21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 23, 2020
Today’s Gospel speaks volume about the new identity and roles of St. Simon Peter as the leader of the college of the apostles, and thus, the leader of the Church. He is the chosen foundation rock upon which Jesus built His Church. He is the prime minister who holds the keys of the kingdom of God. He is the chief priest who is responsible for the Temple of God. He is the chief Rabbi whose teachings binds the entire faithful. These are the bigger-than-life privileges and one may wonder, “Among the disciples, why was he chosen? Did Jesus know that he would deny Him three times?”
Jesus’ choice is a huge mystery, yet in the final analysis, nobody is worthy to be the first pope. If we scan the Bible and try to see many vocation stories of the great leaders of Israel, we are going to see the same pattern: most of them are not worthy and great sinner. Abraham was a coward who hid behind his wife. Moses was involved in killing an Egyptian. David was committing adultery and plotting a murder of Uriah. God seems to have a penchant to choose unworthy sinner!
Yet, that is only half of the story. These great leaders possess their remarkable quality in relation to God’s mercy and love. Despite their weakness, they never lose hope in God’s grace working in them. When they fall, they learn to rise once again and allow God sustains them. This particular quality also that Simon has.
Through his life, Peter was struggling to love Jesus and to become a leader for Christ’s Church. He made few step on water, but doubted and distracted, he began to sink. He made divinely inspired statement on Jesus divinity, but right after, he prevented Jesus to accomplish His mission on the cross. Thus, Jesus called him “Satan!” He promised Jesus that he would lay down his life for Jesus, but less than twenty-four hour, he denied Jesus with curse, and ran away! Yet, despite so grave a sin, he repented, but does not despair. Compare to Judas who lost hope and killed himself in the process, Peter knew too well that there is nothing impossible for God. Indeed, the risen Christ restored his place as the leader and the shepherd of His flocks, after asking Simon’s confession of love thrice. Yet, that was not the end of the story. A tradition says that during the persecution of emperor Niro, Peter was trying to escape Rome. In his way out of the city, Peter encountered Jesus going to the opposite direction. He then asked Jesus, “Quo vadis, Domine? [where are you going, Lord?]” Jesus responded, “I am going to Rome, to be crucified again!” Hearing this, Peter ran back to Rome. True enough, he was arrested and crucified upside down.
The choice of Peter is a mystery, but also good news. We are like Simon Peter, we are chosen to be God’s people, chosen into particular role and mission, but deep in our hearts, we are not worthy and full of weaknesses. Why did God choose me to be His priest? Why did God want me to raise children for the kingdom? Why did God elect me to become His ministers? We are not sure the exact reason, but like Peter, we are also called to trust His providence, and never lose hope in midst of trials and failures, and to love even more.
Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP