Thursday August 9, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Numbers 20:1-13) Gospel (St. Matthew 16:13-23)
In the readings today there is a common theme of a rock. We hear about the rock in the Old Testament reading from Numbers; we hear about it in the psalm; and we hear Saint Peter being called a rock in the Gospel reading. We have to ask ourselves what this is all about. First of all, we look at the psalm and it is there that we see God is called "a rock." And the Lord tells us in the Gospel that we are to build our house upon a rock, not on the sand. It is to be built on God because God is the only one who is called a rock in the Old Testament. Then, in the Gospel reading, Jesus gives to Saint Peter a share in His work, a share in His own authority.
Jesus Christ is the rock. When we look in the New Testament readings, Saint Paul even talks about that: He tells us that Jesus is "the capstone", "a stumbling stone", and "the cornerstone." With regard to the Old Testament, he says that the rock that gave them water and followed them through the desert was Christ. We see this point about the rock.
Then Jesus gives Peter the same name: rock. In Greek, the word actually means "a small little rock" whereas, when it talks about Jesus, it would be "a big rock." So He gives to Peter a share in his own office, in His own ministry; and that is the rock upon which Jesus builds His house, His Church. Each one of us, as a member of that household, are founded solidly on rock. And, thanks be to God, He has made a clear promise to us that the jaws of hell will not prevail against His Church. It does not matter if the winds blow and the rains come, the house is built solidly on rock.
We need to make sure that we are solid on that rock because we can also see that it is at a rock where it cost Moses and Aaron dearly. They were disobedient to God and it cost them going into the Promised Land. And if we, on this rock upon which we are built, are disobedient to God, the "promised land" that we might be excluded from is far more important. We are not talking about a physical Promised Land, we are talking about Heaven.
We need to be careful because Moses and Aaron stood before the rock and God had commanded them to speak to the rock. Moses took out his staff, hit the rock, and the water came forth. Immediately, God said: "Because you have been disobedient and have not shown forth My sanctity, you will not enter the Promised Land." It was Moses' pride that got in the way. In his arrogance, he was going to show off a little bit to the Israelites and that cost him the opportunity to lead the people into the Promised Land. He was going to die in the desert because of his disobedience.
We see Peter being called a rock, and on that rock the Church is going to be built. The very next thing Peter does is he gets proud and turns around - now he is going to try to teach Jesus: "Lord, this cannot happen to you! God forbid! May this never occur!" All of a sudden, he turns and starts looking at things, once again, from a human point of view. He tries to take matters into his own hands and says, "Well, if this is who I am (a rock), then I can make all these decisions." No. Like Moses and Aaron, you need to go to God, but then do it God's way.
It is the same for us: We need to turn to the Lord. We are members of His household; we are built on Jesus Christ; we need to turn to the Lord so that whatever it is that we do, we make sure it is done according to God's Will. Moses and Aaron went to God, they found God's Will, and they were disobedient. Peter comes to the Lord, he makes his profession of faith, and then he becomes disobedient. We must be careful that we do not follow the same suit. The pattern is there and we know our own pride well enough; we know that we can do the same. So we need to look to the Lord, and more importantly than just looking to Him, we must listen to what He says and be obedient.
Note: Father Altier does not write his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.