Fr. BIll’s last homily as our pastor – “You have the words of eternal life”

Homily, 21st Sunday O.T., Year B                                      August 26, 2012 

Joshua 24.1-2a, 15-18;  Psalm 14,1-2, 15-22;   Ephesians 4.32 – 5.1-2, 21-32;  John 6.53, -6-69


In spite of the heat, please, allow me to say a few words about that spontaneous reaction of Peter in today’s Gospel passage: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” I love that line of Peter; it is really vintage Peter; and it seems to me that Peter is here the spokesperson for all of us. I like to think that with our assembling here we basically say the same thing. On the part of Peter it illustrates that honest faith-stance vis-à-vis Jesus. It does not mean that everything about Jesus was clear to Peter. He had his difficulties with Jesus. Remember, a little later Peter will argue with Jesus when Jesus talks about the path of suffering and death that he will go. And towards the end Peter will even deny knowing Jesus. And yet, what Peter says here is so very honest, so authentic. Beautiful!


There is enough honesty in Peter to admit that he sees something in Jesus that he does not get elsewhere… What does Peter see in Jesus? It is difficult to articulate… “You have words of eternal life.” Peter has caught a glimpse of God in Jesus, a glimpse of God that at the same time fills Peter’s hunger and thirst for life in all its fullness… Peter has a hunch that Jesus is it for him, and he follows that hunch.


That is what, I believe, the faith journey for all of us is all about, for you, for me. When coming face to face with Jesus, even if lots about Jesus is not very clear, I hope we can get those words of Peter over our lips. Yes, the Christian faith journey has for all of us to do with Jesus… perhaps today even more so than ever before. Being Christian cannot be a cultural thing… it has to do with how Jesus functions in our lives: not a made-to-measure, a domesticated Jesus, but the real Jesus of the Gospels.  


If, in some small way, my ministry among you over the years has contributed to bringing the person and message of Jesus within your reach, to putting you in touch with the person of Jesus, then let us together give thanks and praise to God. After all, what really matters is our listening to Jesus, not your listening to this preacher, but our shared listening to Jesus, because only his words are spirit and life.


If there is anything I hope and pray for is that we can make Peter’s words our own, and that we are prepared to support each other in stammering and holding on to those words of Peter. That, in the end, makes us church. Because church is for me a bunch of men and women of different ages who support each other in stammering those words of Peter. And that support for each other will make us together sing those beautiful words of today’s psalm: “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”

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