Saturdays with Simon Peter–Forgiveness Goes Both Ways

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I heard once that forgiveness is one of the most powerful forces in the world.  I have to think that the flip side makes it needed because guilt are pretty powerful as well.  We need forgiveness.  We crave it even when we do not know we are.  If it is bad enough then in seeps into our guts and we do what we can to medicate it even with unhealthy means. 

            Bet getting out of that spectrum is being the one that has been wronged.  We see someone that has wronged us and we want justice.  We want them to get what they have coming to them.  For those of us that get a taste of the beauty of the message of forgiveness, the question we then ask is, “How much is my limit?”  It is a pattern that does not change over time. 

            And definitely it is a pattern that existed in the time of Jesus. 

Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

 

            Oh, come on! I have people I want to condemn! After they blow it seven times I can get on to cutting them off at the least!

 

            Jesus blows out the paradigm of forgiveness rationing and other grace-exits by basically making it a non-stop part of life.  It was a challenge to Peter as it is to us now. 

 

            But scripture tells us that we should forgive others just as God has forgiven you in Christ.  But on the really gritty side, to extend God’s grace in forgiveness is assumed to be happening as a given with, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”  It’s presupposed by Jesus to be a given. 

 

            I may lose some of you at this next point: by the time that Jesus tells Peter this, he had established him as his first pope.  What is a pope about? Fundamentally they are about managing things in His Church including sacraments like confession.  That is giving freedom by the power of Jesus.  Persona en Cristi.  It is a powerful thing but all the more reason that Jesus does some formation in Peter because he was going to live as a sacramental sign for God’s forgiveness for much of his life. 

 

            But then there is a flip side for Peter too.  Soon he was going to blow it.  He was going to be the one who denied Jesus three times and would be racked with guilt.  But Jesus forgave him too.  He achingly needed it.  As do we. 

Rocky Mountain High

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Today I am thinking about “Rocky Mountain High”.  Not so much because I like John Denver because I think I could  have taken his milk money away as a kid, but because today the passage reminds me of retreat. 

Going away for a retreat can be a good experience.  But eventually we have to come back to earth.  We are meant to walk this earth announcing in word and deed that God is relevant.  That is at the heart of Jesus’ nature.  “God so loved the world…” is not a catch phrase but a way of life. 

Matthew 17:1 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

 

What an awesome experience!  Let’s turn this into a new village! We’ll hang out, do a  Torah study with Jesus, Moses and Elijah and Jesus will bring the wine.  Sure, I’ve got a wife down the mountain and there are masses of people that want to get into this new kingdom thing (whatever that is) but let’s settle.

 

But with that overwhelming presence of God the Father, Simon Peter gets his perspective readjusted.  But notice it is not, “Listen to my Son or I will smite thee.”  The Father brings it back to love and repeats what He said at the baptism of John the Baptist.  He is well pleased in Jesus.  Jesus is enough. Jesus does not change.   

 

Letting his excitement get ahead of him, Simon Peter puts Moses and Elijah on equal footing with Jesus.  The Father loves those guys, but not like He loves Jesus.  The Father shocks the system of Peter and the others with a humbling reminder of grace. This reminder is on something so fundamental that “Oops.” does not do the moment justice.

 

But wrong does not mean bad and deserving punishment.  So Love Incarnate steps in and does what He does: He pushes out that fear.  1 John 4 says that fear is of punishment but Jesus wants otherwise. 

 

When I was a Protestant, Peter was the comedy relief in a lot of sermons.  Now with a passage like this, I have to laugh at myself.  What goose bumps have I raised to the level of Jesus?  Have I mistaken a definition for myself that is like being too spiritually minded for any earthly good?  Where has Jesus called me down from my “Rocky Mountain High” and I have refused to come down?   

 

Again, Jesus does not change.  But He does love us enough to call us to Himself in purity and practicality.  Let’s cast off pretentions and surrender.