Offers food for thought
The Twenty First Sunday of Ordinary Time
Today, the vast majority of the world isn’t at all interested in Jesus. But, the people around us, are interested in who we are! Essential to our own identity, is the answer to the Gospel question we hear today. Who is Christ to you?
Today’s First Reading is a Scriptural foundation for, and helps us to understand what Christ meant when he invested Peter with his authority, represented by the imagery of the keys. We see examples of this throughout history, as Kings invested their authority in trusted and faithful servants. We see it in our own Military, in the sense that the President is the ‘Commander in Chief’ and his generals act with his authority, trusted to be faithful to the Commanders desires. We see the principle at work in our places of employment and in our homes. All of us, understand what it means to be invested with the authority of a superior.
God the Father chose Peter as the one to whom would be revealed this otherwise incomprehensible truth about Jesus. Jesus readily recognized the Fathers choice and affirmed it in his own words. It is this moment in the life of Peter and the early Church, that makes Peter ‘first among equals’ results in ‘Petrine Authority’ and what we now call ‘the See of Peter. From that authority all Bishops derive theirs and subsequently all priests exercise their authority as a participation in the authority of the local Bishop and his successors. So, we then can say that all authority in the Church hierarchy flows from the ‘See of Peter’. When we speak of the Pope’s office, we speak of the Apostolic “See,” which means seat. Aided by the Holy Spirit, when the Pope makes a doctrinal declaration regarding faith and morals that all Catholics are to believe, we say he’s speaking ex Cathedra (from the chair). All these things are represented by the Chair of St. Peter. The chair in the sanctuary, from which the Priest presides, is the symbol of his authority, through the Bishop to the Pope, the Petrine ministry that watches over the unity of faith and love in the Church.
This authority in the Church is substantially different from secular authority. Ours is authority in service. In service of the Truth and in service to the people. In today’s Second Reading St. Paul reminds us that a great treasure and responsibility has been entrusted to Peter and his successors. The Father gave authority to the Son, who then shared it with Peter. The focus was to protect and to pass on the treasures of God “the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God.” Our Lord entrusted Peter and his successors with what we call today the deposit of faith. Our treasure is the truth about God, about who Our Lord is and what he said and did, about the path to holiness and happiness. The greatest treasure the Church watches over and communicates is the truth about who Jesus is which reveals the truth of who we are. The Son was revealed divinely to Peter by the Father, through which revelation the Son was then able to reveal to Peter the truth about himself. Peter will spend a significant amount of time through to the passion of Christ, his ascension and into the early years of the Church, deepening his understanding of these revelations and maturing in his ability to embrace, appropriate and live their truths.
While recognizing the above as true, good, beautiful and essential parts of our faith and history… we cannot deny the humanity of Peter and the very real difficulties he faced. That divine revelation did not immediately make him perfect as a man. Peter’s answer points us all toward the treasure of God that leads us to be able to both understand and to receive; the truth about Christ and about ourselves. As well, just like Peter, we too continue to grow in understanding of these unfolding revelations, and in our ability to embrace, appropriate and live the truth.
We also have to recognize, because we are not blind to our history, both distant and recent, that God did not choose to rely on perfect human beings in order to ensure that ‘the gates of hell would not prevail’. Rather, God chose the weak and the broken. God chose to offer everything necessary for their healing and perfection. God never was and never is, surprised by the unfaithfulness of the chosen… God never desires their unfaithfulness. The promises of God aren’t dependent upon the absolute faithfulness of one person or several persons, although the fidelity of all the children of God would vastly change everything. Unimaginably so.
It isn’t Peter himself who is important in this story, it’s the choice of Peter, by Christ. The choice of a man who would even deny Christ. Christ affirms that there will always be a ‘Peter’ and that that man will always be first among his brother servants and their chosen co-workers. That God will never cease to raise up from among his children those whom he calls to this succession of apostolic servants, alter Christus’. Though some may one day deny or betray, the will always be those who truly, ‘become what they touch’. So, in truth, God ensures that “the gates of hell shall not prevail”. The enemy may tempt, torment, torture and take down individual foot soldiers, but will never succeed in killing the Church, the ‘Body of Christ’.
Only faith could have led Peter to say what he did and only original sin could have led him to do what he did. Only faith could have led Peter to repent and only God’s love shown in mercy through forgiveness could have raised him up again. Peter came to understand, that all meaning comes from knowing the truth of the revelation, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and to become the person who was able to die for that truth.
Peter was the rock, the foundation of the community which carried the truth in the name and the authority of Jesus to the whole world. On him, together with his Apostolic companions the Church was built and stands firm in existence today, with you and I as ‘living stones’.
We know ourselves to be sinners. We know God calls us to holiness and that God provides us with what we need to become ‘perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect’. We know that God keeps promises. With that in mind, we must also stand firm in faith and knowledge that no matter the challenges faced from the enemies work among us, inside and outside the ‘Body of Christ’ and the sins committed, that threaten the Church and weaken the body… under NO circumstances will the gates of hell prevail. NONE.
Now, let’s each and every one of us ‘go forth and sin no more’, so that which we cannot imagine, will come sooner to be!
There is no preached audio recording this week
Peace doesn't just happen; it's made.
CampusPadre is a college ministry Priest Chaplain with 30 years experience in youth and young adult ministry, who strives to let the Holy Spirit lead and challenges students to seek holiness above all.