June 29, 2008
The angel said to him, “Put on your belt and your sandals.”
He did so. Then he said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.”
and from all that the Jewish people had been expecting.”
So he followed him out, not realizing that
what was happening through the angel was real;
he thought he was seeing a vision.
They passed the first guard, then the second,
and came to the iron gate leading out to the city,
which opened for them by itself.
They emerged and made their way down an alley,
and suddenly the angel left him.
Then Peter recovered his senses and said,
“Now I know for certain
that the Lord sent his angel
and rescued me from the hand of Herod.”
Mt. 16: 13-19
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.”
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.”
I love to hike! Since I moved down to the Southwest from the Upper Midwest my hiking has been challenged by hiking on mountains instead of flat surfaces or hills. The hiking up mountains brings new opportunities to practice sure footedness. The mountains are higher, the paths are steeper and most often narrower than places I use to hike.
I am not a tall person, so there isn’t a whole lot of distance from the top of my head to the soles of my feet; however, even with that closeness to the ground it would be easy to fall a great distance. Some paths are fabulous, meaning that there isn’t too much gravel to slip on and there are ample strong tree branches to hang onto should my foot start to slip. Other paths have loose rock underfoot and I’m reluctant to grab hold of the thin branches bordering the trail.
The readings for the Sunday of June 29th reminded me of my hiking experiences. I think the readings from the Acts and the gospel of Matthew touch upon the challenge of trust and of sure footedness. In the first reading Peter, who seems to be asleep as he is led out of the prison by the angels, is totally dependent upon the angels to be sure footed in his escape from prison. How often do we find ourselves on the other side of a challenging work situation and know for certain that God’s grace inspired a good result?
In the gospel reading, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter, despite all of the times he has questioned Jesus’ decisions in public, gives the correct answer. He answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Here in this passage Jesus gives Peter the stamp of approval and in fact says that he is the rock upon which His church will be built.
We know that in only a few chapters later, however, Peter denies even knowing “The Christ, the Son of the living God.” He slips on the path of sure footedness and appears to be lost. Later after the resurrection Jesus does not forsake Peter, but rather he allows Peter’s humanness to be strengthened by His love for him.
There are days when I question my sure footedness on the path. I say the wrong thing or I miss an opportunity to reach out to the needs of another. I know all of that is human. The examples of Peter in the two readings today are a mirror of our own struggles. Finally, do I have the humility and trust to allow the Spirit to help me get back up on the path?