Upon This Rock

This weekend, we celebrate the feast of our patron, St. Peter. This is a great time for us, as a parish, to celebrate Peter, the rock, upon which Jesus built the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church!

Sometimes when reading scripture, I wonder if Jesus could have used a personal consultant. You know, someone who could advise him on how to select the best and brightest for the work he was doing in the Father’s name. In Jesus’ disciples, we see not the “best and brightest,” as we would perhaps define them in our modern day, but rather a bumbling, doubting, and frightened group of men who never seemed to quite get it right. Peter was chief among those, who routinely frustrated our Lord. Throughout the scriptures, we hear Jesus gently admonishing his imperfect, yet loyal, band of brothers because they seem to falter and fail more than they succeed.

We see in Peter a man who seems less than perfect, often given to wrong-headed ideas, and who runs out on Jesus when he needs him most. Peter is the guy who is so in love with Jesus, that he can’t bring himself to accept the Father’s plan for Jesus to suffer, die and rise from the dead. In his pride, Peter is the one who tells Jesus that Jesus will never wash his feet. And Peter is the one who denies Jesus three times, as he is bound in chains and led off to his death. Peter did not seem to exhibit the leadership qualities that one would expect in someone who would be the first pope of the newly founded Catholic Church.

Jesus saw something in Peter. He was able to look beyond Peter’s weakness to see something of true worth. Jesus was able to look past Peter’s denial and the fact that he was not among those who stood at the foot of the cross, as Jesus suffered and breathed his last. Jesus was able to wash Peter’s feet, and in doing so, taught him a great lesson about how to care for his people. Jesus was able to accept Peter for who he was, and to give him the keys to the Kingdom.

I love to read the gospel stories and imagine what it must have been like to travel with Jesus, as did Peter and the apostles. These men gave up their lives to follow Christ. They lived a nomadic existence, never knowing where their next meal would come from or where they would lay their heads at night. In that famous scene from the transfiguration, Peter, James and John are given a very brief glimpse at the glory of the Lord. Peter wanted to savor this moment, to make it last, but it was not to be. That little bit of glory would have to carry these brave men through the horror of the passion, the uncertainty of the resurrection and the work of building Christ’s Church, after he ascended to the Father.

This weekend, we celebrate St. Peter. We celebrate a great saint who, like many saints, did not lead a perfect life. St. Peter publicly denied Christ three times, just as Jesus predicted he would. Days later, in their meeting on the shore, Jesus asked Peter that all-important question, “Do you love me?” Peter did indeed love Jesus, but he had a long way to go to develop the “agape” love to which Jesus was calling him in his service to the Church. In the end, Peter chose to be crucified upside down, as he felt unworthy to be crucified in the manner that his Savior was crucified.

I don’t know about you, but I have many “Peter” moments in my life. These are the times when I lose patience with an important person in my life or struggle to accept a reality that doesn’t quite fit with my view of how things should be. It is in these moments, that I sometimes think about St. Peter and how much he seemed to falter and fail. Jesus chose Peter to guide his Church here on earth. Now, over 2000 years later, Pope Francis follows in the footsteps of St. Peter, our first pope, as he leads that same Catholic Church through the trials and challenges of our day. It wasn’t an easy task in St. Peter’s time, and it certainly isn’t any easier for our current pontiff.

Today we feast! We open our hearts to a God who loves us, even when we fall down and lose our way. We celebrate a God who became man and walked among us. We celebrate a saint who accepted the keys from his Master and used those keys to open a way of faith to a struggling world. Today we eat cake, and in Father Steven’s case, ice cream! It is good to celebrate the patron saint of our parish and to enjoy these beautiful days of summer together as a parish family. As we celebrate today, let us remember that God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called. St. Peter became one of the greatest saints of our Catholic tradition, because Jesus believed in him. St. Peter accepted Jesus’ call, and we are invited to do the same. Let us follow in the footsteps of Peter, as we share the love of Christ with all those we meet.

May God be praised, now and forever!

Deacon Tim

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