“I dismiss you from your office..I remove you from your post” Shebna gets a straight red card from God..for being corrupt or incompetent? & God’s description of his immediate successor Eliakim gives a fair indication of what God would like from him, & from you & I, as trustworthy stewards..
“..he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem” ..a guardian within this our faith community/family.. ; Lord have mercy “..should he open, no one shall close..” a caretaker & a keyholder.. ; Christ have mercy “..I drive him like a tent peg into a firm place” ..a rock of reliability & dependability.. ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
..in these extraordinary times, our young people, expecting to sit public examinations on which the next stage of their growth in learning & maturity will be seasoned, have been badly let down by stewards of education, who have been shown to be less than reliable, transparent & trustworthy; calling for resignations or red cards isn’t the answer. In gospel we find Jesus the teacher practising continuing assessment with his student disciples, & self-assessment on himself as his own capabilities as a steward/custodian of holiness; he the forerunner of Holy Spirit, herself the caretaker. Jesus has shared time story & wisdom with them out on front line, on work experience for three terms, & now he takes them back into classroom in Caesarea Philippi for some extra tuition & a deeper encounter. He asks easy starter question 2 marks “who do people say the Son of Man is?” what is word on street, in parish, in classroom & staffroom, & in the White Swan, about me?..mixed feedback “some John the Baptist, others Elijah, others one of prophets” in other words much same as other religious leaders we’ve seen before..you fit the role & the habit..word of mouth & reputation is orthodox rather than radical traditional rather than revolutionary ; safe & reliable rather than prophetic & dangerous. What the rest of our two villages Ampleforth & Gilling think of Jesus Christ is judged/assessed perhaps by those who believe in God but no longer come to Church, on us, you & I, we supposedly trustworthy stewards..our behaviour & witness, how different we have shown ourselves to be during the last 21 wks of Covid lockdown, the value added we have contributed to those in extremes of age & health, those in financial difficulties, marriage or family breakdown, young disciples emotionally torn apart as educational future is at risk, young parents anxious over sending their children back to St Benedict’s PS next month..how different are we coping with all of this in comparison to Joe Bloggs “unbeliever”?..as if ever there could be anyone in such a state of mind..& then Section B question worth 30 marks “who do you say I am?” Simon as ever first to risk walking on water, offers his understanding.. “you are the Christ” you can feel Jesus’ relief & joy, like any good teacher, the right answer to a deep searching question affirms both student & teacher, two happy men! the partnership is up & running, work & prayer in progress; the A*award & the deepening relationship is immediately grown on, “so I now say to you, you are Peter & on this rock I will build my Church”..huge risk & act of faith as the teacher appoints his own earthly successor; a new name signifying the new relationship; Peter/Cephas/rock; a rock as we now know which was to be tested not by Jesus nor his Father, but, like us in Covid, by life & faith circumstances; a Peter who would argue black was white with his Master, who’d disown Jesus three times in space of few minutes, who had to be asked three times in as many minutes “Simon, do you love me?”; who confrontationally gave his Master the third degree “what about us? We have left everything & followed you. What are we to have, then?” who’d fall asleep at the moment of Jesus’ greatest ever need & despair, who’d wobble badly when Mary Magdalen came to tell him that Jesus had risen “he wouldn’t appear to her first before me would he?..would he?” & all this, the real Peter, made him the candidate, the star pupil; as book on Peter said “he came to God by doing it wrong” which makes him ideal template for you & I to aspire to, & let’s be honest, we are making a pretty good fist of it are we not?.. keyholders, custodians of the faith & of that special relationship we have with Christ, in Christ, through Christ.fine book now out of print “New Hearts New Models” by Donal O’Leary priest of Leeds Diocese; title fits well for us post-Covid disciples & priests; he gives, as Christ did to Peter, priests, & now perhaps us after our Covid experiences, new titles, awarded on depth of their spirituality 8 titles 8 beatitudes 8 “be-attitudes” attitude that believes one can walk on water; priests & each of you in our discipleship of self-sacrificial service “in persona Christi” in the person of Christ..our value added; to have seen you in ministry in our localilty during Covid is to have seen Christ..Christ in you..listen to Christ in you in these 8 “be-attitudes” hear your own state & truth “farmer of hearts; prophet of beauty; healer of fear; midwife of mystery; soul-friend of community; weaver of wholeness; voice of the silent; sacrament of compassion” now glow with joy & delight in seeing yourself in ministry in three four or eight of these awards “who do you say I am?” I will give you the keys, the pastoral responsibility, to open closed & rusted hearts, remove masks of pretence & protectionism, the call & power of the trusted steward..& as often with Matthew a strange ending to gospel & my homily.. “he gave disciples strict orders not to tell anyone who he was” essence of a good teacher & parent; you don’t give pupils or your children the answers; you gradually give them a graded exposition; primary Yr 5, secondary Yr 12, university 2nd year..so that eventually, those you teach, those who don’t come to this classroom for the time being, for good reason or poor excuse, will eventually be able to answer the key question for themselves “who do you say I am?”..& the sparkle diamond in the eye of the responder is worth more than your body weight in gold..& some sadly think teachers are in it for the money.. & monks as an escape from real life.. what brought you here to Mass tonight/this morning? & what will have changed, in you through you & with you, by the time you leave us?.. ..or do you ever leave Christ & us?..the answer is priceless.. [ 21stSun YrA Mt 16;13-20 ]