Thursday, February 14, 2008

Thoughts on Peter

Peter, the father of our Church... The most trusted apostle and confidant of Jesus. But what do we really know about him. I took some time to think over the possible life of Peter in order to better understand him. We are pretty sure that he was older than Jesus, probably born 12-10 BC. He was born to a traditional Hebrew family somewhere around the Sea of Galilee (possibly in Capernaum or Tiberius). Peter grew up a normal kid, doing what was expected of him. Doubtless his father was a fisherman, so he and his brother Andrew continued in the same occupation that they began learning as children. Probably around the time Jesus was found in the temple by Mary and Joseph, Peter got married. Since no mention is made of Peter's children, he probably had one or two daughters. And since we never hear about Peter's wife, it is possible she died during childbirth. Being a good son-in-law, he continued to care for his wife's mother and perhaps she helped to raise his daughters until they were married.

Through his life, Peter was probably a devout Jew attending services at the local Synagogue. When he could afford to do so, he and Andrew may have gone to Jerusalem during festivals to worship at the temple. It is obvious that he yearned for something he could put his full faith into. He may have been envious of his brother's zealous devotion to John the Baptist and when Andrew pointed out Jesus to him he must have been overjoyed to have a cause, to find someone who stirred him. Being with Jesus made him feel important. Being chosen to be a leader of the twelve tribes and the promises awaiting him in heaven must have been far beyond the expectations of a humble fisherman. Peter felt like someone because of Christ, so much so that he refused to let Jesus fulfill his earthly duty. Just moments after Jesus declares Peter the rock of truth on which the Church on Earth would be built, Peter says that he would not allow Him to be taken away and crucified, and Jesus rebukes him.

I feel Peter represents so much of us. Were we in the presence of our dear Lord Jesus, we would fear the day we would have to let him go. We too would want to prevent him from being taken from us, from being crucified. In his presence we would never wish to disappoint him. I cry myself every time I read the passage in the Bible where Peter denies Jesus. I can't imagine the anguish that Peter felt in the pit of his stomach. His fear was, for that moment, greater than his love for his Savior. But after the Pentecost, we see Peter's true colors as he emerges as a powerhouse of the Holy Spirit. It's that transformation that I'm sure many of us hope for in our lives... Not just to believe but to ACT in Christ's name. In the end, he was prepared to die for his Lord after all.

Next week (Friday, February 22) is the Feast of the Chair of St Peter. The founder of our Church, the first Bishop of Rome began his life a lot like us. Think about that for a moment on that day and think of how the teachings of our Lord and the power of the Holy Spirit can change your life to be an active apostle here and now. And smile for a moment when you think about our dear Peter and what a wonderful example he is to us all.