October 10, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Luke 22:31-34.
“Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.” He said to him, “Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you.” But he replied, “I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows this day, you will deny three times that you know me.”
It’s passages like this that make me realize what a wonderful writer Luke was. He was a master of the concise use of words and of building tension, pulling me forward to turn the page and read what’s coming next.
This reminds me of Job in that Satan was permitted to do everything he could think of to destroy his faith and dedication to God. Why in the world is that? Why does God allow Satan to operate in our lives, to muck things up? I have no idea. It’s a question that has plagued man from his first belief in God. I do know that we will all go through trials in our lives. We will stumble; we may question our faith; we may lash out in anger at God; we may wail and withdraw from Him. In the end He always asks the same question: do you believe that I love you?
Obviously, Satan sifted the apostles and one, Judas, was the chaff to be burned in the fire. Still, Jesus knew that even Peter could succumb and he prayed for him that his faith would not fail. Even though Peter did deny that he knew Jesus in spite of his pledge to die with him, his faith didn’t fail. He wept bitterly as he faced his own weakness, his cowardice, but he didn’t let go of his faith. He fell back on his belief that Jesus loved him still and in spite of himself. He fell back on his belief that Jesus was the Son of God and therefore God loved him. He answered “yes” to the question: do you believe that I love you?
I love the last words of Job to God. “I know you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be hindered. I have dealt with great things that I do not understand; things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know. I had heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you. Therefore I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes.” I think that Peter kept those words or sentiment in his heart as well. In the end Peter chose to love God and Judas chose evil.
Because Peter was tested and chose God, because he believed that God loved him no matter what, he was able to strengthen his brothers and sisters, to help them keep their faith despite persecution, suffering, and death. That’s why it’s so important to share our trials with one another. We need to gather our strength from one another, to persist in our belief that God loves us no matter what. We do that by loving one another and sharing our love of God with one another. That may be the most fundamental benefit of Christ Renews His Parish. I know it has been for me and for that I am grateful to so many of you, my brothers and sisters in faith.