Summary: Chosen by Our Lord as what we at St. Peter’s Church called “Prince of the Apostles,” this guy had chronic, idiopathic foot-in-mouth disease.
Tuesday of Holy Week 2019
Peter the Apostle
I think that early on when I heard this story, repeated in more than one Gospel, of Peter’s bravado and ultimate betrayal, I thought, “what a loser.” Chosen by Our Lord as what we at St. Peter’s Church called “Prince of the Apostles,” this guy had chronic, idiopathic foot-in-mouth disease. Jesus is relying on Sacred Scripture when He predicts that his best friends would abandon Him in His worst moments, the very next day. And Peter would even, under the innocent question of a little girl, “aren’t you with this Jesus,” curse and swear that he never knew Jesus.
But that’s what we might call the “old Simon,” or the “Rock in process.” Peter was a fisherman, let’s not forget, probably very strong with a deep knowledge of the geography and weather and best fishing spots in the Sea of Galilee, but not much else. He knew Torah, and tried to keep the basic laws, but he was no scholar. He was quick-tempered because one had to think fast to keep a boat afloat in a tempest, so he was more reactive than pro-active in his dealings with others. And with Jesus, Peter was with a wisdom that was never equaled before or after, and with his Lord, he always felt weak and childlike, an uncomfortable feeling for this fisher of fish. But he was being called to be a fisher of humankind.
What would happen with the “Old Simon” is what follows his betrayal. Jesus looked at him after the cock crowed three times, and although the Gospels don’t use the word, I think He looked at Peter with the same non-verbals He used on the rich young man in the Gospel. He looked on Peter with love, with love and forgiveness. And that’s why Peter wept, and that’s when he learned the greatest lesson of his life. There is no sin that Christ cannot forgive, no sin that He didn’t pay the love-price for on the cross.
Moreover, when the Holy Spirit filled his life, first in the upper room on Resurrection day, when Jesus came to the disciples and said “Peace be with you, receive the Holy Spirit,” and later on Pentecost, Peter was transformed. The sniveling coward who was terrified by the simple question of a serving girl stood up before all of Jerusalem and proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah–just weeks after the Romans executed Jesus because He claimed to be the Messiah. He proclaimed that Baptism into Christ would bring about the forgiveness of sins–even the sin of executing their Messiah. And he kept doing that, decade after decade, from imprisonment and beating to more of the same, until he gave his life on an upside-down cross because he was not worthy to be executed exactly like his Lord and Savior.
Now if the Holy Spirit can do that for Simon Peter, what could He do in our lives if we just allowed the Spirit of Jesus to take over those lives? He can use us as polished arrows, as vocal and embodied prophets to witness to this culture of death that surrounds us and corrupts our children. He can change us from sniveling cowards to bold proclaimers of the Gospel of Life. He can raise us up as a light to the nations, so that the salvation of Christ may reach to the ends of the earth. Pray for this grace, and Christ will do it for us.