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XXI Sunday in Ordinary Time. Reflection of the Word of God.

According to Matthew’s reckoning, it was not that Peter blurted out the correct response by dumb luck or that he shared aloud his long-held private belief about Jesus at a well-timed moment. Peter’s response was, to Jesus, a sign that the Holy Spirit was with him.

Peter’s susceptibility to the promptings of grace was far more important than the idea that he might be smart enough to have figured Jesus out. Intelligence was nice enough as far as it goes—but the capacity to channel inspiration was what Jesus was looking for in a leader.

Much can be said about what Peter was not. His faith faltered in moments of crisis, as when he tried to walk on water. He lacked courage in the face of outside challenge; witness his waffling on the matter of eating with Gentiles in Acts. Peter could not be depended on for loyalty, a failing that grieved him terribly in the time of his historic denial. He was as capable of getting the answer very wrong as well as spectacularly right. It is obvious that Peter was not chosen to lead the church because he was perfect. His appointment did not come as a result of his strengths any more than it did in spite of his weaknesses.

What made Peter a good choice, the premiere choice, is that the Holy Spirit demonstrably could work with him. Seminaries may balk at the implications for their discernment process, and parish councils may be baffled as to how to put this idea into practice. Susceptibility to the Holy Spirit remains the best criteria for choosing leadership in the church today.

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