Monday, June 29, 2009
Rob's post raises important questions and points to a tension that has been present since the beginning of the Church. The Gospel reading for today, on this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, brings part of the picture into bold relief. In Matthew 16:18-19 Jesus gives Simon a new name - Rock, Peter, Petros, Kephas, Kepa and says: "You are Rock (Kepa) and upon this rock (kepa) I will build my church and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys..." The picture is complete only four verses later when Jesus says to Peter: "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings." (Mt. 16:23).
Peter, the other apostles, and their successors have been given authority by God. But, they are frail human beings, slow to understand and sometimes lacking in courage, wisdom, and even goodness, I suspect. How do we pay proper respect to their god-given authority while also challenging them to see and act with Christ's spirit, mind, and body. I don['t have a good answer to this question except that both extremes - blind adherence to or willful denial of this authority is destructive not only for the individual but also society. As I mentioned to Rob in an email, my models for dealing with his question are Francis of Assisi, Catherine of Siena, and Dorothy Day to name three.