Sunday, August 21, 2011

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time - Gospel - Matthew 16: 13-30

The unique sign of the Catholic Church is our ability to trace our origin all the way back to the first Apostle, Peter.  Through this apostolic progression, the head of today’s Church, Pope Benedict, XVI, is directly in line with Jesus’ choice to lead his church.

Peter, originally called Simon bar-Jonah was chosen by Jesus to be the first of his disciples.  He was just an ordinary fisherman working on the Sea of Galilee; tending his nets, working day in and day out to feed his family; making a life for them.  He was a hard working family man; going about his daily business of life when he was called to a life he was completely unprepared for – a life in God’s plan for humanity.   

There seemed to be nothing out-of-the-ordinary about this man and his life, yet he is the one Jesus chose to be first among his followers.  In his imperfection and his humanness he became the rock of the Church.

Peter is a wonderful example for the Church, the people of God.  He is one of us - in his humanness and imperfections.  Peter had many fine qualities.  He was noble, hardworking, loyal and faithful.  He was also strong-willed, impetuous, outspoken and very self-confident. 

He didn’t hesitate to speak his mind or take action.  In many ways Peter was first among Jesus’ disciples:

·         Peter was the first to climb out of the boat to meet Jesus on the turbulent waters of the lake
·         Peter was the first to recognize Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God
·         Peter was the first to rebuke Jesus when He revealed that he must go to Jerusalem to suffer and die
·         Peter was the first to want to build a memorial to Jesus, along with Moses and Elijah on the mountain
·         Peter was the first to proclaim that he loved Jesus
·         And Peter was the first to deny Jesus

But in these firsts - he was also first in his failures.  In this way he was also very much like us in our journey of discipleship in Christ Jesus.

·         Peter’s faith failed him as he was overcome by the doubts of this world in his attempt to meet Jesus on the water
·         While Peter was the first to recognize Jesus as the Son of God, he failed to see the ‘big picture’ in recognizing the mission of Jesus that would lead to the Cross
·         Peter, overcome by human fear, desiring to keep Jesus safe tried to turn him away from Jerusalem and the will of God, the Father
·         Peter failed to understand the Transfiguration, that it was the Person of Jesus and his mission that was central to God’s plan and not Moses or Elijah who were important
·         Peter loses his patience when Jesus asks him for the third time, if he loved him and to feed his sheep
·         And Peter denies Jesus three times as his love of Jesus is overwhelmed by the evil that led to the crucifixion

See, Peter is very much like us. 

·         While his spirit strengthened him, his humanness weakened him through fear and doubt
·         While he had the greatest of intentions to do good, he trembled at the worries of this world
·         While his love for Jesus was strong, he cowered under the evils of this world

Yet, despite all Peter’s weaknesses,

·         Jesus recognized the strengths of Peter to be the Rock upon which his Church would rise. 
·         He saw the Spirit alive in Peter - that would be the strength needed to bring this scattered band of outcasts together to continue Jesus’ mission on earth
·         Jesus understood Peter’s humbleness – a humbleness that would be needed to bring unity to the early Church; setting the groundwork upon which it stands today
·         Jesus realized the courage within Peter, - those noble qualities; that would build His Church so that the “Word made Flesh” - would spread throughout the world; bringing the Good News of Salvation for all people

In our everyday life, as followers of Jesus, let us recognize our own strengths and weaknesses – our own humanness and imperfections - and know that God works in mysterious ways.  He chooses us, - like Jesus chose Peter, - to do his will – to continue Jesus’ mission - not because we are powerful or perfect, - but because we, like Peter, are ordinary people – beloved children of God.

Deacon Don

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