that evening. Afterwards many people remained in the plaza in front of the Cathedral just visiting and supporting one another. It was really a beautiful evening despite the horror the country was experiencing. I have always been proud of my role on that occasion.
Pray the rosary this week people recovering from devastating storms, floods and wildfires; for Afghan refugees and those left facing the reality of living under a brutal regime; for people serving in the armed forces from our community; and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.