Sunday Sermon for August 27, 2017, the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: Is 22:19-23; Rom 11:33-36; Mt 16:13-20
In the second reading today St. Paul marvels at the depth of the riches, the wisdom, and the knowledge of God. He proclaims that God’s judgments are inscrutable and His ways are unsearchable. Of course, in our humanness, we often seem to think we know a better way. On one level, when we see the problems in the world and in the Church, we can all envision a way that would be better in the moment. If, for instance, we look at an injustice, we can naturally state that to act with justice would have been better. We can say that same thing about any point of immorality.
While in the particular instance it is true that to do the right and proper thing would have been a better way, we also have to consider the objective aspect. For instance, in each example we could think of where doing the proper and moral thing would have been better, the underlying fact is that we each have a free will that we can exercise to choose to do what is right or what is wrong. If God took away our free will, we would only do what is right, but we would also be puppets on a string and eternal life would mean nothing to us because it was not something we freely chose and struggled to obtain.
So, we see in this that God has determined to make us free, with the knowledge that we would at times use our freedom to offend Him and violate one another. Still, in the big picture, having freedom is a far greater thing than not having freedom. Beyond this, God brings good out of evil, whether we use our free will to do something bad or something bad happens to us. God is able to use these experiences to help us grow in ways that we would not have if the unfortunate events had not occurred. This is all part of the mystery of God’s providence, but it is also a test of our faith. After all, it would not require much faith if everyone acted rightly because they had no choice. Seeing all the imperfections in ourselves, in others, and in the world, requires far greater faith.
All of this serves as a background for the faith we need to have in another area in which many of us think we know better than God. In the Gospel today we hear about Jesus appointing St. Peter to be the head of His Church. Imagine that! Peter, the man who at one moment professes Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God and at the next moment rebukes Jesus for telling the Apostles about His coming Passion and death. Peter, the man who walked on water for a while, but then gave into doubt and began to sink. Yes, the same Peter who will confidently state that he would never deny the Lord and then turns around and denies Him three times.
As we saw above, God brings good out of our failings. Peter’s threefold denial of our Lord became a turning point in his life and put him on a track to trust less in himself and more on the Lord. That’s great for Peter, as it is for us when we learn from our blunders. But what about the Church as a whole? Are we all supposed to trust in this man who has so many human weaknesses? After all, if this is God’s Church, why does God not just take care of things on His own?
It is fascinating that Jesus never wrote anything down regarding what we are to believe. It would be so easy if we had original documents from the hand of the Lord stating exactly what we are to adhere to and what we are to reject. Yes, we would need to have faith in Jesus before we could accept such a document, but that would be easier than believing Jesus’ words and having to deal with weak human beings like ourselves to provide the world with authoritative teaching. Just a quick look at the first reading reminds us that even someone with the keys, the rank of Prime Minister, can get caught up in his own self-interests and fail to serve as he has been called to do. However, we also see that God Himself will straighten things out.
All of this is hard, but God does not ask easy things from us. He wants faith that goes beyond what we can simply grasp on the natural level. His truth, His love, His Wisdom and His knowledge are all infinite. We cannot grasp it, so we must accept His loving providence and conform ourselves to His inscrutable judgments and His unsearchable ways.
Homilies are posted to this site with permission from and courtesy of The Wanderer Press.