28 June 2009 - Sunday Reflection with Fr Terry Tastard

Peter was an impulsive man.  We know this well.  This was the man who, when Jesus was being arrested, began swinging his sword around and cut off someone's ear.  He would believe that he could walk on the sea like Jesus and then panic and sink.  Peter would also swear blind allegiance one day and betray Jesus the next.  An impulsive man.  But impulsive people are often open to their deepest intuitions, to the insights, therefore, that other people would not trust, or would not even notice.  Intuitions often emerge from looking at clues, piecing together signs, reading the faces of others.  It's worth remembering this when we recall how, at Caesarea Philippi, Peter was the first of the disciples to grasp the truth that Jesus was the Messiah (Matt. 16.13-19).  The very thing that was a source of weakness for Peter was also a source of strength.  Precisely because he was impulsive, open to his depths, Peter was able to see, in a blinding flash, who Jesus was and what his mission would be.  It must have been a staggering realisation that here, among them, the promises of God were being fulfilled and the messianic age had begun.

Sometimes, it seems, we are like Peter.  First of all, we are people of faith.  We have grasped this incredible truth that God came among us in Christ and that, after the resurrection, Christ is with us still.  If we are challenged by sceptics we have answers, but deep in our hearts, we know that we are piecing together signs, putting together clues, letting our intuitions guide us.  There are many reasons to believe, but ultimately, we have to make that leap of faith like Peter himself.  But we don't stop there. Like Peter again, we are on a journey of conversion.  Our life will never be perfect, there will always be unruly bits of us, and we have to take the whole of ourselves to God, and ask that throughout our life his presence, his grace, will work in us a deep conversion.  If you feel that you have failed, remember that Peter too let God down, but continued his journey of faith.  His greatest strength was that he knew his need of Christ, knew too, his need for forgiveness.

Recently I watched a short documentary about life in a convent.  Mother Superior commented: "We are a motley crew ­ just like the apostles.  And like apostles, we have to learn to live with one another and get on with one another."  Indeed, that could be said of the whole Church.  We are saints and sinners.  We are optimists and pessimists.  We are simple, salt of the earth peasant farmers.  We are learned academics.  We have many opinions.  But we have one faith.  Part of our belief as Catholics is that in the pope we have the continuation of the ministry of Peter.  This warm-hearted disciple had the challenging task of shepherding the tiny flock of early Christians, keeping them together and encouraging them.  Just as we need the ministry of Peter, we need the ministry of Paul also.  Paul yearned to help others find what he had found in Christ, and became what our preface today calls "the teacher of the world".  To do that he tried to understand the culture around him, like the time when he caught the attention of the people of Athens by referring to their shrine dedicated 'to an unknown God' (Acts 17.23).  This is a challenge to us all:  to try to understand our times so that we can more effectively speak of God.

Fr Terry Tastard is Parish Priest of Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, Brook Green, London W6.

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