07 August 2014

Peter's failure is our warning. . .

18th Week OT (Th) 
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP 
St. Dominic, NOLA 

The Lord says to Jeremiah that He will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. He says that this new covenant will not be like the covenant He made with their fathers. This new covenant, He says, will be written upon their hearts, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” This is the covenant that Christ comes to establish, the covenant established in the heart of any man, woman, or child who confesses to him, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

To confess that Jesus is the Christ is to be established as a partaker in the new covenant. That's how the covenant is established. But what does this new covenant look like in action? Jesus gives us a disturbing glimpse into the future of those of confess his name. He tells the disciples that he will go to Jerusalem, suffer greatly, get killed, and rise from the tomb on the third day. Understandably upset by this piece of news, Peter, blurts out, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” We might expect Jesus to smile knowingly at Peter's expression of distressed love. Or maybe reassure him that all will be well. What we don't expect is Jesus' actual response: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as men do.” 

Why does Jesus rebuke Peter so callously? Jesus knows two truths about his own end that Peter does not. His death and resurrection will seal the new covenant, freeing all of creation from the death of sin; and, anyone who partakes in the new covenant will serve, suffer, and end their lives on a cross. Peter's outburst tells us that he has yet to grasp the necessity of the cross, the absolute value of dying for the love of one's friends. To confess – “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” – is to make oneself a sacrifice for love. Peter is Satan b/c he tempts Jesus to forsake his sacrificial mission. Peter is an obstacle, a scandal b/c he places his love for Jesus in the way of God's love for all of creation. Peter is thinking as men do rather than as God does by clutching what he has on earth and forsaking what he has to gain in heaven. 

But despite his miserable failure to see and understand the necessity of the cross, Peter is given is keys to the kingdom and made the rock of the Church. His confession that Jesus is the Christ is the foundation stone, the starting place for building the Body. Coming to know and accept that the cross, and Christ's death on the cross, is the event that swings the world back to the Father – that revelation comes with suffering while preaching His word. Until Peter ceases to tempt others with a worldly love, he is Satan. Until he stops loving Christ as his personal possession, he is an obstacle. Until, he starts thinking with God, he is a man living outside the Word. 

Peter's failure is our warning. If we confess the Sonship of Christ and accept the burdens and freedoms of the new covenant, our love, our eagerness to sacrifice, cannot be stingy, half-hearted, or limited to our earthly loves. Our willingness to serve cannot be restricted to the deserving, or to those who can repay our service. And our thinking – how we deliberate about our choices – cannot be dictated by the customs and conventions of men. We are free in the new covenant to take on the salvation of the world b/c God Himself has freed us in Christ. In Christ, we are Christ, sons of the living God.

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1 comment:

  1. I found this to be a good, solid, meat and potatoes homily with a little gravy thrown in for good measure. Appreciated the end of paragraph three: your explanation of why/how Peter "is Satan." And the fourth paragraph was the best part of the homily, especially the final three sentences. Then ending with how "Peter's failure is our warning," gave good practical and understandable words for anyone who may have missed your point up til then, and helped drive the point home for the rest. I wasn't terribly keen on the final sentence, as an ending - it didn't keep the same energy as the rest of the homily . . . it was missing something, but I can't put my finger on it.