"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
August 7, 2011: Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Theme: Elijah was a prophet to Israel in the ninth-century B.C. after the nation had split in two following the tragic end of Solomon’s reign. Elijah’s mission was to restore authentic worship of the one, true God to the northern kingdom. After his victory over the prophets of Ba’al, King Ahab and his wife Jezebel sought to kill Elijah, so he fled south to “the mountain of God, Horeb.” (“Horeb” is another name for Mount Sinai)
In the first reading, God speaks to Elijah in “a still, small voice,” calming his fears. A few verses later (not part of this week’s reading) God tells Elijah to go back to Damascus, anoint Hazael king of Israel and ordain Elisha to take his place.
The reading was chosen to complement this week’s Gospel where Jesus calms Peter’s fears in the midst of a storm saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid!” In both cases it is God’s word that brings peace.
As this week’s Psalm says, “I will hear what God proclaims … he proclaims peace.” After finishing his discussion about life in the Spirit and how Christ enables us to overcome sin, St. Paul turns his attention to the Jews and the problem of Israel’s place in salvation history. He laments their unbelief and yet he has no doubt that God has not forsaken them, for to them belongs “the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.”
Whatever God’s plan is for Israel, one thing is certain: from the Jews “came the Christ, who is over all.” The supremacy of Christ over everything, including the forces of nature, is the link connecting all three readings.
Key verse: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid” (Mt 14:27).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “His conscience is man's most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths” (No. 1776).
Pope Benedict XVI: “Conscience signifies the perceptible and demanding presence of the voice of truth in the subject himself. It is the overcoming of mere subjectivity in the encounter of the inferiority of man with the truth from God. A man of conscience is one who never acquires tolerance, well-being, success, public standing and approval on the part of prevailing opinion at the expense of truth” (“On Conscience”).
Life application: Conscience is not a feeling or an opinion; it’s the voice of God speaking in our heart. Conscience tells us what we ought to do whether we want to or not. This week’s readings encourage us to trust God and heed his voice even when, like Elijah and Peter, we’re afraid. Being a faithful Catholic today isn’t always easy. And yet as Archbishop Chaput said: “We owe it to our country and the age we live in to be faithful Catholics. If we don’t live as faithful Catholics, we betray the Gospel and forfeit the opportunity God gives us to make a significant difference for the evangelization of culture.” When God calls you to make a difference, even if it frightens you, remember Christ’s words: “Be not afraid!”
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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