Yesterday at Mass, I was very impressed by the couple who knelt to receive Holy Communion. You don’t much see that happen nowadays. And yet kneeling is a very meaningful gesture, and we all used to do it, like receiving Communion on the tongue rather than in the hand. As a sign of respect, Catholics kneel before the Tabernacle. In the olden days knights and peasants knelt before the king to show him honour. Losing parties on the battlefield knelt before the victors as a sign of submission. And even today a man kneels in humility when he is proposing marriage to the woman he loves.
The rich man we just heard about knelt before Jesus, fully intending to embrace his instructions. But it took just one brief discussion for Our Lord to get to the heart of the matter. The rich man wasn’t yet willing to walk away from his wealth and follow Jesus. For all his respect, he didn’t see Jesus as someone worth giving up everything for.
In contrast, the first reading shows us Saint Peter who, despite his faults, clearly understood how worthy Jesus is. This is the same man who knelt before Jesus at the start of their friendship, then walked away from a miraculous—and lucrative—catch of fish to follow him.
Like the rest of us, Peter’s faith had ups and downs. Many were the times when he bumbled his way through challenging or confusing situations. But Jesus saw the love in Peter’s heart. Similarly, when we kneel before the Lord, we know there will be times when we will stumble. But we also know that this shouldn’t keep us from trying our best to submit to him and follow him.
The rich man was looking for a guarantee of salvation based on his accomplishments – he wanted his reward for being good. But Jesus was looking for the kind of submission that is based on trusting in him and the power of his grace to keep us safe. He was looking for a submission similar to Saint Peter’s: “Lord, I am just a sinful man; I don’t know that I could ever measure up, but I want to try.”