August 24, 2008, Year A
Twenty-First Sunday In Ordinary Time
Reflections on the Readings
Theme: To Protect and Defend
The unity of the faith is much more than consensus.
I am reminded of my quest through out the years to understand and attain the unity of the faith. That what we have in common is more than what divides us had become my deep conviction. It still is. This conviction brought me to deeper prayer and study. Questions of why there was not communion between all believers left me unsettled. Even now, this concern remains with me. As a Catholic Christian, I am grateful that this is a priority of our Holy Father, who invites all of us to pray with him that 'we may all be one.'
Jesus' question to his disciples is, "Who do men say I am?" This opens the door to the other question, "Who do you say I am?" While the first question is useful, the second question is necessary, if we are to understand the deposit of faith and the unity it brings. On Peter's response turns our whole understanding of the mystical body of Christ.
In Going My Way, Father O'Malley, the character played by Bing Crosby, unites a group of neighborhood law breaking boys into a small boys choir. He achieved this by determining who was in charge of the rag tag group. The scene unfolds with one young man coming forward as the spokesman and leader of the group of trouble makers. This young man, Tony Scaponi, remains pivotal for the groups cohesiveness. When it comes time for Father O'Malley to move on, he leaves Tony in charge to carry on the good work that has begun.
Now we have Jesus with 12 men seated before him, quizzing them about His identity. It is critical for the unity and mission of these men to know for sure who it is they're following. Peter, speaking up, answers Jesus' query, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." For this Simon was blessed, because the source of this understanding is revelation, not speculation. In turn, Simon, like Abram of old has a name change. Until now, he is known as Simon, son of John. He will now be called Peter, a name derived from the term for rock, a sizeable rock at that, large enough for a foundation stone. It is Simon's confession, revealed to him by the Father, that brings about this dramatic and remarkable statement of Jesus, to make Simon Peter the keeper of the keys. He and his successors would remain among the Apostles the spokesman and leader, in guarding the faith and guiding the faithful.
I write for a wide and varied audience. There are rich and diverse treasures across the wounded body of Christ. However, what I believed was something to be achieved, I discovered had always been and would always be. In other words, unity was more than consensus; unity and continuity of revelation and worship and leadership is the 2000 year history of the Church. It is something to be embraced and confessed.
I remember preaching a series of sermons about what we (Protestants) and they (Catholics) have in common, what we did and did not share in belief and whether it mattered if we disagreed on this or that. As I began, of course I started down the path of Church history and arrived at the Reformation and found out I had about another 1500 years of Church history to grapple with. It was at this point I realized there had been about 1500 years of continuity of belief, worship, prayer and evangelization before the great Schism of East and West and the Reformation. So historically I had to believe that there had been only one Church.
The Scripture, rocking and rolling under the interpretations of a divided Church, is itself, an unbroken revelation of God, of his unity in himself, and of the restoration of all things in the Son of His love. It remains to us, in each generation, to be faithful to all of the Scriptures, for they are the words which testify of Christ, the Son of the living God. This is not to speak down to or to be disrepectful of the various ecclesial communities who baptize in the Name of the Holy Trinity, love God with all of their hearts, pray diligently and look expectantly for the return of our Lord. Let us remember that every Catholic and Protestant Bible speaks of there being, one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. When Jesus returns in glory, he will receive unto himself one spotless and glorious church, as a bride adorned for her husband. If I may be bold to say, it is not a harem He is looking for, but the Church which he purchased with His own blood. We are the blood bought, the sanctified, the redeemed of the Lord. All of us, whether Protestant or Catholic, East or West, denominational or undenominational, high church or low church, lovers of Latin or not, are obligated by the sign of our baptism to receive and obey and contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3)
Let us pray: Dear Jesus, unite within me all that I let separate me from you. Unite me to all who love and cherish your friendship. Let me be a joint or ligament that helps the Church to be whole and complete and entire, lacking nothing. Amen.