August 24, 2014
ORDINARY 21 (A)
Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood had not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. – Mt. 16: 17
In an essay entitled “Twenty minutes of reality,” M. P. Montague describes an experience he had while recovering from surgery in a hospital:
“I saw into reality, & there was the ecstasy which is always there, but which we are entitled to perceive only on rare & fleeting occasions. I had undergone a certain amount of physical pain, & had suffered for a short time the most acute mental depression which it has ever been my misfortune to encounter. I had discovered a terrible secret, & the secret was that there is no God, or if there is one, He was indifferent to all human suffering.”
There was a March wind blowing “but in every other respect it was an ordinary, commonplace day. Yet here in this everyday setting, & entirely unexpectedly, my eyes were opened, & for the first time in all my life I caught a glimpse of the ecstatic beauty of reality ….”
“I saw no new thing but I saw all the usual things in a miraculous light – in their true light. I saw the actual loveliness which is always there, but which we so rarely perceive; & I knew that every man, woman, bird & tree, everything living before me, was extravagantly beautiful, & extravagantly important. It seemed as though before my very eyes I actually beheld the truth of Christ’s saying that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without the knowledge of the Father in heaven.”
An old poem gives some perspective on what Mr. Montague wrote about: “I had slept & dreamed that life was duty, but waked to find that life was beauty.” The dialogue between Jesus & Peter in today’s Gospel took place on an ordinary, commonplace day. Yet for Peter, it was one of those “rare & fleeting occasions” when a glimpse of reality evokes a humble appreciation of that which we have been ignorant of, indifferent towards, or incapable of acknowledging, namely, that God really does care, that there really is a divine savior who casts out all fear. Jesus has made it possible for us to know ourselves & all others in a new way – to know how extravagantly beautiful & important we all are. To get in touch with this reality is to find the pearl of great price, the treasure we have been groping & longing & searching for. To get in touch with this reality is to discover for the first time that “we had slept & dreamed that life was duty, but waked to find that life was beauty!” In his poem Little Gidding T.S. Eliot put it this way: “We shall not cease from exploration, & the end of all our exploring, will be to arrive where we started & know the place for the first time.”
What dawned on Peter that day came from a divine source not of human contriving, & I’m convinced that all of us in one way or another require some such experience before our faith can become an exciting reality for all of us. However, being touched by divine insight cannot leave us unchanged. It is that “Eureka” moment in our faith journey, & it calls for a response of prayer.
This year, September rather than November is going to be our stewardship month. In the context of today’s Gospel, I think it is appropriate to speak of the stewardship of time. Time is a gift of God, & how we use it is our gift to Him. How do we tithe our time? Sunday has been called the Lord’s Day because it is meant to afford us time for prayer. Broken down into minutes, a tithe of twenty-four hours comes to two hours & twenty-four minutes. We already spend one hour at Mass, so that leaves an hour & twenty-four minutes. We could use this time to pray the rosary, pray the daily offices of morning & evening prayer, or spend time before the Blessed Sacrament. We have no trouble spending this amount of time watching TV, so why do we begrudge God this amount of time? Giving it to God is important only if we have experienced in some way that “Eureka” moment. If you haven’t yet, ask the Lord to help you find what Peter did. AMEN!