Thursday, August 07, 2008

Thursday in the 18th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Crossing the Threshold

Readings: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalms 51:12-13, 14-15, 18-19; Matthew 16:13-23
Picture: CC moufle

My mom’s dog is a lovable fellow. He knows he’s not allowed into the house. And, for the most part, he’s pretty obedient. But sometimes he finds himself torn between obedience and desire. Maybe the people in the house are doing something that looks very fun – like playing a game or eating something that smells very good, for example – and he can’t bear to be stuck outside looking in. But he also remembers the no entry rule. So what does he do? He puts his two front paws inside the house, while keeping the rest of his body outside. He positions himself on the threshold – neither fully in nor fully out.

I’m reminded of the dog today, because our readings present us with a kind of threshold – a doorway between two spaces. The first reading speaks of these two spaces in terms of two different covenants between God and God’s people. The first was brokered in the mists of the past (after the Exodus). The second would be made in the fullness of time. The first was written on tablets of stone. The second would be written on human hearts. The first seemed to require specialized information understood only by legal experts. The second would be rooted in something more personal and relational, a knowing that was accessible to all. The first was broken by the people’s infidelity, symbolized by the breaking of the stone tablets of Moses. The second would be rendered enduring and eternal, because it would be forged out of the broken and resurrected body of God’s only begotten Son.

These then are the two spaces described in the first reading. And here, in the gospel, is the threshold: Jesus himself. Which is why the question asked by Jesus of his disciples is so important. In asking it, Jesus is not just testing to see if his disciples have the right information, whether they know the right words. He is inviting them, and us, to walk across the threshold, to enter through him, into the fullness of covenantal living. Never mind what others say about me, you… who do you say I am?

And, through the accuracy of his words, Peter shows that he has received a divine revelation. It was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven… Peter is indeed on the way towards crossing the threshold, towards knowing and following Christ. But he is not quite there yet. He hasn’t quite crossed over. Although his words are accurate, the rest of him is not quite in the right place. He is able to recognize Christ as the One chosen by God to heal the broken. But he is not willing to accept that Christ must do this by first being broken for those who would be healed. This must not happen to you… And, through his protest, Peter demonstrates that while he may be able to talk the talk, he’s not quite ready to walk the walk. Not only is he tempting Christ away from Calvary, he’s also resisting the cross that every disciple of Christ is called to bear. Like my mother’s dog, his heart is still torn. He remains only on the threshold. Not quite out, but not quite in.

Jesus’ response to Peter may seem harsh. But it is really the only solution to Peter’s – and to our – difficulty. Get behind me… Follow wherever I go. Do whatever I do. Get your body across the threshold that I am. Allow yourself to be broken, as I was, and so enter into the fullness of life.

And what of us? How are we being invited to cross the threshold today?


  1. We are asked to cross over the threshold, the unknown, all the time. When there is a choice, we have to decide. Our ability and freedom to make that choice; unhampered, is all the more cogent than that of our furry friends.
    If Jesus does appear and we are confronted by Him today, I wonder would I be able to recognize Him?? Being fully human, he will be shorn of halos, dazzling countenance or bright aura and like the song by Joan Osborne goes -
    What if God was one of us?
    Just a slob like one of us
    Just a stranger on the bus
    Trying to make his way home ...
    So Peter made the decision to follow Jesus using his heart - unlike us, more prone to use our head. Will I be up to the task when invited? If I cannot Jesus in everyone, how can I learn to love anyone (Blessed Mother Theresa). I can only endeavor to take small steps towards the ultimate reality.

  2. What does it mean to allow ourselves to be broken as He was? To accept what looks like senseless suffering? Maybe I can understand if this means choosing not to abort an abnormal baby and so allowing oneself to be broken by the pain of seeing the pain of the baby and the pain of having to take care of him or her for life. But how do we know which pains are part of God's will (and so accept it) and which pains are not part of God's will (and so find ways to overcome them)? Or do we accept all pains that come to us with meekness and also find peaceful means of overcoming them?


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