Anyone who has a child under the age of fifteen, and has attended or rented a made-for-children movie, is familiar with the recent Hollywood tradition of appending the “outtakes” to the end of the film. “Outtakes” are those mistakes that actors and actresses make while filming a movie that are normally edited. When a movie saves and includes them, the audience often gets a clearer picture of the real personality of the actor than one would get merely watching their stage-craft in the film.
Have you ever noticed that our Christian scriptures, The New Testament, has left in all of the outtakes? This Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 16: 13-20) was a great example of that. We heard Peter’s famous profession of faith, and Jesus’ proclamation that henceforward Peter would be the rock upon which the Church would be built. So far so good if the passage would just end there. It doesn’t. If this Sunday’s selection continued three more verses, you would have caught this outtake.
Next thing you know Jesus went on to explain the core of his identity as a Messiah who would empty himself out through his own suffering (Mt 16: 21). Suddenly, Peter breaks in, and interrupts him like one of those clowns on a unicycle with a fat horn honking (Mt 16: 22). He attempted to correct Jesus’ “flawed” understanding of his own mission. In response, Jesus called Peter “Satan,” and ordered him to get out of his way (Mt 16: 23).
Just to switch metaphors for a moment, if you were to set Peter’s outtakes in the New Testament to music, you could compile a pretty descent Country Western album of greatest hits: “I Don’t Deny that I Denied You…,” “Asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane while You Were Crying…,” “Sinking in the Sea of Galilee…,” “Lord, You Will Never Wash My Feet…,” the list could go on.
If any of our modern-day celebrity handlers were around during the final editing of the New Testament, surely we would have ended up with a picture of Peter that would be more Charlton Heston than Jerry Lewis, or more Denzel Washington than Will Farrell. The question is, why did the Holy Spirit inspire the authors of the New Testament to leave in the outtakes? The answer: because by leaving in the outtakes, it shows that there is room in this Church for people like you and me.
For example, have any of you moms or dads ever made a mistake while you were parenting? This Sunday’s Gospel, (along with the outtake that shows up three verses later) are a proclamation that your infallibility is not the source of your authority-rather, like Peter, it is the twin graces of fidelity and humility that ground your authority as a parent. Therefore, you do not have to be afraid to tell a son or daughter that you are “sorry” for a mistake you made while parenting. As you model a rock-solidness in your humility, you can more effectively call your children to accountability for their own behavior.
As a husband or wife, have you ever denied your spouse through your own shortsightedness, or self-focus? Your perfection is not the rock upon which your marriage is founded. The foundation that supports your marital house is the infinite love of a God that calls you to own up to your humanity and work it out 70 x 7 times.
Perhaps Purgatory for many of us will be a film session in which we have to sit through a showing of the outtakes of our life. If this is true, I am convinced that at the end of our particular film festival, (however long and excruciating) we will notice that we weren’t watching alone. We will eventually look up (our faces red with recognition and embarrassment) to find our Lord with his arms outstretched, and a knowing smile inviting us to take our seat at the banquet table next to all of the others who are capable of having a compassionate laugh at their own outtakes.