A Cycle – 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time 20
A few weeks ago, one of my grandchildren was telling me about an image of Jesus he saw in a book. It was an image that motivated him to seek more information about Jesus and who he was. That and the conversation that followed caused me to reflect on my own childhood image of Jesus and the image I have of Jesus today. I must admit my image of Jesus when I was a child was nothing like his. In fact, my earliest religious experience was one where I was taught to be quiet, sit still and endure. Since the mass was in Latin and there was no participation from the congregation, I looked at the statures and wondered what they did to be watching over us.
My religious education began in an old metal building where hundreds of kids were gathered in groups on Saturday morning to listen to a teacher who taught us why God made us and what sin was. Who Jesus was or what he did not enter my mind or my thoughts then or after the class was over. Perhaps someday I would think about him, but those classes did nothing to teach me about God’s plan for my life or how to respond to God’s desire for my heart to be centered on him.
Growing up church was something I did because well I do not know why I did; I just did and that was that. I have come to realize several things about our faith, several things each of us must do that makes it more than just something we do on Sundays. The first teachers of our faith are our parents – early in my life faith was measured by making sure we never missed a Sunday mass and that blind obedience to the rules.
In the Rite of Baptism parents are asked if they understand that it is their duty to raise their children in the practice of the faith to love God and neighbor. Each of our parents answers yes to that question. My parents relied on someone else to do that for them and I am not critical of them because they were taught to be obedient by their parents. I believe parents today take a more involved approach and I believe that is one of the fruits of Vatican II.
I know from experience in my own journey and in raising our children there must be an experience of encountering Jesus and coming to grips with who he is. We must decide that this faith we profess to believe in will be founded on acknowledging Jesus as Lord.
Each of us must experience a mystical moment in our lives, as Peter had that day, where we come to grips with the depth of God’s love for us and the forgiveness won for us by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. A moment when our faith is more than doctrine and more than strict obedience, it must be a choice we make to become disciples and stop being faithful church members. That moment is offered to us from our earliest moments but often we are too caught up a pictorial image of Jesus and we fail to recognize he is knocking on our door inviting us to follow him.
We have become too comfortable with following the rules and how that is praised as having faith. What I learned from the scriptures is how desperately God desires us to know him, and to be changed by him. This is one lesson from today’s gospel, God will continually challenge us to go deeper, to cast our nets into deeper waters. Our faith is not about maintaining the status quo, it about allowing God to speak to us and to change us from Simon’s into Peter’s.
It is when we take up the challenge to follow Jesus, we learn who He is and what we are to become that we become who God desires us to be. But we easily can respond incorrectly thinking it is what God wants of us. Simon Peter got it wrong many times and was soundly admonished by God and by Christ.
Remember the scene of the transfiguration, Peter interrupts Jesus with his great idea and God from heaven tells him to be quiet and listen. Remember when Jesus tells the disciples his plan to go to Jerusalem and there be crucified, Peter says never — Jesus rebukes him and calls him a Satan. Remember in the garden, Peter draws the sword and cuts off the ear of the servant of the high priest. Jesus again admonishes him.
But in this gospel story, Peter got it right because he listened to God and had that moment of faith when he knew why he followed. This is not a moment reserved for the most holy of people. It is a moment God desires all of us to experience in our faith journey. This hearing, or sensing, or realizing who Christ is and what that means for us. No amount of teaching or studying can bring this about in our lives – we need to be in a place where we can have this revealed to our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
Scripture tells us “every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” We must like Peter say to Christ himself, “You are the Christ, the one who came that I might have life”
If you have not taken this step in your journey of faith now is the time for Christ is knocking on the door of your heart, open it and he will come and reveal all to you.