A priest that I know was recently arrested for solicitation of prostitution. It was all over the local papers and news media in Boston. The priest has been ordained for over 36 years. He has served in many parishes, offices, and posts within my former archdiocese. I have known him to be a good man and a good priest.
Now this. I do not know what actually happened last Sunday evening when he was arrested, save only what is in the papers. My intention here is not to “wag a finger” of guilt at this man. How could I being so far removed from the actual events and jurisdiction? All of this will be worked out through the juridical process and dealt with by him and his bishop. Yet, there is a warning here for me as an ordained man of the Church, indeed, a warning for us all as to how easy it is for any of us to fall from grace and into disgrace.
I have seen this all too often: a husband or wife who have the loveliest and most wonderful of marriages, loves their spouse and their children deeply, yet cheats on their spouse while away on business; a priest who does incredible work in the name of the Church and yet abuses children or teens; a young man who is a hard worker, bright, has everything going for him, yet gets behind the wheel of car while drunk …. It is not too hard to see how easy it is to fall.
Look at today’s gospel. Peter has got it right! He makes the confession of faith that Jesus is the “Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus pronounces him “Rock,” the one on whom “I will build my Church” and then it all goes wrong. Peter tries to have things his way, not Jesus’ way: “God forbid, Lord!” It is almost as if that now that Jesus has named him “Rock,” Peter can be the one to set the rules, to set the agenda. Jesus responds by basically saying, “That is Satan talking in you Peter, not me.”
If Peter can get it wrong, so can any of us. The edge between goodness and evil in our lives is so close. It is so easy to fall. St. Dominic was aware of this. He guarded himself well. He sought to be vigilant against sin in his life and encouraged others to do so through avoiding temptation, participating in the Sacraments (especially Confession), and a life of godly behavior and prayer.
What I am reminded of today is how imperiled my soul can be if I rely on myself but how safe too if I rely on God and the rock of His Church and its teaching, Sacraments, and life.