“Who do people say the Son of Man is?”……Who do you say I am?” – Jesus in St Matthew 16:13-20.
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” – Peter, as above.
“All I want is my Prince Charming.” – ‘Wife’ in Married At First Sight, Australia.
“I’m feeling real bad at the moments about not being her fairy tale.” – ‘Husband’, as above.
My niece was married in Australia last year and so, being unable to go, I watched an episode of Married at First Sight, Australia to get an idea of what an Australian wedding was like. What I didn’t realise is that, although they make vows when they meet for the first time at the ceremony, the couples aren’t legally married so that they are free to move on later if the relationship doesn’t work out. They are matched by ‘experts’ for an ‘experiment’ to see whether science can be more successful than their own failed attempts to find partners for life. In the episode I watched, it was clear that some couples had unrealistic expectations, with the above couple in particular finding reality hard. Their comments made me think of the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury when Prince Charles and Lady Diana married and he suggested that this was the stuff of which fairy tales are made. Sadly, that proved not to be the case for them, as for others, and the painful reality of divorce resulted.
That’s been so this week with the turmoil over the exam results – what was the actual reality, given estimated grades, the disputed algorithm, the reversing of decisions and future dreams? Could there be a fairy tale ending or were hopes dashed? Outcomes varied tremendously – and yet another complication of the way the ongoing pandemic is affecting so many lives became clear. That’s so for my niece and her husband too, living near a hotspot and now expecting their first child at a time when, for many couples, the joys and hopes of pregnancy are tempered by the restrictions and realities of Covid-19. The ‘new normal’ is challenging.
The disciples found themselves wrestling with a ‘new normal’ in the Gospel reading today as Jesus takes them into Caesarea Philippi, two days’ walk away from their Galilean homes. Leaving the familiar behind, he asks them a question about who the Son of Man is and they give traditional answers such as John the Baptist, Elijah and Jeremiah. When Jesus asks who they think he is, Peter replies that he is the Christ, Son of the living God – he realises that the dreams and hopes of the Messiah, prophesied for so long, are being fulfilled in the reality of the person before him. A ‘new normal’ has come into being as the future hope becomes part of the present reality – no fairy tale, but a story of miracles, muddles, suffering and soul-searching that changes the lives of those who are willing to engage with this nuanced reality. It’s not until Easter Day that Jesus is called God by Thomas but, for now, Peter’s realisation is profound and Jesus gives him a new name for the role he will play in the different future that is coming into being, a present reality that is far more challenging than those disciples then could have realised. This reality will involve, not Prince Charming, but the Prince of Peace and a costly love for humanity which could last a lifetime – and beyond.
Those disciples must have been in turmoil then as they grappled with all this and perhaps that’s so for us, too, as we face the lengthy challenges of a virus that is so hard to overcome, relationships that aren’t easy to sustain due to the restrictions and such difficult choices having to be made. Our present reality continues to be challenging and the consequences of the pandemic continues to cause such disruption to students, people having to quarantine at short notice, those who still have to seek isolation as the risk of infection continues, the economy…… Life and love may not be turning out as we expected, yet future hope can still shape the current reality and who we are capable of becoming, even when hearts are broken, relationships fail and plans are disrupted. If and when we seek it, there is hope that the costly love witnessed by those first disciples can also enable us, today, to find new beginnings and begin to transform our fairy tales into reality – life doesn’t have to be always Grimm!
With my prayers and apologies for so awful a pun,
Diocesan prayer for the week
In your creation you gave us the freedom to make many choices so guard us from decisions which harm ourselves or others. May those whose privilege affords greater freedom be always mindful of the common good, so that all may enjoy the generosity of your provision and by our actions may we not deny good things of mind, body or spirit to others. Amen.
Canon Carol Wardman