What kind of rock are you in the life of the Church and of the world? Are you the kind on which God and others can build up a spiritual temple? Or are you the kind of rock on which others stumble and fall and over which many will grumble and complain?
This is the dilemma that Peter and the other disciples face in the wake of last week when Peter made the great declaration of Jesus as the Messiah and this week of Peter’s denial of Jesus teaching of death and resurrection (Matthew 16.21-28). In essence, we need to ask ourselves a question – what kind of rock are we: both personally and corporately. It is going to be something that Peter is going to struggle with all the way through to that moment at the end of John’s Gospel (John 21) when Jesus restore Peter to fellowship after the denials of Maundy Thursday when he proclaimed “I do not know the man.”
From that moment of first denial to his restoration on the beach, Peter was less of a foundation stone and more of a stumbling block. It took time before he objected to what Jesus was teaching about the way of his life and the cross, his death and resurrection. He had made the right proclamation in the face of all the world’s religions in Caesarea Philippi – Jesus is the one that had been anticipated. He was God’s anointed one – that is what “messiah” means. Where Peter and many of us fall down is in understanding who Jesus is what his mission was, is, and remain for us.
Up to now, all the wonders of making wine from water, the healings, the teachings, the exorcisms and other signs were suppose to be leading up to something greater – a renewed Israel. The Messiah was supposed to make a country for the Jews free of the tyranny of Rome and other foreign powers. It would be a place of worship and religious righteousness; a kingdom that would bring back the glories of David and Solomon and that kingdom would never end.
The problem is that, such a kingdom would be self centered. We are tempted often to think that what is coming is about us: what we want and how we want it to be. We have our thoughts and agendas, our plans and mission statements and because of that, we often lose track of the fact that the life to come is not about us. The reality is, that life - life in the kingdom - is not about us. It is about God and the fact that God desires to love and to be in relationship with us. It is about God and being present to and in a relationship (personal and corporate) with the living God.
Jesus calls on all who will follow him to deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow him. Maybe we have been encountered by Jesus and by others as stumbling blocks. We are in fact now invited to get in line with Christ, learn what it means to love, to care and to follow and become the polished, living stones that we are meant to be. And remember that there is no such thing as a volunteer or part time disciple. The call to self denial, to living the cruciformed life, and to following faithfully behind the Lord Jesus begins in this moment. It begins with recognizing him as present to us in the eucharistic sacrament and then in going out into the world to do what he calls us to do. And in that we decide this week what kind of rock we are going to be – a foundation rock or a stumbling block. Which stone are you this week?