Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Thus says the LORD to Shebna, master of the palace: “I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station. On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah; I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim's shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut when he shuts, no one shall open. I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family.”
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor? Or who has given the Lord anything that he may be repaid? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
In today's Gospel, we witness how Jesus selected the first leader of His Church that He instituted. From an earthly perspective, it is equivalent to how a founder of a company selects his/her successor. For a role as important as the leader of the Church, the spouse of Christ, one would expect that Jesus would desire to go through a series of interviews and make sure He selected the perfect candidate for the job. None of such happened. In fact, if we treat this episode as the “interview”, Peter would have failed his “probation” miserably when Jesus rebuked him as Satan while Jesus foretold his passion and resurrection (Matthew 16:21-23).
Why then, did Jesus pick Peter, a man as broken as he was, as someone upon whom He would build His church? Wasn't Jesus aware of the “problems” of Peter? Clearly, that was not the standard which Jesus relied on when He picked Peter as His successor and entrusted him with the keys to the kingdom of heaven. The yardstick which Jesus uses must be very different from our human standard. What is perfect and pleasing in Jesus' eyes is also very different from what is perfect and pleasing to us. It wasn't Peter's resume that impressed Jesus, but his love for Him. Peter was not as “capable” and knowledgeable as many of the other disciples of Jesus. But “capabilities” are something that God can provide to those who lack them. What God “cannot provide” is our love for Him (God has given us the free will to choose whether to love Him or not). It is our relationship with Him that counts. This reminds me of a good friend of our ministry, an elderly lady who in her old age strives tirelessly to fulfill the will of her deceased husband whose life was committed to charitable work. Her intense love for her husband provides her with the willpower without which it would have been impossible for her to continue accomplishing amazing charitable work to fulfill his will and sustain the legacy of her beloved spouse. This is what Jesus looks for in each one of us. As our love for Christ intensifies, we care and are passionate about what is dear to Jesus' heart. This immense love produces in us a will, strong enough to mimic that of Mother Mary and Peter, who, against all odds, strived to fulfill the will of God at all cost even to the point of offering their lives.
My experience in talking with many people who admire the work of our ministry and yet hesitate to commit further for Christ has revealed to me that their deepest fear is the consequence of accepting God's will. They call that a lack of faith. Yes, indeed we all lack faith. But the foundation of our faith in Christ is our love for Christ. Love drives away all fears. It is this love for Christ that made Peter bold and not afraid of proclaiming to the world that Jesus is the Lord, at the risk of being persecuted and killed. St. Peter is a perfect proof that God provides whatever is necessary to those who love Him and do His will.
At a time when even the proclamation of God's love for the world has become a taboo, have we lived up to what we profess every week at mass: “We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection, until you come again.”? Or are we still fearful of the consequences? Do we really love Jesus? Why Peter and not others? Why me? Why NOT me?
“If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)