21st Sunday of the Year A (21 Aug 2011)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Scissors, Paper, Rock
That names a game of chance between two people, which I learned as a child. Many of us know it. At the count of three players drop their forearms level with the floor and make one of three configurations with their hands: two fingers out and apart is scissors; palm open facing the floor is paper; and hand made into a fist is rock.
Scissors cuts paper, and when players choose those two configurations, the scissors-player wins the round. Rock breaks scissors and when players choose those two configurations, the rock-player wins the round. Paper covers rock, and when players choose those two configu-rations, the paper-player wins the round.
I was mystified as a child that paper beat rock. My first impression was that rock’s solidity would smash flimsy paper. I didn’t think according to the game’s logic. Paper covers rock, hiding it, thereby winning, despite rock’s hefty, solid character.
The logic of that rule can help us appreciate our Christian faith, which this weekend’s scriptures highlight prominently. Giving voice to God’s desire for God’s people, Isaiah used the image of a peg: I will fix [my servant] like a peg in a sure spot. Faith is both a surety and a security. Isaiah also used the image of a key: I will place the key of the House of David on [my servant’s] shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut when he shuts, no one shall open, words Jesus made his. Faith is a key for our lives, opening onto true meaning and giving our lives true purpose.
Faith is no inanimate object, though, like peg, key, scissors, paper or rock. Jesus’ question to his disciples was no quiz. Who do you say that I am? showed Jesus’ desire for his disciples in each age to know him more intimately: to know and accept him for who Jesus is. Faith is alive; it is relationship, our relationship with Jesus.
Peter’s response to Jesus, that he was God’s Son and Messiah-Savior of the world, personified what we call apostolic faith. Our Christian faith is a gift, handed to us and every generation by the witness of the apostles. Our Christian faith is also divine gift, God’s continuous self-revelation.
Our faith does not paper over events to blot them out or hide painful events, which cut the fabric of our lives. Faith is relationship, our bond with apostles, the Trinity and one another. As relationship, faith keeps us connected with God in Jesus by their Spirit despite events that would tear us from them, from each other or from ourselves.
The relationship, which faith is, is not chance. It is God’s gift, which involves our choice. Faith transforms mastery over the palace of God’s creation entrusted to us into care. Faith trans-forms authority into Christian service so each person and our world may grow more alive.
Our choices to cultivate and deepen our faith have effects not only of a personal kind; our faith and how we live it transform people and our world.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
- Pause in the presence of the Trinity to feel their creative love for you and to rest secure in it.
- Ask Peter—so much like us in our limitations as well as our desire to know Jesus—to present you to Jesus, so you may converse with Jesus.
- Praise Jesus for all Jesus has done and is doing in your life. Speak to Jesus your desire to know him better, and
- ask him for the grace to help you know him better.
- Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us to stay in relationship with his Father and to live our faith by lives of care, genuine service and to rest secure in our ever deepening felt- knowledge of Jesus, our Messiah-Savior.