In the Gospel reading this week, John (the Beloved) tells the story of John (the Baptist) preparing the way for Jesus and of Simon’s response when he meets Jesus for the first time. At that moment, everything about Simon’s life changes, including his name.
Reflecting on Jesus’ 3 years of Public Ministry, Peter is arguably His most trusted disciple. Jesus gives Peter the keys to the Kingdom when He says, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18). Thus, the Catholic Church was founded by Christ, and Christianity began. (This is after Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” and Peter responds, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”)
It gives me great hope to see how much Jesus loves Peter, and how faithful our Lord is to him, even after he fails. The beginning of Matthew 16, where Jesus praises Peter, makes it easy to forget how many times Jesus rebukes Peter in previous chapters. In Matthew 14, Jesus walks (ON WATER!) to the disciples and calls to Peter to come to Him. Peter gets out of the boat and he too begins to walk on water. Then Peter sees how strong the wind is (he takes his eyes off of the Lord), and he begins to sink, only to have Jesus save him and rebuke his lack of faith.
Peter trusts Jesus enough to get out of the boat and immediately becomes preoccupied with other things.
Even still, Jesus believes in Peter, especially when Peter does not believe that Jesus is enough for him! Isn’t that incredibly good news?! The God of all creation, who came down from Heaven to die on a cross because of MY failures, believes in me, even when I turn my back on Him.
One of my favorite hymns is “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” and the verse I love the most is the fourth, which boldly proclaims:
At His feet the six-winged seraph,
cherubim, with sleepless eye,
veil their faces to the presence,
as with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Lord Most High!
It blows my mind to think of the Angels (who are in Heaven, worshipping at the feet of Jesus, and have been made perfect) as they veil their faces to the holy presence of the Lord. God is SO merciful that He presents Himself to us veiled in the form of bread and wine because He knows how prideful we are. If His presence were not veiled, how many of us would dare to look at Him face to face? My guess is that many people would think they could withstand the fullness of the Glory of God, and would surely die because of His incomprehensible and eternal love in the face of our own sinfulness.
This reminds me of the fourth verse of Pange Lingua. (Pange Lingua was written by Saint Thomas Aquinas in the 13th Century and contains the commonly known “Tantum Ergo” as its last two verses.
The Latin is beautiful:
Verbum caro, panem verum
verbo carnem efficit:
fitque sanguis Christi merum,
et si sensus deficit,
ad firmandum cor sincerum
sola fides sufficit.
And translated, it means:
Word-made-Flesh, the bread of nature
by His word to Flesh He turns;
wine into His Blood He changes;-
what though sense no change discerns?
Only be the heart in earnest,
faith her lesson quickly learns.
During the Mass, our feeble senses fail to recognize the change from bread into the very body of the Savior. God knows that we are weak, and every day when I am able to receive the Blessed Sacrament, I thank Him for allowing me the honor, even though I will never fully appreciate His Sacrifice (on this side of Heaven!) I, like Saint Peter, often fail to recognize the Lord’s goodness, but I am constantly humbled by His faithfulness and His patience with me!
Knowing that Peter was such a failure, and still so loved by our Lord, we can take great confidence in knowing how well Jesus loves us, even in the midst of our messy lives and our sinfulness.
It took me many years from the first time I encountered Jesus to say with Saint Peter to Jesus, “You are the Christ,” and to ask Him to be the Lord of my brokenness and my mess, and thanks be to God, my life will never be the same.
Saint Peter, pray for us!
This blog was written by a guest writer and parishioner, Brittany Anderson. Brittany is a financial planner by day and evangelist by calling. She spends her free time Instagramming her many random hobbies and checking things off her 30 Before 30 list.
If you’re interested in writing for St. Francis of Assisi please contact Joseph Barringhaus at [email protected].