A HOMILY FOR THE TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – CYCLE “B” 9/16/18 – SMG
+ Pax et Bonum! Peace and goodness to you this day!
In the 1994 movie, Forrest Gump, the lead character, played by Tom Hanks, says “My mom always said “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Perhaps we can feel the same way about St. Peter, and his various appearances in the four Gospel texts. With St. Peter, in the Scriptures, sometimes you really don’t know what you’re going to get. Sometimes St. Peter is so full of faith, so connected to Jesus, that it is easy to see why Jesus chose him to be the leader of the Apostles. And then there are other times, most especially when he is denying even knowing Jesus on the night before He dies, and to be quite honest, times like St. Peter in today’s Gospel, when St. Peter himself, the first Pope and the Apostles who was crucified upside down on the grounds right next to the Vatican, has it so wrong, that Jesus has to reprimand him! “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus says. Those are pretty strong words coming from the Son of God, about one of His closest friends. And Jesus goes on to say, “You are not thinking as God does, but as human beings do.”
And what’s the problem here? What triggers this strong reaction from Jesus? Well, it starts with Jesus asking the Apostles, “Who do people say that I am?” And after several wrong answers, it is St. Peter, probably empowered by the Holy Spirit, who says, “You are the Christ.” And for a minute, St. Peter is the star student. He had gotten the answer right. He’s on top of the world. But then Jesus goes on to explain what “You are the Christ” really means, how He is going to have to suffer and die, and on the third day rise. St. Peter takes Jesus aside and begins to tell Him, May this never happen to you. God forbid! And we get the picture that St. Peter doesn’t really get it. He clearly doesn’t understand. Or is it, that St. Peter, just like a lot of us, you know, we like some of the chocolates in the box of Christianity? We like that whole eternal bliss thing, being with God forever in the beatific vision. We like the miracles. We like the grace, and the peace, and the love. We like the celebrations. We like ordinations, feast days, and Italian Festivals. We like Christ Renews His Parish, and Lenten Missions, and Faith and Froth. We like pilgrimages to Italy, and to the Holy Land, and hanging out with brothers and sisters in Christ, at the Mill Tavern. We like all those things. Those are the good chocolates. But we don’t like crosses! We can do without crosses. Crosses are the coconut covered, coffee crème chocolates of our box of chocolates. And nobody likes them. St. Peter didn’t like crosses. He didn’t even want a cross for his friend, Jesus. And we don’t like crosses either. For ourselves or for others. God forbid.
And yet, in how many ways, and how many times, would Jesus say to us, the exact same thing that He said to St. Peter: “You are NOT thinking as God does, but as human beings do.” It seems to me, that just like St. Peter, we do have to change our perspective. We need to think more like God does. We need that heavenly perspective to realize what is most important, and what values we really need to have in this world! As Catholic Christians, we shouldn’t be picking and choosing, like we were eating a box of chocolates, we’ve got to accept the whole box, the whole story, if we are really going to follow Jesus! That’s what St. Peter had to figure out. The Cross was that essential to the story! Our crosses, are also that important to our story, to our salvation. They might not be our favorite piece of chocolate in the box of chocolates. But many times, it is our crosses that keep us connected to Jesus.
We don’t get to pick and choose. We can’t. Our job is to follow Jesus and to trust. St. Peter would eventually enjoy great peace when he learned how to do that. Like St. Peter, we need to let Christ change us if we are to let go of our human way of thinking. Yes, it can be difficult, but it is necessary. Especially if we, like St. Peter, are going to become what the Lord needs us to be!
+ May God bless us, and change our hearts, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… AMEN !!!
St. Maria Goretti… Pray for us !!!