Thanks to the lovely weather last week, we were able to host another beach Bible study in Belmar. We met at my apartment for sandwiches and chips before grabbing our beach chairs and heading down to sit by the ocean. We got to watch the beautiful sunset while going over the readings for Sunday, the 27th.
“When he opens, no one shall shut; when he shuts, no one shall open.”
We discussed whether we are always open to God’s will and closed off to the things that may be toxic to us. Do our actions reflect God’s will or do our earthly desires take over? We must strive to imitate Christ and to be unmoving and unchanging in our faith.
We also talked about forgiveness, both in terms of forgiving others as well as forgiving ourselves. When God has forgiven us through the sacrament of reconciliation, we, too, must forgive ourselves. If we continue confessing a sin that has already been forgiven, we are acting prideful, as though we are superior to God. If He forgives us, we must accept that with thanksgiving rather than struggling because we don’t “feel” forgiven.
“From him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever.”
We talked about the ways in which we show the Lord our love for Him. We do this through praise, which should come at the beginning of any prayer. We also thank God for His abundant blessings and for answering each of our prayers, even if we may not yet understand how He is answering them at the moment. We must trust Him and submit to His plan, even if it may not seem to be aligned with our desires. We are also called to embrace our crosses and any suffering that we are experiencing, with the faith that the Lord will make all things work for the greater good.
“You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”
In this week’s gospel, Jesus asks, “who do you say that I am?” What would our response be to that question? God? Creator? Abba Father? In today’s society, so many people refer to Jesus as simply a nice guy, a good teacher, or a prophet. But that does not come close to the Jesus that we know. He was not just a nice teacher who had some good advice. He is the Lord of everything and He came to give each and every one of us the hope of eternal salvation.
This gospel also establishes the lineage of the Catholic Church, with Peter appointed as the first pope. We can trace Pope Francis’ lineage all the way back to Peter.
We are also provided with a promise that the “gates of the netherworld” will not prevail against the church. This is great encouragement for us, especially when current events begin to make us feel anxious. The Catholic Church has existed for about 2,000 years and it has prevailed despite many obstacles. We must remain patient and persevere in prayer during the times when we feel a difference of opinion or problems in the Church. We must also remember to pray for our priests, that they have the strength to continue to do God’s work and that they may be strong role models for their communities.
Thank you to everyone who came to Bible study this Thursday as well as those of you who made it to our holy hour at St. Michael’s in Long Branch on Friday. Next week we will be holding a special Bible study on Thursday, August 31st at St. Thomas More Parish at 186 Gordons Corner Road in Manalapan, NJ. We will have dinner at 6:30, followed by Bible study at 7:30, which will focus on interpreting scripture. It will be held in the adult education room.
By: Stephanie Queiroz