Today’s Gospel account shows that the Apostle Peter held a place of primacy early on. Peter is one of the most interesting characters in the Gospel. He shows that he possesses leadership qualities but also glaring weaknesses. At times, Peter is filled with courage; other times he shows a lack of courage. Solid as a rock and also like a piece of jelly. He is very human! Certainly not our idea of a saint, or even the ideal person to be the head of the Church.
It is interesting to note how Jesus dealt with Peter. Jesus helped him to grow into the man who was ready to lay down his life for the Lord, and who eventually did. Growth is gradual; to live is to change, and to grow into wholeness of life, is to change often.
Let’s take a closer look at the relationship between Jesus and Peter. It all began the day Jesus called Peter to follow him. Obviously Jesus saw potential in Peter. We all need someone to believe in us. It is difficult to believe in ourselves if no one else does.
Peter didn’t think he deserved to be called. “Lord, depart from me for I am a sinful man.” Jesus did not deny Peter’s sinful nature, but challenged him to grow. We all need to be challenged. Demands have to be made of us. Not to demand anything from someone is to condemn the person to a life of sterility.
Jesus involve Peter in his mission. He made him a part in his ministry. Responsibility helps a person to grow. Jesus asked him to proclaim his loyalty. “Do you want to leave me too?” This forced Peter to look into his own heart. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” This enabled Peter to stand on his own two feet.
When Peter made his declaration of faith, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus praised him. We all need affirmation. This encourages further generosity.
Jesus corrected Peter when he drew his sword in the Garden of Gethsemane. It takes courage for the teacher to point out mistakes, but growth comes from learning from our mistakes. Jesus confronted Peter when he fell asleep in the Garden. We are not helping a person when we let them get away with sloppiness and half done work.
Jesus even threatened to cut him off over the feet washing incident. We have to be stern at times and refuse to compromise on matters of principle.
Jesus understood that when Peter denied him, he did so out of weakness. Jesus forgave him and gave him another chance. Everyone needs understanding to help them grow, a second chance to turn things around.
The common thread that runs through the relationship between Jesus and Peter is love. Peter knew that Jesus loved him. Love is the climate in which people change, grow, and thrive.
Peter’s story is our story, too. We, too, blow hot and cold. Sometimes we are strong, and other times we are weak. Without a close relationship with Jesus, we are on the sideline of life. We are like someone talking about love compared with someone who is in love.
– Fr. Dennis, August 23, 2020