Archive for the ‘Commissioning Peter’ Category

Peter Our Rock — February 22 — Chair of St. Peter

February 22, 2011

If you claim Jesus Christ as your Lord, then listen to His words. To those He sent to preach for Him, Jesus said this, “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me.” (Luke 10:16) Today there are many people preaching many different things about what they think Jesus would have us believe and do. These varying opinions are well-intentioned and shared in good faith, by ministers from pulpits and in conversations between friends, but they cannot all be right. Unless it doesn’t matter what we believe or what we do, then this is a big problem. To whom should we listen? Is there anyone today for whom Jesus’ words are still true, “Whoever listens to you listens to me”?     Does anyone teach with authority, such that ‘whoever rejects their teaching rejects Christ?’ If not, we are lost; but if there is, where do we find this person?

On another occasion, Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.” (Matthew 23:1-3) Today teachers usually stand in front of their classes to teach them, but teachers in the ancient world would teach sitting down. Their chairs symbolized their authority, like the “chairman of the board” or the “chair of the English department.”Jesus spoke of the Chair of Moses, the position of the authoritative teaching for old Israel. For His new Church, Jesus establishes a new chair, the chair that we celebrate today, the chair of St. Peter and of his successors the Popes.

St. Peter, like every Pope after him, was only a man. He wasn’t perfect and he was weak in many ways. But Jesus has built His Church upon this rock. When the Pope, as the supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful, proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals, he teaches it infallibly. For the good of the Church, the Pope is empowered by the Holy Spirit to teach the faith of Christ without error. Can popes sin? Yes, infallible does not mean impeccable, as various popes in history have shown, yet even these bad popes prove the faithfulness of God in preserving them from teaching errors. Of them Jesus would have said, “Do as they teach, but do not follow their example.”

Jesus knew that living the fullness of Christianity on earth required that He provide us with an infallible guide. Some Christians have held that the Bible alone is this guide, but the Scriptures do not interpret themselves, nor did the Bible books put themselves in the canon. Even the infallible Scriptures require an infallible Church, and an infallible Church requires an infallible voice.

Mark Twain is believed to have remarked, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” Of course, it was not the father but the child who had changed, when he finally recognizing the wisdom of his father. Some people reject or ignore Catholic teachings as stupid, like those on the sacred dignity of all human life, or the teachings on human sexuality. Some people neglect the sacraments of the Church for years of their lives. Then, after gaining painful experience, they return with a new love and respect for our Holy Father’s wisdom, and the ways of our Mother, the Church. As wonderful as it is whenever people to come back to the Catholic faith, I would much prefer that you would know the greater joy and peace of remaining ever united to the rock of truth found only in our Church.


Peter’s New Season — 3rd Sunday of Easter

April 20, 2010

Once, when Jesus was preaching as he stood on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, a large and eager crowd was pressing in on Him.  So Jesus got into a fisherman’s boat and asked him to put out aways so that He could sit and teach the crowds. The tired fisherman complied. And after Jesus had finished speaking, He said to this fisherman, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” The fisherman said, “We have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught an incredible number of fish such that their nets were tearing. And Jesus said to the startled man, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will be catching men.” As you probably remember, the fisherman was Simon Peter, and from that day on his life entered a new season. For the next few years Simon Peter would follow Jesus and evangelize towns on His behalf.

In today’s gospel, from the days after the resurrection, Peter is fishing again. And once again, Jesus is there on the shore. They have caught nothing, but Jesus says to try once more, and they catch an incredible number of fish. When Simon Peter realizes it is Jesus he eagerly comes to Him as fast as he can. He finds Jesus beside a charcoal fire. This should be familiar to Peter, too, calling to mind  another charcoal fire in the dark courtyard of the high priest.

After sharing a meal, Jesus says, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? Do you love me?  Do you love me?” Simon Peter says, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus has given Peter the opportunity to undo his triple denial of Jesus with a triple confession of his love. And after each time, Jesus speaks of a new season for Peter’s life: “Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep.”

Now it is one thing to catch fish, but it is another thing to shepherd a flock. Up to now, Peter has been following Jesus and bringing others to Him. But now Jesus is asking Peter to do something new, to shepherd His flock for Him. Do you think Peter nervous? Is he concerned about whether he is up to the task? Is he worried about being led where he doesn’t want to go? I bet he is, but Jesus would have him ‘not be afraid,’ for he won’t be doing it alone. Jesus says to Peter, “Follow me.”

Our lives are often entering new seasons. Maybe you’re moving into a new town or a new school. Maybe you’re transitioning from engagement to marriage, welcoming new children, or living for the first time without children in the house. Maybe you have a new job, or don’t have a job for the first time. But whatever season of our life Jesus calls us into, His calling and our mission remain the same. Jesus said, ‘”I give you a new commandment; love one another as I have loved you,” and ” “There is no greater love than this, than to lay down your life for a friend.” Every new season of life offers us the unique opportunity to deepen our love for Christ and each other more than ever before.

Maybe you feel nervous? Maybe you’re concerned about whether you are up to the task? Maybe you’re worried about being led where you don’t want to go? But remember Simon Peter and don’t be afraid.  Jesus gives lots of second chances and He does not expect us to do it alone.