February 22, 2020
by Eileen Wirth
Creighton University's Journalism Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle
Lectionary: 535


1 Peter 5:1-4
Psalm 23:1-3A, 4, 5, 6
Matthew 16:13-19

Praying Ordinary Time

Do not lord it over those assigned to you but be examples to the flock. I Peter

As a young reporter, I had made a mistake for which the city editor reamed me out in front of the entire newsroom. Such public humiliation was his norm. When someone asked a colleague how long this man had been city editor, she replied, “two years and three eternities.”

Months later, an assistant city editor named Bud who looked like a leprechaun and was unfailing kind, strolled over to my desk with a question about my story. “This isn’t up to your usual standard,” he said. “Let’s try it this way.”

His idea was, brilliant. Why hadn’t I thought of it? His approach to improving my work was even more brilliant. He had complimented me even when he was criticizing my work.

This tale of two bosses also illustrates the lesson of today’s Epistle of St. Peter. “Do not lord it over those assigned to you but be examples to the flock.”

I presume the presbyters to whom St. Peter addressed this instruction were church officials. However, his admonition should speak to every teacher, parent or supervisor as well as church officials.

The New Testament tells of times that Jesus admonished Peter for his foibles and even that he denied Jesus three times before the crucifixion. Our church’s first leader knew that Jesus loved him despite his foibles. Did Jesus pick him to head the church precisely because he could be counted on to deal kindly with other imperfect people as Jesus did with him?

It’s sad to talk to Catholics who have left the church because they felt mistreated by a priest who applied rules rigidly when they needed understanding most such as when they were getting divorced. Pope Francis, on the other hand has drawn people to the church by his kindness and leaving the judging to God. ¬†

I am blessed beyond words by my mother’s example in how to handle difficult family¬†problems. As my brother said in his eulogy at her funeral, “Mother more than anyone I have known, understood how to provide helpful input when needed without seeming judgmental.” She would calmly listen, giving us all the time we needed to describe the situation. Then she would ask questions and make suggestions. We could accept or reject her ideas since she always used to say that “people are going to do what they need to do.” However, if we had an ounce of sense, we accepted most of her ideas.

I like to imagine St. Peter warmly welcoming Mother at the pearly gates. They were kindred spirits.

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