Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
Fr. John Naus, SJ is an elderly priest who sends out thousands of Christmas cards every year. I usually receive mine in August, because it takes the whole calendar year to get cards out to the entire mailing list. He includes little snippets of wisdom each year, and this year, one pithy line stood out in particular: “Parents give their children two great gifts – one is roots, the other is wings.” These two disparate but connected gifts – roots of family and faith, and the trust to let that faith blossom in its own time – challenge us to discern what response Christ calls us to, and when that response is appropriate.
There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every thing under the heavens.
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill,and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
In today’s first reading, we continue reading the Preacher’s poetry in Ecclesiastes. This passage resonates with us because it summons to mind joys and sorrows from our own life and family. The range of human experiences described here is exalted and transformed in our life of faith.
We mark new birth and death in the Sacrament of Baptism, and again in the Rite of Christian Burial. We weep and mourn at funerals, and we laugh, dance, and weep for joy at weddings and ordinations. Parents struggle with knowing when it is best to offer advice and when to bite their lip. When to gather their children in, and when to let them spread their wings.
The life of Christ is a model for this, as well. There is an appointed time for both rejoicing and undergoing suffering. And how often in His life do joy and suffering follow one another! In our Gospel today, Jesus acknowledges that the Son of Man must suffer greatly, be rejected, killed, only to be raised on the third day.
Consider the ‘appointed times’ in your own life. What are you undergoing or rejoicing in right now? Ask for the grace to hear what the invitation from God is at this appointed time.
—Joseph Simmons, SJ
Lord, our lives ebb and flow between beginnings and endings, from emptiness to fullness, from the weariness of depletion to the wonder of creation, from an agony of the heart to the burst of joy that fills our senses. And so goes the lives of all who cling to you.
Lord, through your humanity and divinity, you accepted the cycle of life. When we recall the denial and abandonment by your best friends, the brutality that lifted you up on the cross and drew forth blood and water from your side, we know that death does not have the final word. Because you stand victorious, we will one day cross over to eternal life.
And regardless of our place in our appointed time, we claim your promise “that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
—The Jesuit Prayer Team