The Word of God which comes to us this Sunday is full of hope for us. Once again we see Peter on whom Jesus promised to build his Church, his ecclesia. It is important for us to observe Peter. We don’t spy on Peter but by witnessing Peter’s journey in faith we are drawn to the grace which transformed the Apostle. That’s why the Church is built on Peter. In Rome there is this magnificent Basilica called St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Under the main altar, where the Pope celebrates Masses, there is Peter’s tomb. When it was discovered in the last century the archaeologists found an inscription saying: ‘Peter is here.’ Truly it can be said that this beautiful church in the Vatican is built on Peter. However with full conviction it can be also said that the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ where we are members, is built on Peter because the life giving Good News of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the World, which we listen to, accept and venerate with love, faith and hope comes to us as the Gospel which challenged, formed and uplifted Peter too. This Gospel has run through the Apostle, through the first generation of the disciples of the Lord – the early Church, through all the generations of Catholics which followed and us. The story of Peter is the Good News about the Holy Spirit at work in a human person.
My Dear Sisters and Brothers! Today’s passage taken from the Gospel of Matthew may not come across as the most striking page of the Bible like some other pages when Peter is a participant of some wonderful and inspiring events pertaining to our salvation. However I invite you not to rush through in order to find something more exciting about Peter because these final verses of chapter 18 of St Matthew’s Gospel which we face this Sunday reveal some powerful work of the Holy Spirit in Peter.
Firstly we witness Peter who speaks about some other person, who also followed Jesus, as ‘BROTHER.’ Don’t take it lightly. We get here a glimpse into Peter’s soul. He followed Jesus. He came to love Jesus. He admired Jesus. Following Jesus marked Peter’s soul, heart and mind profoundly. It marked him so profoundly that Peter’s family expanded and now included those who walked with Jesus too. Peter didn’t walked with Jesus alone. Peter wasn’t a stranger among strangers. Peter lived his love for Jesus, his faith in Jesus, his hope in Jesus in such a way that he was a brother among brothers and sisters. We are built on this Peter. I pray so that as you listen to this Gospel, which gives us a glimpse into Peter’s soul, may be graced to have the same experience, to realise that you are a brother or a sister among other Catholics who are your brothers and sisters. I pray so that you may discover the beauty and power of living your faith and love for Jesus as the gift which is a common gift of your fellow believers.
Secondly, we witness Peter who experienced firsthand that the other brothers and sisters of him who followed Jesus weren’t angels. He says today: ‘How often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?’ How realistic! Peter was wronged. Peter was hurt by another follower. However there is more. Look, the Gospel isn’t finished yet but Peter knows that in the Church there is no getting rid off sinners. The Church grows in her beauty not by eliminating sinners but by forgiving them. What Peter receives from Jesus was the grace to multiply the capacity of his heart and mind to forgive, not seven times but seventy seven times, which means always. After all he speaks to the Lord, the God himself. This Lord and Saviour doesn’t simply tell what to do, this Lord and Saviour gives us grace to fulfill what he says. We are built on this Peter. I pray so that as you listen to this Gospel, which gives us a glimpse into Peter’s soul, may be graced to have the same experience, to realise that the capacity of your heart to forgive is multiplied by the grace of the Lord.
My Dearest Sisters and Brothers! How much hope for us and for our Church we find in the life of this man, Peter. He isn’t buried in the past. His story filled with Jesus Christ has become Good News for us. We are built on him.
St Peter, we thank you for giving your life to the Lord and to us as well.
St Peter, pray for us.