Sunday, October 17, 2021

It is for those for whom it has been prepared.”


The scripture readings for this post are taken from the Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year B -  Isaiah 53:10-11; Psalm: 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45 or 10:42-45

This gospel passage has all the elements for a good novel or movie. Here you have two men seeking to become Jesus’ second in command in the kingdom of God, and possibly they figured after Jesus returns to heaven, they would be the head of the family. And, of course, with two brothers asking to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus in the Kingdom, would either brother actually be happy to share power with the other.

Their greedy ambition makes for a great plot. I am sure they were disappointed when Jesus said it was not his place to grant who will have this leadership role, “but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

I am sure the two brothers wondered who of the twelve would be the one. Since we know the ending of the book of gospels, we know that it was Peter who was chosen. 

Jesus’ choice of Peter is interesting, since Peter never applied. So, what did Jesus see in Peter?

I think the first reason is Peter’s faith. As we know from the gospels when Jesus called him and his brother Andrew, they followed.  Later when Jesus’ teaching became difficult causing many to abandon Jesus, Peter stayed firm with his belief in Jesus saying:Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6.68).

This didn’t mean Peter accepted everything Jesus said in blind faith. He wasn’t afraid to ask Jesus for an explanation when he didn’t understand. For example, he asked Jesus to explain the parable, how the blind man leading another blind, will cause them to fall into a pit. (Matthew 15.15)

When Peter found Jesus’ teaching too difficult, such as the time Jesus spoke about his death and resurrection , he took Jesus aside and rebuked him, saying: God forbid it, Lord! objected This must never happen to you.’ But Jesus scolded Peter saying: ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’ (Matthew 16.22-23}

And while Peter’s faith was firm, like all of us there were moments of doubt, such as the time he began to walk on water to meet Jesus,  a sudden wind caused him to doubt, and as he began to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’  (Matthew 14. 27-29.)

There are also times when Peter is too comfortable with his faith. For example, when he is enjoying the experience of the transfiguration, Peter wants to build shelters and live there with Jesus and the two prophets.  Again Jesus brings Peter back to reality and even  orders him ‘tell no one about this experience.” (Matthew 17.1-8)

Peter’s faith didn’t prevent him from falling asleep when Jesus invited him along with the two Zebedee brothers to join him in the garden where Jesus would pray about the cup of suffering he is about to embrace. Jesus said to them: ‘So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Matthew 26.40

Peter’s faith would not let him abandon Jesus . When Jesus was arrested Peter followed. As he waited in the courtyard for the outcome of a trial, his fear of arrest led him to deny knowing Jesus when a servant-girl and other bystanders recognize Jesus as one of his followers. (Matthew 26.69-73)

Looking at Peter’s actions and words, we would think he would be the last choice for a leadership role. Yet Jesus chose him. Why, for two reasons: First, his faith was not tempered with pride; his genuine humility would never move him to seek the best seats in Jesus’ kingdom. And as the letter to the Hebrews teach us, Jesus could sympathize with Peter’s weakness because Jesus embraced our humanity. Secondly, Peter loved Jesus. That never changed. And as the letter to the Hebrews remind, in our human weakness we can all approach the throne of grace where we will find mercy and the grace to help in our time of need.  

Like Peter all of us have chosen to follow Jesus. But at the same time, we have doubts, other times, we ask for explanations of Church teachings, sometimes we are afraid to confess our faith in Jesus in a public way, but by our choice to come to Mass proclaims that like Peter, we responded with ‘yes’ when Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?”

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