St. Peter - Healing Scandal and Strengthening the Flock

Homily for May 14th, Feast of St. Matthias Apostle

by Fr. Tommy Lane

In the Scriptures today we see Peter the first Pope immediately having to deal with scandal in the first days of his ministry, the scandal of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and the manner of Judas’ death, the scandal - we could say- of the one of the first twelve bishops fallen from grace (Acts 1:15-17, 20-26). As Peter rises to the task we see him fulfilling the ministry bestowed upon him by Christ. This ministry is described in three different ways in the Gospels. In Matt 16:18-19 Jesus says to Peter, “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” During the Last Supper in Luke Jesus says to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31-32). Three times in John 21 by the Sea of Galilee after Jesus had risen from the dead he asked Peter if he loved him and asked him to look after the sheep. Now after Jesus’ Ascension, Peter rises to the task; in the act of replacing Judas he binds on earth, he strengthens the brethren and looks after the flock. The successor of Peter today carries on the same task of healing scandal, binding on earth, strengthening the brethren and looking after the flock.

Matthias was chosen to replace Judas. We know little about him apart from the tradition that he was martyred. Times have not changed; good news doesn’t make the headlines but the bad news about his predecessor is remembered. Another way in which times have not changed is that the early Church struggled to try to understand how Judas could have done what he did. In the first reading today we see one way they tried to cope; they turned to Sacred Scripture finding some answer to the situation, however unsatisfactory, in the book of the Psalms. That is also a lesson for us; to turn to Scripture and prayer for answers in the midst of difficulties. And those difficulties would be much less if we remembered to keep the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” (John 15:9)

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered in Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.