21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 27th, 2017

Fr. Tim’s Corner

The other night, I read a book review on “The Unwomanly Face of War:  An Oral History of Women in World War II” by Svetlana Alexievich.  Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2015, Alexievich fills her book with first-person narrations; listening to the voices of women and the impact of war in Soviet Russia.  Her pages avoid propaganda and present witnesses whose testimony conveys the truth that “war is a curse on everyone”, even as their stories also affirm that “a human being is greater than war.”

What caught my eye reading the review was the following passage:

Her goal was not modest:  to listen to “specific human beings, living in a specific time and taking part in specific events” while remaining ever alert to “the eternally human in them; the tremor of eternity.  That which is in human beings at all times.”  (Italics mine)

In the gospel this 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Matthew 16:13-20), Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”  And Simon Peter responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Simon Peter ‘sees’ in Jesus more than flesh and blood.  He becomes ever alert to the “tremor of eternity” there; Christ’s own truth and destiny.  What Simon Peter sees reverberates also within him as Jesus responds in kind, revealing the truth of Peter’s identity as well; this “rock” upon which Jesus will build the church.  Both see in each other ‘something more’; the “eternally human” revealed there, and in a specific time.

Similarly, to each of us there is more than flesh and blood.  Within us is found “the tremor of eternity” and mystery of God.  This is what’s being revealed at Caesarea Philippi between Jesus and Simon Peter.  With its steadfast nature, the purpose of the church is to keep before us always this truth.  Too easily, this truth that we are—the eternal within us—slips from our eyes as happened to Peter.  Warming himself by the fire and during the trial, Peter denies Jesus; gripped more by fear than the courage it takes to believe.  Over the centuries, warring and hellish forces have tried to destroy this truth we carry within and that Christ reveals within the mystery of the church.  Yet, they have not prevailed.  We have Christ’s promise that assures us in today’s gospel.  Also, there’s the conviction that “a human being is greater than war.”

In a talk to novices, Thomas Merton points out that there’s found inside us “a little kernel of gold which is the essence of you—and there is God protecting it…”  Merton goes on to explain that “the freedom that matters is the capacity to be in contact with that center”—this “spark of the soul”—and to know that “this will not be destroyed.”

In the gospel, Jesus reveals the church’s nature, and our nature, too, in his words to Simon Peter.  He reveals the steadfast, prevailing nature of faith.  Made in God’s Image, there’s found inside us all the “tremor of eternity” and “kernel of gold”; the “essence of you” that God protects.   It is from this center we find our way to God and encounter first-hand the up-building nature of belief. 

Father Tim Clark, Pastor


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