Monday, August 9, 2010

“God provides the wind, but man must raise the sails ”

During the Depression, the Capuchins opened a soup kitchen in Detroit . This man of simple faith was told that there was no more bread to serve the crowd of people waiting. “Just wait and God will provide.” Fr. Solanus said an “Our Father” after inviting the men to join him in prayer. We just turned around and opened the front door … a bakery man was coming with a big basket full of food … when the men saw they started to cry … Fr. Solanus in his simple way, said, “See, God provides. Nobody will starve as long as you put your confidence in God, in Divine Providence.” Solanus Casey: The Story of Father Solanus by Catherine M. Odell pg 132

Gospel text (Mt 17:22-27): On day when they were together in Galilee , Jesus said to his disciples, «The Son of Man will be delivered into human hands, and they will kill him. But He will rise on the third day». The Twelve were deeply grieved.

When they returned to Capernaum , the Temple tax collectors came to Peter and asked him, «Does your master pay the temple tax?». He answered, «Certainly». Peter then entered the house, but immediately Jesus asked him, «What do you think, Simon? Who pays taxes or tributes to the kings of the earth: their sons or the other people?». Peter replied, «The others». And Jesus told him, «The sons, then, are tax-free. But so as not to offend these people, go to the sea, throw in a hook and open the mouth of the first fish you catch. You will find a coin in it, take it and let it pay for you and for me».

Today is the Feast of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, to her family, Edith Stein. Stein was born in 1891 to a German orthodox Jewish family. In her teen years, she left her Jewish roots and professed to be an atheist. Some time after that, the study of philosophy and the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila are credited with her conversion to Roman Catholicism. In 1933 as Hitler was coming to power, she joined the Carmelites and made final vows in 1938. In order to protect her from the Nazis who were arresting all Jews, even converts like herself, she was sent to Holland where Jewish Christians were somewhat protected until the bishops spoke out against the persecution of the Jews. To retaliate, the Nazis arrested all Jewish-Christians including St. Teresa and her sister Rosa. She was sent to Auschwitz in 1942 and died in the gas chambers there. In 1999, she was named co-patron of Europe along with Bridget of Sweden and Catherine of Siena.

What an adventurous faith life! From orthodox Jew to atheist to Roman Catholic nun to martyr’s death to patron of Europe ! There is much to admire in someone who continues to search for her truth no matter where it took her—even to death in a gas chamber.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is again exploring with His disciples their responsibility to the State. Rather than risk a run-in with civil authorities until His time for that final encounter had arrived, Jesus sent Peter off to fish for the tax that was due and indeed Peter found twice what was owed in the mouth of the first fish that was caught. In fact, Jesus avoided negative encounters with civil authorities, even to the end when Pilate said the famous words: “I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your concern.” And then, Pilate buckled under to the pressure of the religious authorities who most feared the message of Jesus and handed Him over to be scourged and ultimately crucified.

St. Teresa Benedicta and Pilate stand in stark contrast to one another. She stood with the truth as she came to know it; he refused to use the authority he had and succumbed to the political pressure that resulted in the horrid death of Jesus. Truth in our lives: Are we running to it or away from it? Are we settling for sound bytes when living in truth demands becoming more informed despite the complexity of the issues of today?

Our interior life must be centered in Christ, in his love for us, in his dying on the Cross for me, in his constant search of our heart. In his meeting with the youth, in Spain , in 1982, John Paul II expressed it very well, when he said, out loud: «Look at Him!».

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