Are these hard times? So it seems.
Our local community faces difficult times;
our nation and our world
faces so much uncertainty.
And it is difficult to be Catholic.
You have had leaders who failed to lead;
priests who failed to be holy.
I am very sorry about that.
Difficult times for all of us—
the values of our culture
are not Christian values!
The lust for vengeance and wrath
is not a Christian value;
Measuring our worth by material success
is not a Christian value.
In fact, the very idea of “success,” itself…
is not a Christian value!
What do we mean by “success”?
How do we measure it? With numbers!
Attendance goes up, dollars go up,
more programs, more people—
that’s our idea of success.
Notice, Jesus Christ didn’t operate that way!
The Apostles counted heads—
remember, they counted
how many ate bread and fish?
They were the first pastors.
We count: how many came to Mass!
But look again at the episode in today’s Gospel.
This was a decisive moment
for Peter and the Apostles.
Peter made his profession of faith:
“You are the Christ.”
As the leader, he led the Apostles
to this act of faith;
but there was another step,
and that’s where he stumbled:
on the worldly notion of “success.”
When the Lord revealed what would happen—
he would suffer and die—
Peter was embarrassed and confused
because that didn’t sound like success.
The Lord spun on him and called him Satan—
not to condemn him,
but it was like throwing cold water on him—
to shock him into realizing how off-track he was.
“You aren’t seeing as God sees.”
The supreme moment of success for the Lord wasn’t…
· When he had thousands of people
come to him for miracles and healings;
· When he drove the money-changers from the Temple;
· When he won arguments with his opponents;
· Nor, even when he gained converts!
No, the supreme moment of his success
was on the Cross. Only then did he say “It is finished!”
So, instead of “success,” the goal is faithfulness.
Jesus was faithful to the plan of salvation
he and the Father had made before time began.
He was faithful to the Apostles,
with them every day,
and his goal was to enable them to be faithful
when their turn came.
So don’t look for the secret of success,
but rather, the secret of faithfulness.
And how did Jesus do it?
He walked with the Apostles, day-by-day.
The “secret” is a deep, living relationship
with Jesus Christ!
That was his “leadership program” for the Apostles;
what he said was important, but secondary;
their being with him was primary.
Everything else flowed from that.
And, of course, union with him would, ultimately,
mean sharing his suffering and death—
because it meant sharing his purpose:
the salvation of the world!
And you don’t get that,
you don’t care enough about that,
unless you spend time with him—
and know Jesus personally.
Unless you know him…
Ø Not as a “wise teacher”
Ø Not as “a prophet”
Ø Not as a philosophy or a lifestyle…
But as he truly is: true God, the source of all life,
come in our midst to save us!
Then it makes sense, even the Cross!
We all face it; knowing him deeply,
we dare to embrace it!
Yes, these are difficult times.
So many things drawing us away.
And we are tempted to be discouraged;
you and I have no right to be discouraged!
That is the trap Peter fell into:
seeing with human values, not God’s.
One of the reasons we need the Cross
is that all of those worldly ways of thinking—
all our notions of success,
all our attraction to what is passing away,
all our pride that is offended by not being “successful”—
it all has to nailed to the cross!
Then only one thing is left:
our heart, joined to the heart of God: Jesus Christ!
We’ve been talking about “stewardship”:
truly appreciating what we have,
and being truly free to share it, give it away.
Stewardship is about the right priorities:
are we about success in this world?
Or do we fix our eyes on the far horizon:
success as God measures it,
even if this world calls it “failure”?
Making our goal, not “success,” but faithfulness;
Letting him crucify all our worldly expectations,
Having what the Apostles had: being with Jesus,
day-by-day, allowing him
to nourish our lives with his life,
his Holy Spirit—deep reservoirs of his life in us…
Then, we won’t find the times and challenges difficult;
We’ll find them thrilling.