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August 24, 2014

In July we had 5 weddings and in August we have 4.  Congratulations to all of you who have an anniversary of your wedding in August.  A lot of elements keep marriage together but also a lot of factors break marriage apart.  Taking each other for granted is one of them.  Here is an example:

A police officer pulled over a speeding car. The officer said, I clocked you at 80 miles per hour, sir."

The driver answered, "Gee, officer I had it on cruise control at 60; perhaps your radar gun needs calibrating." Not looking up from her knitting the wife said: "Now don't be silly dear, you know that this car doesn't have cruise control." As the officer wrote out the ticket, the driver looked over at his wife and growled, "Can't you please keep your mouth shut for once?" The wife smiled demurely and said, "You should be thankful your radar detector went off when it did."

As the officer made out the second ticket for the illegal radar detector unit, the man glared at his wife and said through clenched teeth, "Darn it, woman, can't you keep your mouth shut?" The officer frowned and said, "And I notice that you're not wearing your seat belt, sir. That's an automatic $75 fine."

The driver said, "Yeah, well you see officer, I had it on, but I took it off when you pulled me over so that I could get my license out of my back pocket." The wife spoke, "Now, dear, you know very well that you didn't have your seat belt on. You never wear your seat belt when you're driving.”  And as the police officer was writing out the third ticket the driver turned to his wife and barked, "WHY DON'T YOU PLEASE SHUT UP?" The officer looks over at the woman and asked, "Does your husband always talk to you this way, Ma'am?"

(I love this part...)

"Oh no, only when he's been drinking."

In this weekend’s Gospel we see Jesus talking about the new sacred order, the Church. He begins by telling Simon his insight (“You are the Christ, Son of the Living God”) did not come from the natural order, but from the Father. Then he changes Simon's name to rock, stating that upon him he will build his church. Those words rankle people who want Jesus' Church to become a free-flowing, egalitarian institution. But it gets worse.

Jesus not only identifies Peter as the rock foundation of his Church, he gives him extraordinary powers. The Old Testament reading tells about Eliakim who replaces a palace official named Shebna. The process involved having the “key of the house of David” placed on his shoulder. It gave him an authority next to the King. Likewise, Jesus entrusts the “keys of the kingdom” to Peter, so he can open and shut, loose and bind.
“What happened to the keys? Were they buried with Peter?” They were not. He passed them to his successor, in this case Linus (the second Pope), who in turn gave them to Cletus (the third Pope). “Who holds the keys today?” Pope Francis. Jesus meant the keys to be handed on is evident from his words, “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it (my church).”

Thus Jesus established a sacred order, a hierarchy for his Church. It does not mean every utterance of the pope will be correct. Nor does it mean his every action will be holy. History unfortunately provides many examples to the contrary. But it does mean we can trust that the Holy Spirit will use the Church’s teachings, which Jesus set up, to give us sound doctrine.

This is no small guarantee. When you consider how many divergent teachings have sprung up (all of them claiming a Scriptural basis) it is quite amazing the 267 popes from Peter to Francis have held such a steady course. Small credit goes to human holiness or wisdom. Even Peter, so close to Christ, made embarrassing stumbles. For the office of Peter we can only give credit to Christ and his Holy Spirit. He willed a sacred order for his Church. Our task today is to see beyond scandals and disappointments – and to find our place within that order.