24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel – Mark 8:27-35
The Whole Picture
Jesus and Peter,
Years ago, back when Dad’s store was open and my brother, sisters and I would help out, I remember when I was pumping gas for a customer (yes, on top of everything else, that little country store was also a gas station), I wasn’t paying complete attention. And the gas overflowed onto the car and the ground. Needless to say the customer was not happy. And he made a point of reminding me every time he saw me from then on. That’s the kid who messed up! That’s how he remembered me; that’s how he treated me! I am sure we all had instances like that.
Remember that neighbor whose window you broke with the baseball back when you were 10 and even now they never fail to remind you! How about that teacher that you never got along with who continues to label you a ‘troublemaker’? Or that elderly great-aunt who continues to send you Christmas presents as if you were still a teenager? And what about that job you had early in life and the boss who was so proud of you and your abilities and predicted a great future ahead?
They all ‘knew’ you; but they only really knew a bit of you, a brief moment in time, some good and some distressing. Bits and pieces of you! Truth be told, none of them knew you, not the whole you, not the whole picture! Only little glimpses and peeks! In a way, every one of them saw you through a glass darkly!
We all live such complicated, multi-faceted lives; we play so many different roles. Who in our life can possibly really know and understand us in all our complexity. Who could possibly really KNOW us that intimately and still love us?
Today’s Gospel gives us small glimpses of the Apostle Peter, some heartwarming and uplifting, some sad and disappointing. Jesus first asks His disciples who am I? And His disciples respond with answers like – John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, one of the prophets. You’re a miracle worker, a teacher, a preacher. Different answers but they all have one thing in common: they reflect a view that Jesus is merely HUMAN! It’s only Peter who responds with something different, something illuminating, something full of faith! You are the Christ, you are the Son of God – You are DIVINE!!! A very clear statement of faith!
And yet not a moment later, after Jesus tells His disciples that He is going to Jerusalem where He will be arrested, tortured and put to death! And He will rise again on the third day. And at that, Peter rebukes Jesus! You can’t go there! You can’t die! A moment of faith, followed by a moment of disbelief! Peter completely misses the ‘rising’ part and focuses only on the human!
Of course, from our vantage point, we know a lot more of Peter’s story. When Jesus first calls him to follow Him, he refuses, telling Jesus to go away! I am a sinful man! At the Last Supper, when Jesus tells them someone will betray Him, Peter protests! I will never abandon You! Yes you will; you will deny Me three times. And so he does! And Peter runs away in tears and shame, not even showing up at the Cross. But even so, we only know bits and pieces of his life! Highs and lows, moments of faith and courage, moments of denial and fear! We don’t know the whole picture! Does anyone???
Jesus does! And in spite of all Peter’s faults and failings, Jesus never gave up on him! Even when Peter denied Jesus, Jesus never denied him! He never stopped loving him. Are we really any different? Jesus is the One who knows our whole story! Not just the bad parts, not merely bit and pieces! The whole entire picture! And He loves us! And He never stops!
Let that sink in today! Jesus loves you! He believes in you! He is right there beside you through the disasters and the successes and everything in-between! He knows you completely, all the bits and pieces! And He loves you! Always!