Page 10, 28th June 2002

28th June 2002
Page 10
Page 10, 28th June 2002 — Father David McGough
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People: David McGough, John
Locations: Rome

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6 y ou are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it."

The feast of SS Peter and Paul is a celebration of the Church and its sure foundation. In the present climate there is little triumphalism. Many would argue that the foundations of the church have never been less secure. Almost daily the media report fresh scandals, all the more harmful because they originate within the church, and relate to children. It can be said that those who have transgressed within the Church have demonstrated the very worst of human nature.

Today's feast reminds us of the humanity of Peter and Paul, and the way in which that humanity became the foundation upon which Christ would build his church. It is instructive to remember that whenever Peter relied upon his own imagined strengths, he failed miserably. When he thought he could walk on water, he sank. When he claimed that he would stand with Christ against the might of Rome and the Sanhedrin, his courage ran out in three cowardly denials. Neither Peter, nor the church, are at their best when counting their strengths.

It was a different matter when Peter's attention was centred on Christ. "But you, Jesus said, Who do you say that I am ?" Here there was no hesitation on Peter's part. "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Peter was expressing something more than a doctri nal statement. At the moment he spoke he believed passionately that it would be Christ, and not our sinful humanity, that would save the world. Christ was not a 'proposition' for Peter. He was the one who raises us above ourselves into the presence of the living God. Such faith is forgetful of itself and its own limitations. It has eyes only for Christ, and for the infinite possibilities he MTV to a sinful world. Peter's faith was the foundation of the Church. When we turn in upon ourselves, we feed on our own uncertainty. When we turn to Christ, we discover the food that strengthens us in our uncertainty. Such was the confession of Peter when so many refused to accept Jesus as the Bread of Life. `Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God."

In St John's gospel, Peter's final confession was one of love. The disciples had experienced much with their Lord. They had known the elation of the crowds, and experienced how quickly approval could turn to hatred. Within themselves they had discovered the fine line between faith and betrayal. They had done much, and had proposed to do even more. Now in the presence of his Risen Lord, only one thing mattered to Peter.

"Jesus said to Peter a third time, 'Simon son of John, do you love me?' Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, 'Do you love me?' and said, `Lord, you know everything; you know I love you'."

At a time when the foundations of the Church are being brought into question, let us return to the foundations so evident in the lives of Peter and Paul. The unshakeable conviction that it is in Christ, rather than in ourselves, that we find our salvation. The humility to realize that whatever we bring to the church, be it great or small, is of little consequence without that love which captures the world.




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