OPEN MOUTH, INSERT FOOT
This young woman had just started a new job and had to go thru three days of training. Right away, she felt that the job was absolutely terrible, but she had never quit a job. She didn’t know what to do since she felt that throughout the training she was being treated like an idiot and it was making her angry. After her third day of training, she came home so angry and worked up she decided to go down to a small bar to have a drink (yes she was over 21 folks). She walked in and her friends started asking her about the new job and she just went off with and unloaded everything that had been pent up inside her from the past three days: How the place stunk, the people were jerks, how she couldn’t believe the place stayed in business with such morons running the place. The bartender started laughing so hard, he was practically doubled over falling on the ground. He looked at her and said, it’s probably too late to tell you this, but you are sitting next to the general manager of your new company. Must’ve been fun going to work on Monday, huh?
Sticking your foot in your mouth - when we hear story like that we are REALLY uncomfortable, and probably laugh not only because they’re just so BRUTAL and INSANE but because we know we’ve been there too. All of us can remember times when we’ve “stuck our foot in our mouth.”
In today’s gospel, St. Peter has that kind of experience. St. Peter (in the verses right before this passage, which we heard last Sunday) says to Jesus when he’s asked “Who do you say I am” - Peter responds - you are the Christ, the son of the Living God - and Jesus says to Peter – who so often is just a screw up, who so often gets it wrong, who so often ends up with HIS foot in his mouth – Blessed are you - you are Peter, and upon [you] I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you [Peter] the keys to the kingdom of heaven - whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.
So that had just happened. Peter’s feeling like, for once in a LONG time, I’m having a good day - and, here it comes... - Jesus tells his disciples - look guys, things are going to get bad - we’re going to Jerusalem, everyone’s going to turn on me, I’m going to get tortured, killed - and on the third day I’ll be raised from the dead. And Peter jumps up “God forbid Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you” - and with that, Jesus the son of God calls Peter - Satan. YIKES! Sorry Peter, Open mouth, insert foot...
But on the surface, it doesn’t seem like a foot in a mouth thing though, does it? I mean, Peter’s trying to look out for Jesus, and saying “I don’t want you to suffer and die.” Jesus seems a bit harsh, doesn’t he?
What Jesus was trying to do to Peter was to say - you can’t just think in human, earthly ways - you can’t let emotion get the best of you or operate out of your feelings all the time. You can’t go from calling me “the Christ, the son of God” to then not listening to what I’m telling you, to not believing that my Father and I know what we’re doing...You can’t think you know the way to go. You have to follow me...
So in this case, maybe the problem wasn’t the foot in his mouth as much as it was the foot in his ears closing him off from listening to what the Son of God was saying - it was the foot in his heart (or would that be on his heart? Whatever..) The foot on his heart blocking those words challenging him to have that deeper faith, more intimate, more powerful relationship with Jesus - a relationship he would need in order for Peter to be our first Pope and lead the Church after Jesus’ ascension.
Jesus was trying to get Peter out of himself, out of his ego of thinking that “here I am, Jesus just said I’m the Rock, I’m going to be the Pope” - he’s moving Peter out of thinking simply in human terms and to realize he must always be focused on Jesus alone.
That’s what Jesus is challenging all of us to do as well in this Gospel passage tonight. To as St. Paul put it, not conform ourselves to this age - to take up our cross and follow him. Jesus is telling us that when we do that when we embrace our cross, follow Him, and live as he did - we find true freedom, we find true independence, we find our very selves. Then, our feet remain far from our heart, ears and yes, even our mouth. In embracing the cross our feet end up being right where they belong – taking steps to follow Christ.
Posted by Fr. Jim Chern