My Dear Parishioners:

I believe it was Winston Churchill who said, “Democracy is a terrible form of government.” But then he added, “There is no other form that is better.” Sometimes our best choice is far from perfect. We end up choosing something that really does not please us, but we do so precisely because no better options are available.

This seems to be the situation with Peter in today’s gospel. Many people are finding that Jesus’ teaching is difficult, hard to accept. So, they are leaving. They are no longer traveling in his company. Jesus asks Peter, “Do you also want to leave?” and Peter says, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Now notice, Peter is not affirming Jesus’ teaching. He is not saying that he is happy with it. He understands why so many people are leaving, but he is going to stay. But he is not staying because he is excited about staying. He is going to stay because where else can he go? Even though Jesus’ teaching is difficult and troublesome, Peter knows that there is no better option available to him.

The good news about today’s gospel is that Jesus lets Peter stay. Even though Peter is unhappy, even though he finds the teaching difficult, Jesus is willing to accept Peter as a disciple on those terms. Peter can remain a disciple even though the only reason he is staying is because he does not have a better place to go.

Jesus’ acceptance of Peter’s faith clarifies for us what discipleship and what faith are about. Sometimes we think that we believe in God because it is going to make us happy. Indeed, sometimes it does make us happy. But that is not why we believe. We believe in God because it is true, and the truth of that belief does not guarantee that life will be easy. Sometimes we think that we believe in God because it is going to answer all our questions. Sometimes it does give us a good deal of insight. But that is not why we believe. We believe in God because God is real. But that faith does not give us all the answers and does not guarantee that we will be pleased with the answers we receive.

We can be disciples of Jesus even though we are discouraged, even though we have doubts, even though we are afraid. When troubles in our family continue to disrupt our lives, when our health deteriorates, when people whom we love make decisions that wound us, it does not mean that our faith is misplaced or that God is not God. It is a reminder to us that God’s ways are often unclear and frequently burdensome. The troubles and difficulties of our life tell us that faith is as much about persevering as it is about celebrating and much more about trusting than understanding.

Now, of course, all of us would prefer a life that is simple, clear, and easy. But those are not gifts which discipleship guarantees. Sometimes we merely need to hold on because there is no better place to go. And Jesus, like he did with Peter, is more than willing to accept us and our faith on those terms.

When we understand what faith and discipleship are truly about, we are able to pray, “Lord Jesus, even though it is difficult, even though I am confused, even though it hurts, I still believe in you. But thank you for giving me the freedom to say I’m not happy about it—and if I had a better option, I would take it.”

Fr. Monteleone

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