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Greetings to all who love to wander along the paths of the Holy Scriptures! The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights of ordinary Catholics who have begun to delve into the mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully you will find these reflections inspiring and insightful. We are faithful to the Church, but we are not theologians; we intend and trust that our individual reflections will remain within the inspired traditions of the Church. (If you note otherwise please let me know!) Discussion and comments are welcome, but always in charity and respect! Come and join us as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures, which will lead us on the path into His heart, which "God alone has traced" Job 28:23.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Jesus and Peter: Inscrutable Mystery

I must say that I am having a hard time coming up with a reflection for this Sunday's readings, which contain Peter's great confession, "you are the Christ, the son of the living God".  It is, of course the definitive moment in which Christ, bestows upon Peter his name and commission as the head of the Church Militant:
"Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah.  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you , but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Matthew 16: 17-19 
I can only refer you to Pope Benedict's great book Jesus of Nazareth :   From The Baptism In The Jordan To The Transfiguration.  Chapter Nine deals with this event and I have not read anything else that has so thoroughly and richly explained it.  He explores the text as a brilliant academic, and also as a man deeply connected to the Spirit.  Here is an example, Pope Benedict has just gone through the various figures that the disciple gave as answer to Jesus' question "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"  
"The various opinions are not simply mistaken; they are greater and lesser approximations to the mystery of Jesus, and they can certainly set us on the path toward Jesus' real identity.  But they do not arrive at Jesus' identity, at his newness.  They interpret him in terms of the past, in terms of the predictable and the possible, not in  terms of himself, his uniqueness, which cannot be assigned to any other category. Today too, similar opinions are clearly held by  the 'people' who have somehow or other come to know Christ, who have perhaps even made a scholarly study of him, but have not encountered Jesus  himself in his utter uniqueness and otherness" Pope Benedict pg 292 Jesus of Nazareth.

And here the second reading come to mind, and this is the reading the I wanted to reflect on, made all the richer by Pope Benedict's instruction!
"Oh the depth and the riches and the wisdom of God!  How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable are his ways.  For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor? Or who has given the Lord anything that he might be repaid?  For him and through him are all things.  To him be the glory forever."  Romans 11:33-36

For who indeed has known the mind of God?  Peter with all of his faults enters deeply into the mystery of God in the moment of his confession and bravely lets go of the predictable and safe responses. He allows the Spirit to lead him to see the identity of Jesus is more, so much more than our intellect can get a hold of.  All other paths stop short, and ultimately disappoint, even if they point us in the right direction.  They are superficial and our hearts yearn for so much more!

I am reminded of the character of Aslan in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe  by C.S.Lewis.  He is a lion, who is an allegory for Christ.  The children question whether he is tame and safe, and they are told that he is most certainly not tame, or safe, but he is good.  To enter into the mystery of Christ is to avail yourself to the cross, and that is not, by earthly standards a safe path.  Pride is your enemy here, and, though it is appropriate, so is fear.

Pride leads you to think that you can grasp who Christ is, by academic study of a historical Jesus, or by reducing Jesus to a man of social justice or sentimental niceties.  This is  banal, boring and in the end leads you to think that all the mysteries and problems of this world can and should be solved.  Fear, is most definitely appropriate, but it can cause you to stop in your tracks.  To close your eyes, and pretend that life, death and eternity are not at stake here.  You can either go back to the nice safe and understandable Christ who's persona is malleable enough to conform to all of your ideas of what justice and mercy are or you can deny all together that Jesus is anything other than a historical person hijacked for the religious ambitions of the early Church.

Or, you can do what Peter did, wade into the water, the ocean of mystery which leads to the cross and beyond.  Yes, he sinks, he, in fear takes his eyes off of Christ, but he has the humility to cry out to him, to understand that Gods ways are inscrutable!  But faith and humility draw him into the mystery. Faith gives him the courage to see that it is vast and limitless and you are not in control of it, and humility, the ablilty to cry out to God, in praise and in recognition that we need God's endless mercy:

"The Lord is exalted, yet the lowly he sees, the proud he knows from afar.  Your kindness Lord endures forever; forsake not the works of your hands." Psalm 138
It is clear now why Peter is chosen as the rock on which the Church is built upon, and why we continue to need the guidance of the Church, and those who follow the humble fisherman in his Christ commissioned ministry.

To Him be glory forever! Amen!

Monsignor Pope, of the Archdiocese of Washington has a wonderful post on this Sunday's readings, well worth checking out!

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