21 Sunday, Year A, 2011 (11.00 am)
Today we have the gospel passage of Peter’s profession of faith in who he believed Jesus was. This section of the gospel is normally seen only as applying to Peter and his successors and of their importance in safeguarding the role and power of the Holy See and its care of the Church universal.
Peter certainly meant what he said in his reply to Jesus’ question as to who the disciples thought he was. And yet subsequent events showed that Peter did not really/fully understand what he was actually saying in this magnificent profession of faith. Jesus himself told Peter that it was his Father in heaven who revealed the truth of what he had boldly stated.
Peter’s words were truly prophetic. Jesus responded by praising Peter and guaranteeing his position and future role guiding and caring for the Church. Jesus took this step in spite of Peter’s weakness and forthcoming betrayal of him. Responsibility and weakness go hand in hand. Peter spoke truthfully when he said who Jesus was. However it is obvious that he had not yet fully understood its implications. That is no different from the rest of us. We all have to make our basic life commitments. We know what we want to do but not necessarily what it will all lead to. That is why once we definitively commit ourselves we need to remain open to all that unfolds for us in the future. It is not possible to foresee what lies over the horizon.
We normally don’t realise want we are taking on. We can probably see the positive gains but not realise the difficulty of acquiring them in practice. Perhaps that is no bad thing or we might be too afraid to do what is the right thing. Life and the various vocations within it, whether they are to marriage, to the priesthood, the religious life, or careers in nursing, teaching, or whatever, they are all enriching and challenging. And they all demand ongoing change in us if we live them properly. God never stops giving us new challenges and gifts. If we respond to them we will grow more into what we are called to be. The challenges may not be world shaking. These may simply be small changes to the way we live with one another, to the way we pray, to responding more readily to the needs of those around us. These are things that make our world go round and keep us faithful disciples to the Lord.
To be happy in our lives is to be confident in God’s presence and help, whatever the weaknesses we are aware of within our hearts. In our following of Christ we needn’t necessarily feel more self-confident as life goes on. But those who follow Christ look to him more than at themselves, knowing their ever-increasing need of God. It is not unusual to find in the lives of the saints that they think ‘There go I –sinner - without the grace of God’.
Our vocation is to grow in confidence that Christ is with us, not that we are less in need of God. Our faith therefore is a journey of growth. That growth is an increase of God in our lives, which frustratingly is not very evident to us as we go about our lives. I suppose it is others who are the only true witnesses to our nearness to God. But, whether we know it or not doesn’t really matter in the end.
Peter grew into becoming the upholder and brother of his companions in the faith. His story of budding faith and movement from faltering to full belief in Christ is a reflection of our own.