“Tu Es Petrus” by Fr Martin Loftus

“Tu Es Petrus”                       Reflection for 21 Sunday 


When I was growing up, nick-names were very common. Some of these nick-names were often used to describe a person’s role. For example, there was a man who grew potatoes, who was known as “Spud Murphy”.’ Then the farmer, a big red-faced man who delivered the vegetables, he was known as “Beet-root”! The name that Jesus gave Simon, in today’s Gospel, was like one of those! It referred to his future role. The name itself was “Cephas” or “Rock”! For Jesus said: “you are Peter, and on this Rock, I will build my Church!”

Do you remember that text from childhood? I do! My father, who was a big catholic man, never tired of quoting it! Rocks are forever! They never let you down. Old castles might collapse; but the church would never shift, or founder, or subside! It would always be there! And Peter, the Pope, had his feet on solid ground! His Church was not going to wobble! Little did we think, that this solid church of my boyhood could be brought down so quickly! It reminds me of the earthquake in Assisi in Sept 1997 when the beautiful frescos by Giotto – which had lasted 700 years, came crashing down from the vaulted ceiling – and lay in bits on the basilica floor. It is such a strong image of our own broken humanity; our broken economy; and our fractured church. The headlines in the newspapers over the last number of years, have turned many people against us.

Sad to say, that any time you hear bad news about a priest, then, unfortunately,’ The media elevate it, to apply to every priest, and to the entire catholic church!

I remember a story of Dorothy Day, who had just attended mass with a friend in New York. The priest, who said the mass, was extremely bad; he had no reverence; & he was abrupt; and his sermon was extraordinarily boring. On the way home, the friend was wondering how Dorothy would react. After walking a bit in silence, Dorothy day simply said: “if the church can survive priests like that, it just goes to prove that god must be with it! Many people identify the Church as: the Pope, the bishops and priests. But they are numerically a small part of our Church. We are the church, all of us, and we compose it!

What I’m saying, is, that for all our human-ness, and mistakes, and even sinfulness, we always have confidence, that the bottom-line reality is Jesus! Jesus is the rock; he is the bedrock on which we can build and stand firm! It is he who works his grace through us; imperfect, and fractured, as we are!

To conclude, I must tell you the finish of the story about the frescos of Giotto, which fell down! Would you believe it? They gathered up every single fragment; and after 5 years of painstaking work, the restored ceiling was unveiled in 2002. Five years of patient endurance, had restored those broken fragments to their former glory!

May it be our hope this morning, and our belief, that Christ, who loves us in our brokenness, and who built the church on the rock of peter, may restore it into a humbler, holier, and more serving church, than it ever was before.