Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rocks are chosen, not born

Twenty First Ordinary Sunday Year A

We all know Simon Peter as the one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. But Peter was not his original name. His original name was Simon, a Hebrew name. In today’s gospel, Jesus gives him a new name. With the new name comes a new identity, a new role and a new mission.

At baptism, each of us is given a Christian name in addition to the name given to us by our family. This is important because like Peter, we too are given a new identity, a new role and a new mission. We are no longer the son or the daughter of so-and-so. We are no longer someone with a particular surname. We are no longer just a member of a particular family. Through our baptism and through our naming, we are now made members of a bigger family – the family of the Church. Through our naming and baptism we are made children of God. As Christians, we are now given a new mission in life.

The gospel tells us the meaning of Peter’s name. It means “rock.” Now, we all can understand the symbolism of the rock – it represents something solid, strong, and stable. Was this the character of Peter? Surprisingly, the Peter that we see in the gospels turns out to be in contrast with this image of the rock. We see Peter as someone who is weak, who changes his position and decision when faced with problems, someone who deserts Jesus and runs away in order to save his own life. Does this mean that Jesus made a mistake by naming Peter as ‘rock’?

The answer is a definite No. Jesus was able to see potential in Peter, although it was not visible to others or even to Peter himself. The choice of God is not based on the ability of the one chosen. Rather, the choice of God transforms the person chosen. This is what vocation is all about. Vocation isn’t about God calling and choosing persons who are worthy and qualified. On the contrary, God often calls those who in the eyes of the world are not qualified or worthy. This is what St. Paul meant in the second reading: “How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge – and how impossible to penetrate his motives or understand his methods! Who could ever know the mind of the Lord?”

If we were given a chance to choose the Twelve Apostles, we would perhaps had chosen more qualified candidates – persons who are prayerful, who know their catechism well, who are good leaders, who are unselfish. But Jesus didn’t call any of these. Rather, Jesus called sinners, fishermen, tax collectors, cheats, prostitutes etc. If we are prepared to heed the call of God, in spite of our weaknesses and limitation, his choice will begin the transformation within us.

Our call is always the initiative of God. God chooses us not because of any qualification or merit on our part. God chooses us in spite of our weaknesses and limitations. God chooses the weak to shame the strong. God chooses the foolish to shame the wise. God chooses the sinner to shame the righteous.

Perhaps, this will help us to understand that the leaders of the Church may not always meet our expectations. But our expectations are not important. We will never have perfect leaders. But what is of the utmost importance is this - God’s freedom to choose whoever he wants and his ability to use those persons in spite of their weaknesses. Let us continue to pray for them and for ourselves that we will always be open to the call of God who raises the lowly and humbles the proud.