Monday, January 19, 2015

The Confession of Saint Peter the Apostle

Acts 4:5-13
Psalm 23
1 Peter 5:1-4
Matthew 16:13-19

REFLECTION: "Stupid is as Stupid Does"

No less a luminary than Albert Einstein is quoted as having defined insanity as: "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". Tom Hanks, playing Forrest Gump in the 1994 movie of the same name expressed a similar theme with the famous words, "stupid is as stupid does".

So, shocker, in our first reading today, we encounter the apostle Peter, at a point not too long after Pentecost, already courting the very same religious leaders who sent Jesus to the cross, confronting them with the Gospel and, essentially, daring them to believe, or to take action to eradicate them.

Now, Jesus had come and spread his Gospel across the land, and, within the span of three and a half years found himself hanging on a tree. Why on earth would Peter have expected any different reception of the Gospel a mere six or so months later (if that!)? In and of itself, such an expectation is plain stupid... but taken with the absolute intransigence that the religious authorities demonstrated repeatedly insofar as Jesus was concerned, Peter's conduct borders on the insane.

Or does it...

Contending for the truth is never insane, at least not in the conventional sense. Insanity implies a lack of rationality. Of course, there are those who would mock Christians for abandoning rationality and exchanging an evolved sense of logic for 'fairy tales'. Next time you hear someone speaking sarcastically about the 'Flying Spaghetti Monster' or asking in that kind of serious/mocking tone (you know what I mean) about your relationship with 'Our Lord and Savior Cthulhu', you can pretty much figure that you've met someone who would take a similar position, at least intellectually, to your beliefs as the religious leaders did to the faith of the Apostles.

So what makes Peter's situation, and by extension ours, any different from those who abandon rationality, and who believe that we are all the offspring of aliens, or that all vaccines are a government conspiracy, or that Barack Obama isn't really an American citizen and, thus, isn't qualified to be president? 

The difference is faith. In specific, it is the summary of faith that Peter confessed in the presence of Jesus under girds, or at least should under gird, every aspect of our lives. Our every work and witness should confess, with Peter that Jesusis the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. No matter how significant the act, or how insignificant the word, whatever we do must have, at its core, a Christian identity and perspective. True, at times we are going to fall short of that ideal, our faith at times waxes and wanes... we become fearful or we withdraw at times. Peter knew all about this. And yet, no matter the strength of our faith, no matter how we may, at times, try to avoid it, Jesus is always there and ready to forgive and renew us, just as he did with Peter after his resurrection.

There is another difference... one that is found rooted in the Spirit. We are given the grace to approach life with boldness, knowing that what we believe is true. We believe it because of the witness of Scripture, the witness of blood in the martyrs of the Church - including Peter, and in the witness of the countless lives changed over nearly two-thousand years of Christian history. Yes, the Jewish religious authorities and Roman civil government could kill a man, but the Spirit raised him to new life, and enflamed with that new life those marked by the name of the Risen One. 

And with every new life formed in the waters of baptism, and through the sealing of the Spirit, there once again echoes out the cry of Peter... "Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God".

This is the faith that makes Peter rock. And, when we profess it, it makes us rock as well. This is the faith of the Church. It is a sold, dependable faith. It is rock. And, as we hear in our Gospel, the Gates of Hades will not conquer it. To put it plainly, this faith will never die.

And that's just as it should be, because - worldly rationality aside - we serve a Savior who will never die again... one who assures us that our death is simply the birth into a new life, if we are found solid on rock.


That the leaders of the Church may serve,
not out of a sense of self-entitlement,
or with a desire for personal recognition,
but with the truth in their hearts
and the needs of the people foremost in their minds,
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

That the people of God may cling to the solid rock of faith,
forever professing Jesus as Messiah,
and reaping the strength that comes from their profession,
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

That those who oppose the the faith
based on false information,
or who ridicule believers for fun,
may have their hearts touched by the gentle presence of the Spirit,
and moved to understand more deeply the mystery of faith,
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

That the young and the old,
the educated and the simple-minded,
may with one heart profess the faith that saves with earnestness,
in spite of every obstacle presented by religious leaders,
civil governments,
or those who would terrorize them and demand that they give up their faith,
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

For the needs and concerns of our hearts...
that, as people of faith,
we may be confident that the Messiah is interceding for us
even now before the Eternal Throne,
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.