By Fr. Ben Berinti, C.PP.S.
Arriving at Brunnerdale High School Seminary at the tender age of 14, I entered a vast ocean of experiences, sometimes the waves throwing me onto the shore, and sometimes dragging me out into the deep. Trying to fight the onset of homesickness, I wandered into our spiritual reading library, located just off the chapel, hoping that my immersion in holy literature would slow the tears.
For some reason, a little wisp of a book caught my attention. The text was already 11 years old when I laid my fingers to the spine in 1972, but its title and content continue to challenge me now 62 years since its original publication. I speak of J. B. Phillips’ Your God Is Too Small.
Such is the challenge at the heart of Matthew’s wonderfully annoying parable of the landowner and his hired workers. Truth be told, when faced with similar situations of uneven distribution of material, physical, spiritual, intellectual and emotional goods in our own lives, I suspect we answer the landowner’s question, “Are you envious because I am generous?” with a rousing, “You’re darn right I am!”
The prophet Isaiah and the words of Psalm 145 clearly lay out the vastness of God’s qualities: generous, forgiving, gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abundantly kind, compassionate—and all of these are the channels through which God’s justice flows.
Our God is too small when our sense of God’s justice is measured on scales intended to “balance.” Our God is too small when we argue with God that God hasn’t been “fair.” Our God is too small when we are humbled to receive God’s gracious mercy but are unwilling to see it dispensed to those whom we feel haven’t yet “paid the price” for their sins. Our God is too small when we call down the “wrath of God” on those whom we believe deserve the heat because of their poor choices. Our God is too small when we see God’s presence in one set of people more than in another set of people.
Mercy, prodigal forgiveness, reconciliation, giving more than is deserved—all speak of our God, whose gestures of love and healing are never cramped. Should these qualities of God seem strange to our Community, which is rooted in the charism of Christ’s kenotic gift of his Blood? I hope not.
Moved by the self-emptying, expansive gift of Christ’s Blood on the Cross, we are invited into an expansion of our minds and hearts. Paul speaks to the Philippians of “magnifying Christ”—enlarging the Christ who dwells within and around us through the bountiful grace of the Holy Spirit. We will find a greater capacity to embrace a larger rather than smaller God, the more we magnify Christ in our seeing, thinking and deciding.
So many years ago, I found comfort as a timid, homesick teenager in the yellowed pages of J. B. Phillip’s tiny little book because he introduced me to a God who was large enough to embrace what I was too small to grasp.
In those closing words the landowner speaks to his grumbling servants, we find the invitation to gratefully embrace the expansive generosity and justice of a God whom we often make too small.
Can we move from grumbling to gratitude?
Fr. Ben Berinti, C.PP.S., is the pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Melbourne Beach, Fla. He is also a member of the provincial council of the Missionaries’ United States Province.
By Brother Brian Boyle, C.PP.S.
The three readings touch on forgiveness and compassion for one another. I want to focus on the interconnectedness of the human family and the implications of that.
The Sirach reading gives practical guidance on forgiving others who have hurt us. Sirach asks, how can we ask the Lord for forgiveness when we fight with our neighbors? It is as if he wants to say, “Get real, if the Lord punishes you, don’t come crying to me.”
Paul speaks directly on the interconnectedness of each other through Christ. We are all part of Christ’s body. Making conflict with each other only hurts the body. Practicing forgiveness and compassion with each other strengthens it.
In the Gospel, we hear the parable of the unmerciful servant. A modern re-telling of this parable might look like this: There was a CEO of a corporation who declined to take administrative action upon a supervisor who begged for forgiveness. Upon leaving the CEO’s office, the supervisor fired a staff person for a petty infraction. Word got back to the CEO. He then turned around and fired the supervisor.
Leaders don’t lead in a vacuum. They need the support of the people who follow them. Practicing forgiveness makes the body of people stronger. My friend and colleague enlisted in the U.S. Army upon high school graduation. One day he neglected to read a duty list and he found out he was 15 minutes late to a scheduled guard duty on his base. He describes how his commanding officer held him accountable without taking administrative action on him. This experience made him a better soldier and he used that experience in how he led other soldiers. He uses that experience in leading a church congregation today.
What if the Messiah comes and nothing changes? That depends upon us. The Lord has probably forgiven us many more times than we would care to know. The Lord forgives us but is more than likely not going to force us to forgive each other. No Jedi mind tricks. Forgiving each other is our responsibility.
Brother Brian Boyle, C.PP.S., is a hospital chaplain in Northwest Indiana. He is also the associate director of Companions (lay associates) of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.
By Fr. Ben Berinti, C.PP.S.
When you live in and pastor a beachside parish as I do here in Melbourne Beach, Fla., people are constantly coming and going. There are weekend sand and surf warriors, winter residents, accidental tourists and then regular parishioners, especially those lucky enough to be retired, who go off to visit far-flung children and grandchildren on a frequent basis.
All of this coming and going puts me in mind of the fundamental human wanderlust that pushes us to dream about, in the words of the classic Dr. Seuss title, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.”
Several years ago, Fr. James Stephen Behrens, a spiritual essayist whom I greatly admire, reflected upon the beauty and the power of the written word to take us places:
[Words] are like little magic carpets…the words tingle with that power of bringing another person to a place, a place that the words evoke in the mind and heart of the reader.
He goes on to pose this intriguing question: “Wouldn’t it be something if we really went where words spoke about?”
This challenging question might be of particular importance for our province and Congregation, since the power of words and the Word of God is a core value of the charism bequeathed to the Missionaries of the Precious Blood by our Founder St. Gaspar.
As an avid reader and writer, as well as proclaimer of words and God’s Word, I firmly believe that words indeed “tingle,” as Fr. Behrens conjectures, and they can take us to the places that they evoke. I even believe that we can become the people whom we read and speak about when we take words to heart!
It is no exaggeration to say that new worlds have been inspired and brought to life through the power of reading and reciting magnificent, imaginative words.
As people steeped in a charism, a gift for the Church at large, that puts a premium on the transformative power of words, especially when we gather around the Word of God and the enacted “words” of the Eucharist, wouldn’t it be something if we really went, both as persons and as a Community, to the places about which we speak in prayer, song and in sharing the stories of God within the Eucharist?
Can we imagine? What if we really did go to that “place” where we knew ourselves, down deep within our guts, to be totally, unconditionally accepted, loved and healed by God whenever we pray: “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed?”
What if we really did go to that “place” where “grace and peace and the communion of the Holy Spirit” bound us ever more closely to one another so that no one would ever feel alone or abandoned?
What if we could end up in that “place” where we were actually “safe from all distress?”
What if, in the course of the Eucharistic prayer, we already began to turn our Eucharistic table into a “place” where “people of every race and tongue” felt completely welcomed and affirmed and knew without a doubt that they belonged?
What if we really did go that “place” of peace and unity every time we extended our hands and hearts, and the words “Peace be with you” fell from our lips?
What if every time the presider anointed a new Christian in the sacrament of Baptism, and we heard the words proclaimed, “You are anointed, as Christ was, priest, prophet and king,” we entered into the “place” where we truly offered ourselves in prayer as priests; where our actions on behalf of justice were bold and strong enough to be deemed prophetic; and where we rose up with gusto to minister to the needs of the poor as the servant king Jesus modeled for us?
In a faith and practice that quite frankly is overloaded with words (not to mention a Congregation that has produced a plethora of mission statements, assembly acta, corporate statements, and much more), perhaps it is healthy to be reminded that the words of our prayer, our Scripture, our liturgy then, are more than “words”—they are enactments. We mean, and we are called to do, what we say!
If this were not the case, then our celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, would be in vain, would merely be playing around and pretending. Our witness as Missionaries of the Precious Blood, bonded to the proclamation of the Word, would be reduced to a thousand tongues blowing hot air rather than a thousand tongues energizing people for healing, reconciliation, and renewal.
Wouldn’t it be something if we really went where words spoke about?
Where’s the next place you plan to go?
Fr. Ben Berinti, C.PP.S., is the pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Melbourne Beach, Fla. He also serves on the provincial council of the United States Province, Missionaries of the Precious Blood.
The heart itself is but a small vessel, yet there are dragons and there are lions; there are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil. And there are rough and uneven roads; there are precipices. But there is also God, also the angels, the life and the kingdom, the light and the apostles, the treasures of grace—there are all things. – Pseudo-Macarius, 5th Century
By Brother Matt Schaefer, C.PP.S.
Some years ago, I was going through some spiritual struggles. I had recently completed my formation with the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, and I was trying to figure out how I would live in the world as a Missionary brother. I’d made a commitment to God and to my fellow Missionaries; but how did God want me to live out that commitment? What was I supposed to do about the internal struggle between selfish desires and selfless service? Between my own will and God’s will?
Fortunately, I had a very good spiritual director who helped me sort out my thoughts. She gave me a reading that included the above quote from an unknown homilist. The author offers a wonderful picture of the contradictions residing in the human heart: the capacity to do wrong or do right, the presence of both darkness and the light of God, treacherous beasts and guiding angels. With all that going on, it is no wonder that discerning the will of God can be challenging.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus has a hard lesson for the disciples about God’s will, both for Jesus and for them. Jesus tells them that he will suffer, be killed, and be raised. Peter cannot accept this. The Messiah was expected to be a victorious warrior who would conquer their enemies and lead an earthly kingdom for God’s chosen people. Such a Messiah could not suffer and die. Perhaps Peter was hoping that the loyal disciples would also be spared suffering. Jesus rebukes Peter, “Get behind me, Satan.” This seems harsh, but it highlights the ever-present temptations that interfere with our discernment of God’s will. And Jesus doesn’t say, “Go away, Satan!” No, he instructs Peter to get behind him—in other words, to follow him.
Jesus then instructs his disciples to deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow him. Denying oneself is not about putting yourself down or erasing your unique identity; it is about respecting yourself as a child of God. To follow Jesus fully, we must avoid selfish desires and worldly temptations so that our lives will be ordered to the will of God. Taking up our crosses isn’t just about accepting the trials and annoyances of life; it means embracing everything that comes with a life devoted to Jesus. Remember that the cross was not just a means of death; it was a shameful and horrific punishment. But we know also the glorious message of the cross—that it is the source of our redemption. Those who are willing to pay the price will be vindicated.
Poor Peter’s heart, like my own, surely had its beasts, temptations, and rocky roads; but in the end he listened to the good things that resided there. He let the angels and the grace of God guide him in his journey to follow Jesus. The will of God is discerned through Scripture, through the teachings and sacraments of the Church, and through prayer. Indeed, the will of God is already present in our hearts; we just have to find it amidst all the distractions. Taking Peter and the disciples as models, may we always be committed to discerning God’s will and following him with joyful, undivided hearts.
Brother Matthew Schaefer, C.PP.S., is in ministry at the St. Gaspar Family of Parishes in Dayton.
Fr. James McCabe, C.PP.S.
December 6, 1931–August 27, 2023
Fr. James McCabe, C.PP.S., 91, died peacefully in his sleep on Sunday morning, August 27, in the infirmary of St. Charles Center, Carthagena, Ohio. He had been in failing health.
Fr. McCabe was born in Newcastle, Neb., on December 6, 1931, to Lawrence and Helen (Lewis) McCabe. The family moved to Detroit in 1941, and he considered Detroit his second hometown.
He entered the Congregation in 1945 at Brunnerdale, its former high school seminary near Canton, Ohio, and was ordained on June 1, 1958.
In his years as a priest, he was involved in parish ministry, college administration and leadership of the Congregation.
Fr. McCabe served briefly in parishes after his ordination, then became an instructor and librarian at St. Charles Seminary in Carthagena, Ohio, from 1961–65. During that time, he also served as archivist for the Congregation. In 1965, he became the librarian of Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., which is sponsored by the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. He earned a master’s degree in library science from Catholic University, Washington DC.
He was instrumental in the growth of another college sponsored by the Missionaries, Calumet College of St. Joseph in Hammond, Ind., where he served first as executive vice president beginning in 1972, then president from 1975–80.
Fr. McCabe returned to parish work in 1982, when he was named pastor of St. Mary of the Woods Church in McQuady, Ky. He became pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Hawesville, Ky., in 1983.
In 1987, Fr. McCabe was named pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Celina, Ohio, where he served until 1992, when he was appointed provincial secretary for the Cincinnati Province. He also served the province as its personnel director and had been a member of its senate.
In 1997, Fr. McCabe accepted an assignment to the Sorrowful Mother Shrine in Bellevue, Ohio. He was named director of the shrine in 2000, where he served until his retirement in 2001. He moved to St. Charles Center in 2002.
Fr. McCabe had a genial manner and in parish life, generally led by consensus. He was a good listener and effective preacher, often including his own foibles that drew smiles from listeners. Yet he had a powerful intellect and organizational skills. His nickname in the Congregation, given to him while still at Brunnerdale, was Dux, Latin for “leader.”
He had a lifelong love of books—he learned the trade of bookbinding while a student at St. Charles and pursued it as a hobby later in life. He also loved fishing and birdwatching and was an avowed, if mostly ineffectual, enemy of the squirrels that raided his birdfeeders.
Devoted to his family and the Community, Fr. McCabe knew how to make connections with others, and keep them connected. In the 1990s, Fr. McCabe helped found the Amici, a group of former members and students of the C.PP.S., to establish or re-establish connections with those who had been educated and formed by the Missionaries. For many, it was an important act of reconciliation in keeping with Precious Blood spirituality. He served as Amici coordinator from 1987 to 2005.
Fr. McCabe was the last surviving member of his immediate family. He was preceded in death by his brother, Patrick, and his sister, Shirley Lyle.
He is survived by numerous nieces and nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Charles Center on Thursday, August 31, at 2 p.m., Fr. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S., provincial director, presiding. Fr. Ken Pleiman, C.PP.S., was the homilist. Burial followed in the Community cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Missionaries of the Precious Blood United States Province.
By Fr. Tim McFarland, C.PP.S.
Many times, we hear people having an identity crisis or perhaps we have experienced that in our lives. Today’s Gospel introduces us to ways in which people were discovering and growing in their understanding of Jesus. This can also speak to the ways in which we grow in our understanding of who Jesus is for us. Throughout our lives our image of Jesus changes in response to our situation. Old images of Jesus pass and new ones come to be.
Each of us needs to give a personal answer to Jesus’ question: “Who do you say that I am?” Peter’s response is a solid basis from which to begin. Notice that the phrase “Son of the Living God” expresses more richly what “Christ” means. Peter’s faith comes to him as gift from above, not from any mere logic or ingenuity. Why was the blessing given to him in particular? Perhaps because his humble and contrite spirit made him best prepared to receive it? Or because God chooses whom he wills, irrespective of their merits? Jesus entrusts to Peter whatever is meant by the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Upon his solid, dedicated faith the Church will always rely, for unity and encouragement.
This Sunday we are presented with two figures who are given keys. The first is Eliakim. Eliakim was the secretary to Shebna, the Master of King Hezekiah’s palace, back in the 8th century before Christ. According to the first reading from Isaiah, Shebna lost favor with the Lord and was replaced by Eliakim. Isaiah says that God placed the keys of the kingdom on Eliakim’s shoulder. He would be Master of the palace and the one through whom others would have to go to get access to the King.
The Gospel reading presents Peter as receiving the keys of the Kingdom of God. Like Eliakim, he would determine who has access to the King. Peter is usually pictured as carrying large keys, representing the authority given to him by the Lord. It is interesting that Peter, whom we know had his weaknesses, receives the keys to the Kingdom. This should give us hope that despite our weaknesses and failures, we too are called to proclaim the Kingdom in word and action.
In these passages, keys are interpreted as signs of authority and that is the foundation for our belief in the authority of the pope, Peter’s successor. I suggest that we might look at the key in a different way. A key can also be seen as a guide, like an answer key to an exam. Our faith in Jesus gives us a key to better understand our lives. We can use the “key” of our Precious Blood spirituality. Our spirituality can give us a key to cope with suffering in our lives, to reconcile differences among people, and to form communities. The scriptures today pose a question, similar to the question posed by Jesus: how does our faith, our spirituality, serve as a key to our lives?
To view the full scripture reading, click here.
Fr. Tim McFarland, C.PP.S., is the director of ministry and mission and serves on the faculty at Calumet College of St. Joseph in Whiting, Ind.