Homily for August 21st, 2005.
Caution: Putting a Sunday homily on the Website is tricky business. All the viewer has is a written text. A homily, on the other hand, is "an oral event". It may not have been said or heard the way it was written. In addition, a roughly ten-minute homily is part of a roughly one-hour worship event in which God and God's people communicate with each other by means of ritual, symbol, song, proclamation, prayer. Not everything in these homilies is original. As a homilist, I rely on and at times borrow from other homilists and writers who are not properly mentioned in this format. I am often indebted to them.
Father William Marrevee, s.c.j.
21st Sunday Ordinary Time Year A
That image of Peter with the keys in today’s Gospel passage has, on the popular level, spawned a number of jokes that present Peter as the doorkeeper to heaven. Peter is supposedly the one who is to decide about who will go in and who will stay out. Interesting such jokes, but not much to the point.
On a more serious level, this Gospel passage has played a major role in the controversies between Roman Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox on the place and role of the Bishop of Rome as the successor of Peter in the church. An important issue, but far too complex for the time we have now.
Allow me to simply draw your attention to a question that Jesus puts before Peter or that Jesus puts before his disciples and to which then Peter answers: “Who do you say I am?” That is the type of question that the living Jesus puts before each one of us. To all of us Jesus puts the question “What do you make of me? Who am I to you?” That sort of question shows in all its clarity that at the heart of our Christian faith stands Jesus, what we make of him, how he figures in our lives.
If we take the question in that direction, then it soon will be evident that simply bestowing a title on Jesus will not be enough. Of course, it is quite correct to say that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Just as it is correct to say that Jesus is my personal Saviour. The title alone will not do.
At least that is the way I would take some other lines of Jesus that are just as important as the question “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Follow me.” That is to say, let my lifestyle shape your life style. Allow the reality that feeds my life, the reality that I live for and that I am prepared to give my life for, God’s will, God’s Kingdom, allow that reality to feed your life too, live for it and, if push comes to shove, be prepared to die for it.
Is that too vague? How about, care for those who are in need, be prepared to forgive, refrain from seeking ways to get even, do not pass judgment on others, seek and build peace, reconciliation, justice, operate from the conviction that the earth belongs to all and that, therefore, the earth’s fruits are not the property of the rich and the powerful. In other words, it is in our lives, in our activities, in our work, and in our dealings with others that the titles we bestow on Jesus become authentic. Otherwise the titles are just as cheap as a slogan on a bumper-sticker.
If we make the titles true in the stands we take in life – at least, if that is the basic orientation of our lives --, even if we fail at times, then Jesus will say of us as well, as he said of Peter: You are the stuff, of which my church is made. And there is no power on earth that can destroy a church built on that stuff.
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