As a young priest I make a lot of mistakes. In my desire to give instant solutions to the problems of people who come to me, sometimes I would give the wrong advice and bite my lips afterwards after giving some considerable thought on the problem. Sometimes I would react so haphazardly sending the wrong messages and hurt a lot of people. There were even times when my judgments err on important issues presenting me with no chance to redeem myself. During those times I would sulk and despair for days. I would worry and get so irritated leading me to create more and even greater mistakes.
During these moments I would sometimes blame it on my lack of experience, on my youthfulness. But little by little as I listen to a lot of stories during our gatherings I realize that older priests make a lot of mistakes too and even more. Mistakes I guess is something I have to learn to live with all my life. And the more I think about them and their consequences, the more I become aware of the risks involved in accepting responsibilities and the more I become afraid of living and making decisions.
Last week, however, while I was preparing my homily on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, I reflected on the lives of these two great apostles and in a way became somewhat familiar with the real Peter in the gospels. He too created a lot of mistakes in his life. In fact his mistakes sometimes would far outshine his achievements. For example, Peter in a show of faith walked on the water but nearly drowned when he became conscious of the waves. In the Last Supper he did not allow Jesus to wash his feet even when all the apostles who did not understand the gesture as much as he did, accepted it in faith.
In the garden of Gethsemane he wanted to fight it out as a one-man army when Jesus was arrested. And finally he denied Jesus three times at the instigation of a woman. In all these he was rebuked publicly by Jesus. And yet despite these mistakes he was called “rock” and was made the first pope. Making no mistakes at all or even less mistake is not a criteria for discipleship or leadership. Goodness is. But goodness does not imply in anyway that we won’t create mistakes. Peter’s life is a consolation for us who make so many mistakes for it means that Jesus still trusts us and his only demand is that we keep on trying.
Now I believe that it is only me who worry so much about creating mistakes but not Jesus. Creating mistakes is one of the risk of growing up and having responsibilities. It is the risk of making decisions. It is the risk of living.
I am presenting this reflection not just to give consolation to mistake-makers like me. I am presenting this as we start preparing ourselves for the parish congress when we as priests and laity collaborate and complement each other in our roles of service. During the congress responsibilities will be given and decision making will become a collective endeavor. With them are the risks of creating mistakes. My point here is this: if we don’t understand mistakes and are afraid to commit them or are afraid others may commit them, we may sulk and hesitate to give or accept such responsibilities. We may even back out from responsibilities presented to us. To be afraid of committing mistakes is to be afraid of living, afraid of growing up and afraid that people would grow up and mature like us. Mistakes are part of our human nature. It is part of the learning process and of maturing. It is not something to be afraid of and it is not Jesus’ criteria for disqualification on discipleship and leadership in the Church as shown in the life of Peter.