St. Peter has always been close to me. When I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003, one of the exercises which meant a lot to me then and still is an important part of my faith life was to choose a saint we would walk “the journey” with. I chose St. Peter, not because he was the one chosen to lead the Holy Catholic Church by Jesus, but because Scripture accounts his weaknesses more than his strengths.
Peter is a ‘weak and sinful man’. He confesses this to the Lord on the Sea of Galilee when he realizes that he has not fulfilled the Will which God has called him to, and perhaps acknowledging his lack of worthiness in the presence of the Lord. This is an area which Peter is a constant work in progress. He focusses on his inabilities and doubts, but this made him real, at least to me and was why I chose him as a saint to walk with me and pray with me. I became Catholic and discerned my own vocation with a very real sense of the greater part of my life having been lived away from God and here I am, God wants to have a relationship with me? I have felt at times like saying ‘go away from me Lord, I am a weak and sinful man. But we also know, Jesus did not leave Peter.
Peter loves the Lord. There’s no question about this. He is ready to kill for Him (even though Jesus rebukes him, it’s out of love he wants to protect Jesus). He recognizes Jesus for who He is out of love. The Father reveals it to Peter directly, but Peter could only be receptive to the Father and see Jesus as the Son of God if his love was pure and true. Even his sense of unworthiness comes from loving Jesus so dearly that he realizes he can’t live up to it. Peter steps out of the boat and walks on water towards His Lord.
Peter confesses constantly. There are many reasons as an adult convert and new Catholic I had for not accepting or preparing myself to go to confession. This is why in parish ministry as a seminarian and priest, I made it an important decision to teach the session on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Among many other reasons, I turned toward the intercession of St. Peter to help me in my fear. Peter’s constant admission of his faults not only makes him very real and very human, but this (I think) is why he was an effective leader of the Church. Peter could have been remembered in many ways, but the way he is remembered in the Gospels is as a passionate, loving man, totally dedicated to the Master, but who had to constantly admit his own faults and weaknesses and in this way is a model for us all.
Peter is a model for us all. Today, as we reflect upon the ministry of Peter, let us look to him as a model, not only in his leadership, but his leadership by example of walking the walk, living his faith and picking himself up and carrying on. This is what secures his place in heaven; that he truly lived in the way Jesus called him – and us to live.