Date: Sunday, September 16, 2018
24th Sunday Ordinary B
How odd of Jesus to choose Simon Peter as one of the 12. We cannot fathom the mind of God. Simon is a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. After a great catch of fish Simon tells Jesus to leave him because Simon confesses: “I am a sinful man.” Jesus nicknames Simon “Peter” meaning “rock.”
Today among the apostles, Peter is inspired to identify Jesus as the Christ but soon after when Jesus explains that being the Messiah will mean suffering and death, Simon backs off and tries to persuade Jesus that he can avoid taking that path to the cross. Be a different type of Messiah! Jesus calls Simon a “Satan”. When Jesus is arrested, Simon Peter will deny knowing Jesus.
In all four Gospels Peter receives redemption. In Mark, Peter weeps after he betrays Jesus and then, after the death of Jesus, an angel tells Mary Magdala and the women at the empty tomb to go and tell the disciples “and Peter” that Jesus has been raised and goes before them to Galilee. “There you will see him.” In Matthew, Jesus says of Simon that he will be “the rock” on which I will build the church. In Luke Jesus predicts that Simon’s faith will fail but to Simon: “once you turn back you must strengthen the brothers.” In John, Peter expresses his love to the Risen Lord three times and each time Jesus commissions Simon to be a good shepherd. The last words spoken by Jesus in the four Gospels are personally addressed to Peter: “Follow me.”
When we examine people in the Bible who are called and given a mission “perfection” is not a prerequisite and “success” not assured. The prophet Isaiah experiences rejection but comes to trust in the Lord’s help to him as a “suffering servant.” St. James reminds us that our faith must find expression in good works. In humility and aware of our own sinfulness, we must have compassion for others in need. Perhaps that is why Simon Peter is appealing to us.
In our human failures, even as shepherds, we come to experience in God a mother or father like love. Parents can express love and at the same time call their children to task for doing something wrong. We enjoy a similar relationship with Jesus who always forgives and still sets the bar high for fidelity, integrity and empathy for others. Honestly, we confess with Simon Peter that we are sinful but willing to follow Jesus. We pray to be faithful and to continue God’s good work – always trusting in God’s mercy.