Along The Way
I always love this Gospel reading with all of its twists and turns. It starts with a great question and insight for all of us. The text says, along the way Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Well, this is a paradigm for us on our journey through life…along the way of our lives Jesus will be asking us questions as well. Usually, the question is “who do we say Jesus is?” Is Jesus just a holy man or just a prophet or just a religious rebel or is Jesus truly God? Peter gets it right when he says, “You are the Christ.” In our journey to heaven and bringing heaven to earth, we too will get it right when we stop trying to be god and let God be God. In our docility to the Holy Spirit, we will proclaim as Peter did, that YES, Jesus, “You are the Christ.” So the story of Peter is one that every Christian can glean something from.
Peter is rightly recognized as a great saint. Many see themselves reflected in his flawed humanity and find hope in the fact that, despite all his struggles, he ultimately became a saint. What makes Peter a great saint is not just his flaws, but his deep faith in Jesus Christ. It is the fact that he finally came to embrace the truth of Jesus’ words: Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.
This truth is evident when we recall it was Peter who denied and deserted Jesus in his time of need. There, the one who declares Jesus to be the Messiah proved himself to be a fair-weather friend. So great is Peter’s misunderstanding of Jesus and his mission that even he felt able to rebuke him? But in one of the most shocking Gospel interactions, Jesus turns on Peter in the strongest way: Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do. Strong words indeed! But deserved by Peter for he is totally out of step with Christ. Have you ever felt out of step with Jesus? Don’t give up hope, Peter didn’t, and neither should we.
As we hear this Gospel, it is good for us to ask what we believe about Jesus. If we simply see him as a prophet, can we truly believe in the reconciliation offered through his cross and Resurrection? Or, are we like Peter, happy to confess that he is the Christ but unable to embrace the fullness of what that means? To imitate Peter, it is best to see his whole story – his post-denial regret and tears, his declarations of love at the Sea of Galilee and his post-Pentecost courage to preach the risen Christ. These are what makes Peter great and worthy of our admiration. We can learn much from Peter. Although we might be attracted by his flawed humanity, we should not ignore the work God has done in strengthening and empowering him to be a disciple and evangelist.
Like Peter, we too, need to let Christ change us if we are to let go of the human way of thinking. Yes, it’s difficult but necessary. Baptism is never just a moment in time or a cultural expectation, but the beginning of a relationship with Christ. It’s a relationship that lasts all of our lives and calls us to be always open to Christ and his Word. As we journey along the way, may we always find hope that although we may deny Jesus, He will never deny us. If we embrace His mercy, we too can become a great saint one day.
Blessings along the way, Fr Dave