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Tuesday
Aug222017

Blog 1

The Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand!

Prereading (luckily it’s optional) Isaiah 22, Matthew 16, and Numbers 27

Why did Jesus come to Earth? I think almost every Christian on the planet will agree that He came as the Lamb of God to be offered as a sacrifice for our sins. But, if all He had to do was die for our sins, why didn’t He allow Himself to be killed by king Herod as an infant? Why did he pass through the crowds when they tried to stone him and throw him off a cliff at the beginning of his public ministry? Why did he choose to wait 33 years before he gave his life freely? He was God, and could have chosen to die whenever/however He wanted. Why the wait?

In this article, I want to suggest that there was another reason for the son of God coming to the world as a man; to establish His kingdom. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus is constantly telling parables about the “kingdom of heaven.” In Matthew alone, He tells seven parables about “the kingdom.” So, what is this kingdom? Is it just a place we go after we die if we behave and believe?  

John the Baptist tells his disciples, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Mt 3:2). The kingdom of God is still at hand. It is right here with us today. Before Jesus enters His passion, He does something very interesting. He knows He is going to die and that the kingdom He has been dedicating His life to will need to continue to grow for the salvation of all men. He knows someone will have to be put in charge of His kingdom while He returns to heaven so, He establishes a leader of His kingdom on earth. Just as Moses chose Joshua from the twelve leaders of the tribes of Israel to lead his people (Num 27:15-20), so did Jesus select His successor from the Twelve in the same way. Matthew 16:18-19 states,

Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

So, what just happened? Today, I’d like to focus in on one aspect of this passage, the keys to the kingdom of heaven. When Jesus tells Peter He is giving him the keys, he is almost directly quoting a passage from the prophet Isaiah Chapter 22 verse 22, “I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, and when he shuts, no one shall open.” The keys are a symbol of dynastic authority.

Let’s back up for a moment and explain the Old Testament passage so we can better understand what Jesus is getting at. In the days of Isaiah, the Jewish people were under the rule of a king who was God’s anointed one or messiah. It was common practice for the king to have a cabinet of twelve ministers, similar to the system our president has today, and the system Moses had in the Old Testament. These ministers would offer advice and had some authority of their own. However, if the king would go to war or leave his kingdom for any reason, he didn’t leave it without someone to look after his affairs. Out of his twelve ministers, he would select someone to be a steward of his authority while he was away. He would select a prime minister to watch over the kingdom. And, if the prime minister he selected died before the return of the king, he had the right to appoint a successor. The key was the symbol of the primacy of the minister who held it and his dynastic authority.

Now that we have the background information, let’s examine what Jesus did in this passage. Out of his twelve apostles He gave Peter the “keys to the kingdom” and built His church upon Peter. Jesus is the King who is leaving the country for a time and needs someone to watch over His Kingdom which is the Church he built on Peter! All of the apostles are given authority to “bind and loose” in Matthew 18, but only Peter is given the keys! He is Jesus’s first prime minister (called pope today) while we await the return of true King of kings! Furthermore, the keys were DYNASTIC. This means the prime minister had the authority to appoint a successor.

The successor of St. Peter today is the pope. The Catholic Church has an unbroken line of popes dating all the way back to Peter himself. As members of the Church we are soldiers in God’s own kingdom, the pillar and foundation of truth, the household of the living God! The Kingdom of God truly is at hand! It is alive and well in the Church. The keys to the kingdom are still here as well; they are in the pocket of the pope.

 

To sum up,

  • ·        Jesus’s appointing of a successor from twelve followers is prefigured by Moses (Num 27)
  • ·        Jesus is drawing from Isaiah 22:22 to establish Peter’s dynastic authority in Matthew 16:18-19
  • ·        The pope is the steward of the kingdom of heaven until Jesus comes again
  • ·        The Catholic Church is the kingdom of heaven on earth with an unbroken line of popes since St. Peter which Jesus died to establish

God bless,

Cameron Riecker

 

 

 

Friday
Jul222016

St. Isidore the Devotional Farmer

How many of us feel that we are constantly busy and that busyness never stops coming? How many feel that no matter what we do we just do not have enough hours in the day to get everything done? How many have hobbies or things that we would like to do more of but work keeps us from doing that? How many of you would say that you are so busy that God even takes a back seat to the tasks you have in front of you? I know in my career as a youth minister sometimes I am so busy that I feel that I would rather sleep than go to Mass on a weekend or spend any more time somewhere than what I have to do (yes, even employees in the church have these thoughts/feelings).  As these thougts and feelings come over me from time to time I cannot help but reflect back on my life so far.  I grew up on a farm in the country of Decatur County just outside of Greensburg, IN.  As a farm kid I would always be doing things outside or helping with various chores that needed to get done everyday.  When I was helping wean pigs in the hog house or doing various manual chores my dad told me to do I kept thinking to myself, “There is absolutely no way on God’s green earth that I am going to do this for the rest of my life.  I am getting out of here as soon as I can.”  Little did I think at that time that my dad did this every day, seven days a week and he did not complain once.  I also did not realize how much of an inspiration he is to me for that as well as the lessons he taught me.  He did it because it was something that he loved and was passionate about.  He would be out doing farm chores at the crack of dawn all the way to late into the evening and get back up and do it all again the next day.  Sometimes I would get frustrated at him because we as a family never really took a real vacation outside of going to Holiday World or we never got to do things that other families did together such as go to the movies or do various fun things.  Now do not get me wrong we still made time for fun and family but I kept wishing through that time how I wish that we lived in the city so we could have more time to do the ‘fun things’.  The one thing that never changed through all of the things that my dad had to do however was that he never, ever missed Mass on Sunday’s.  His devotion to God was an integral part of his life and no matter where he was at or what was going on he always went to Mass.  It always at that time confused me why he would want to get up so early on a Sunday to go to church when that was the only day of the week he would have off or could rest.  That dedication however is what helped shape me into the man I am today.  Now as an adult I might not be farming for a living but I get all that goes into that process.  I especially get how much being busy can have a toll on all of us in all areas of our lives.  So when I get stretched too thin across the many pastures I am in charge of in my life what do I do?  Well as I was researching St. Isidore when I was hired on to the Parish his life story really hit me and is a daily inspiration to me to always be faithful.  St. Isidore was born to a poor family in Madrid in 1070 AD, St. Isidore lived his entire life as a hired hand for a wealthy landowner.  Despite his poverty, Isidore was well knowon for his charity to the poor.  His wife Saint Maria Torribia, always kept a pot of stew over the fire because of Isidore’s habit of bringing home beggars to dinner.  He was also known for his devotion to his faith, praying often and attending mass daily before going out to the fields.  Stories of miracles followed St. Isidore throughout his life and after his death.  Now many people see St. Isidore as the patron saint of hardwork, but Isidore’s virtue was not in his zeal for manual labor.  Actually, in many ways, he wasn’t a very good worker.  His daily trips to morning Mass often caused him to be late to the fields.  Once he did finally make it to work, he often stopped his labors to take up prayer.  He also poured out valuable grain for wild birds and gave food to beggars.  One of Isidore’s fellow farmhands, who didn’t share the saints habit of attending daily Mass, became angry at Isidore’s occasional tardiness and informed their master of the offense.  When the master came out to the fields the next day to learn the truth, he found that Isidore was indeed absent.  But he didn’t find his plow idle.  Angels had taken up the task to ensure the work got done.  Interestingly, God didn’t send these angels to work the plow for Isidore as a reward for his exceptional dedication to his work.  On the contrary, they joined Isidore because the saint was exceptionally dedicated to prayer and the sacraments.  Similarly, St. Isidore was not rewarded for thriftiness.  Although poor himself, the saint gave freely to the poor, sometimes past his means.  But when Isidore dumped out grain for hungry wild birds, the grain bag miraculously refilled.  When Isidore brought hom a house full of beggars, his wife’s stew pot never emptied.  The miracles that accompanied St. Isidore were not the results of unceasing dilligence at work or frugality in the home.  Instead, it was his devotion to God and charity to neighbors that brought about the miraculous events.  Now obviously in today’s world we cannot just be late to work because we went to daily Mass or stop in the middle of a tedious and labor intensive task to get on our knees and pray.  It does beg the question however, if we did these things with a strong dedication would God send us angels to help as well so things would get done? The answer to this is probably not but this example of St. Isidore has more to teach us then to be more generous and carve out any extra moments we have for spiritual matters.  We call St. Isidore “the farmer” but he seemed to consider his first profession his devotion to Christ.  He was St. Isidore the Servant of God and the Poor, who happened to serve God through agriculture.  His life was not one of balance or prioritization, but it was one where he devoted himself full heartedly to his faith.  His farm work was simply an extension of his love for God instead of something he did for money or because he had to.  As I look at the example of St. Isidore and apply it to my life, I can also see this with my dad.  He is constantly busy with farm chores and things he needs to get done but it is not merely something he does for money or for a ‘job’.  It is an extension of his love for God.  This saint could not be any more perfect for our community of Celestine and Dubois.  I see this devotion lived out in many parishioners on a daily basis from all different professions not to mention the huge number of farmers we have in the community.  God was truly at work when he helped us decide on this name.  Let us ask ourselves this year how can we live out the example of St. Isidore and allow our professions and our lives be an extension of our faith and to help us serve God in everything no matter what comes our way.  I am blessed that I grew up on the farm and that I have such a great father who taught me the value of my faith but also the value of hard work.  St. Isidore, pray for us.

 

 

 

History section inspired and researched through an article from Catholic Rural Life, Spring 2016 edition.

Tuesday
Jul142015

Rock Your Faith!

"Rock out man!" "Did you see that movie? It was rockin'!" "My favorite kind of music is rock music." How many times do you hear the word Rock or some variation of it in daily life or on today's TV Shows, Movies, Music, etc? Ok I know not many people say Rock out man or rockin in daily conversation (except maybe me from time to time) but how many times do you hear the term Rock or some variation of it used to talk about the faith? Or about the love of Jesus Christ? If you are talking in terms of youth and outside events the answer is not often. St. Joseph's Parish in Jasper IN changes all of that with their event known as Rock Your Faith. This event is one that is a little different than what you would expect because it isn't a high school retreat, it is geared for the Jr. High/Middle School students.  This retreat takes big concepts such as serving your neighbors and being Christ for others and brings it to their level from games, to service projects, to music, to different witness talks by youth such as themselves. If you are in high school don't count this amazing experience out so quickly because you guys are the star of the show. You are mentors to these Middle School students and your fire for your faith rubs off on all of these students. The other bonus to all of this is that you get to hang out with some awesome brothers and sisters of Providence who come to hang out for the weekend as well. Rock Your Faith is an amazing experience for both Jr. High and High School students and is something that everyone should experience! For more information on this event and other youth events coming up please contact Glenda in the office 812-634-1875 or through e-mail greckelhoff@evdio.org.