“With God at its centre, the human spirit is indomitable. It thrives in adversity.” {DANIEL J. O’LEARY: Prism of love – God’s colours in everyday life: Columba Press: Page 58} The same author goes on to quote the poet Albert Camus – “in the middle of my winter I discovered an invincible summer.” All of this will make an excellent foundation for our weekly reflection. It should stand firm on words from TODAY’S PSALM [116 or 115]. “The Lord has heard my voice, my appeal … they surrounded me … I called on the name of the Lord … I was brought low, and he saved me … he has kept my feet from stumbling. I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living.”
The land of the living – and our living will always entail some sort of adversity. Yet it will also include real joy, peace and achievement. There will always be both winters and summers. In the land of the living it is often possible for us to enjoy the winter months and find elements of summer both trying and exhausting. Our life and living are a medley which, for the Christian, is brought together in harmony by God-in-Christ. Never forget that Jesus himself proclaimed the reason for his coming was that we should have life in all its fullness. {see John 10:10}. Saint Paul tells us that our God’s fullness is all in all. {see Ephesians 1: 23}

In TODAY’S GOSPEL [MARK 8: 27 – 35] we encounter the first of Jesus’ three passion, death and resurrection predictions. Three references have been made to these in earlier reflections – two will be found in the Tenth Sunday of the Year (June 10), and another on the Fifteenth Sunday (July 15)).
At once we must note that this Sunday’s prediction begins with the words: “and he began to teach them that …. .” He BEGAN – a lesson that his disciples had to learn. They were reluctant (unwilling?) to recognise that in the winter they could discover an invincible summer! We must not make the same mistake. In fact we need to go even further. I suspect that Peter gave expression to the general reaction of the disciples – “he began to rebuke him.” The disciples reacted – they failed to respond.
Jesus began (and he did so plainly) to teach them …

Peter began to rebuke him! The opening lesson failed to attract their interest. It made them uncomfortable – they had other ideas and it was not what they expected. It took them far out of their comfort zone and preconceptions. Here there is a challenge on which it is worthwhile to reflect. As Jesus began to teach a new outlook and dimension to faith, so immediately Peter began to remonstrate and complain. It follows that we need to examine the reactions by so many Catholics who are either locked in some sort of time-warp or have yet to discover the vital and essential difference between faith and religion. Our religion must be firmly based on our faith – otherwise it is meaningless. In its basics, religion is nothing much more than the rituals and customs which are harnessed to give expression to a particular faith. If there is no faith there is no authentic religion. By way of example, we should be able to say that I do not believe in the Mass but I believe in the Eucharist. The Mass is a combination of ritual and custom which gives expression to my Eucharistic faith. The Eucharist is unchanging, firm and resolute. The format of the Mass is not, and never has been, cast in stone. It must be regularly updated and adapted in order to feed and more clearly express FAITH. A faith, which needs to remain authentic, grow and develop, but is changeless in its essentials. Ritual and custom are only tools. How many so-called ‘old’ Catholics do not own and use a microwave oven? How many still fuel their ordinary ovens with wood – then light the wood in order to fire the stove?

IN TODAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [ISAIAH 50: 5 – 9a] the prophet tells us that “the Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I turned not backward. … let us stand together” Surely this admonition fits like a glove on the context of what we have been saying?
In the face of Peter’s rebuke Jesus did not take back a single word of his teaching – eventually he repeated it twice more! Peter had to learn how to bite the bullet (recognise the value of finding summer moments in the winter), in order to nurture real faith and adapt to reality. So do we.

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