In monastic tradition we find wisdom stories of dessert Ammas (mothers) Abbas (fathers). The following story is a story about two dessert fathers. (I have changed the original name of the two dessert fathers in order to make it sound more contemporary for our ears.)
Fr. Pachomius and Fr. Anthony of the desert met for an afternoon coffee one day. Fr. Anthony has been a priest and a monk for about sixty years. So we could tell that he is been around the block for a while. While Fr. Pachomius is a young buck who has been a priest for about twenty five years. Fr. Pachomius always considered Fr. Anthony as his spiritual mentor. So when they get together they will end up having some deep meaningful conversations. So this day when they came together they happen to stumble upon the topic of knowledge/ or knowing. So Fr. Pachomius tells Fr. Anthony that “When I read scriptures, my mind is fully concentrated on the words so that I may have something to say if I am asked a question” Fr. Anthony the older and wise monk priest replies “That is not necessary; it is better to enrich yourself through purity of spirit and to be without anxiety and then to speak.”
In Jesus’ time there were people who paid close attention to the teachings of Jesus. In today’s text we have Jesus’ disciples who associated with him more closely. They paid closer attention to Jesus’ teachings. So Jesus asks them what do others say who he is?
The first question is directed towards a different group other than the disciples. Jesus does not tell who he is referring to but simply “people”. Now we know Jesus encountered many people during his ministry. Some of them were the priests and lawyers at the temples and synagogues. These were the learned crowd, men who read the Torah very closely, men who knew of the Law. These men had a good knowledge of the Law and the scriptures.
However, these learned men did not even come close to recognizing Jesus as the Son of God, the second person in the Trinity. Instead it was a simple regular Joe, Peter who proclaims the divinity of Christ. Now Peter does not have much of a good track record. Throughout the scriptures we find events that show the weaknesses of Peter. Few weeks ago we heard how Jesus had to save Peter from drowning in the Ocean. Jesus accuses Peter at that moment for having a weak faith. We see whenever Peter gets anxious he tells the wrong thing. For example when his anxiety kicks in he start drowning. When his anxiety kicks in the middle of a larger crowd who is taking Jesus to crucify he denies Jesus three times, when his anxiety kicks in Peter cuts one of the guards ears who came to arrest Jesus, And when his anxiety kicks in, Peter tries to stop Jesus going to Jerusalem, because he does not want Jesus to die, So Jesus refers to him as Satan.
And this same weak blabber mouth Peter today proclaims the most important revelation in the History, which is Jesus is the Son of the Living God. The word that became incarnate. Peter wasn’t a scholar, but he was a simple man. He was a man with doubts, fears and feelings just like us. Yet, he was an authentic and simple man. That purity of spirit that Peter had allowed him to open up himself to see the true face of Christ. The purity of spirit allowed Peter to receive the Grace of God which helps the scales in his eyes to fall and to gain confidence to proclaim the Ultimate Truth of Christ’s divinity. At this particular moment Peter’s anxieties, worries and fears all have fallen like scales. At that moment, Peter becomes totally receptive God and Christ promises that nothing in the world could stand against Peter, not even the gates of the netherworld.
As Fr. Anthony said in the story, God does not expect us to memorize every single scripture passage and all the rules and regulations. But what he expects from us is the purity of heart and to let go of our anxieties, so we can be totally receptive to his Grace. When we let go of our anxieties and fears, we make room for the Spirit of God to enter into our selves. When the Spirit of God is within us, just like God promised Peter, he promises each and every one of us that the gates of the netherworld won’t prevail against us. So going forth this week, let’s think about one worry, one uncertainty and anxiety that we can let go of in order to make little room for the Spirit of God to fill us.