21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 22: 19 -23; Romans 11: 33 - 36; Matthew 16; 13-20 “ Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God.”
Peter’s response “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” to the question of Jesus, “ Who do you say that I am?” came from the wisdom of God which had been revealed to him as he experienced Jesus on his journey. When I consider my answer to that question, I look at how Jesus has been revealed to me in all the circumstances of my life. One such event was my encounter with another Peter many years ago, when I first came to the Highbridge section of the Bronx. He was the middle-aged alcoholic son of Brigid, a daily Communicant, who prayed aloud everyday at Mass for her son, who had strayed from the sacraments. After his mother passed away, we heard that Peter had been diagnosed with cancer and was not doing well. I called him and asked if he would be up for a visit and if I could bring him Communion. He was very pleased that I had called and invited me to his apartment – Brigid’s apartment.
When I rang the doorbell and Peter opened the door, his dog Lucky began barking uncontrollably. Shouting for the dog to shut up, he led me into the kitchen where he motioned for me to sit at the table. He proceeded to clear the table and wipe it with a dirty sponge, apologizing for the mess in the kitchen, with newspapers strewn about and dirty dishes and pots and pans in the sink.
Peter joined me for a cup of coffee, while Lucky sniffed about the place and continued to bark, while Peter scolded him to shut up! While he was putting the coffee mugs in the sink, I invited Peter to join me in prayer. I had brought a candle, which I lit and placed on a white linen doily on the table setting down the pyx containing the Eucharist upon it. The altar was set.
As Peter approached the table he wiped his hands with a kitchen towel and began to cry. He started to confess aloud all that he had done in his life that messed him up and to ask for God’s forgiveness. We prayed the Our Father, with the dog barking at intervals and Peter shouting for him to shut up. When I held up the host, Peter began to talk to Jesus as if He were physically present in the kitchen and told Him how much he loved his mother and how sorry he was to have caused her such pain. He said that he knew he deserved to be punished and that he did not feel worthy to receive the Eucharist.
When I told him how much God still loved him and was a forgiving God, who wanted to come to him, he opened his mouth and received the Eucharist amid the flow of tears and Lucky’s barking!
I believe that Peter was united with Jesus that morning in a special way and that I came to a better understanding of Jesus’ Presence in the midst of the human struggle.
Peter died in his sleep about a week later and I know that He was taken into his heavenly home embraced by God’s abiding love for Him. Now he knows for sure! Brigid’s prayers were answered.
May we continue to open ourselves to the presence of God in every moment, even in the most unlikely places.
Sister Mary Doris, O.P.