This might be a good weekend to talk about Peter, his answer to the question posed by Jesus, the great praise and reward he receives from Jesus, and some of his foibles peppered throughout Scripture to boot. It may also be a good weekend to ponder what our answers might be to the question posed by Jesus, and how we might put our answer into action.

It can be tempting to use the person of Peter as a central figure in a homily to illustrate how we should all take hope; for Peter, while exhibiting bungling and flawed behavior at times, still receives the favor and trust of Jesus. In other words, if Peter was deemed worthy by Christ to receive the keys of the kingdom and to loose and bind sins, then how bad could it be for us in the end? We may not be given the keys to the kingdom, but we will at least be given subscription series tickets, right?

As fun and hopeful of an angle as this might be to preach, it is incomplete and inaccurate. The interaction and dialogue that we see between Jesus and Peter today, although a very important and telling piece, is only part of a larger reality.

The force or punch of a homily this weekend might conclude strongly with the last earthly interaction between Jesus and Peter in the Gospel of John (Do you love me?). This, I believe, may be the most important reason why it is upon Peter that the church will be built. In short, it has nothing to do with being worthy and everything to do with the capacity to sincerely love Jesus.

If we were to make a thumbnail sketch of Peter based on the Gospels here are some of the highlights.

A sharp self-awareness of sin

(Luke 5:8) When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said -- Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.

The paralysis of fear

(Matthew 14:29-31) Jesus said, Come. So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out -- Lord, save me!

An unmerited and graced insight

(Matthew 16:16) Simon Peter replied -- You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered him -- Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

A temper

(Matthew 16:21-23) From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying -- God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you. But he turned and said to Peter -- Get behind me, Satan!


(Matthew 17:4) And Peter said to Jesus -- Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.


(Matthew 18:21) Then Peter came up and said to him -- Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him -- I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

Mortal and weary.

(Mark 14:37) Jesus said to Peter -- Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Overly confident.

(Matthew 26:33) Peter declared to him -- Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.

Broken, fallen.

(Matthew 26:69) You also were with Jesus the Galilean. But he denied it before them all, saying -- I do not know what you mean.

The most important question and answer

(John 21:15-17) Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? He said to him -- Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. He said to him -- Feed my lambs. A second time he said to him, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him -- Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. He said to him -- Tend my sheep. He said to him the third time -- Simon, son of John, do you love me? Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time -- Do you love me? And he said to him -- Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you. Jesus said to him -- Feed my sheep.

What would our answer be to the question of Jesus posed to us -- Who do you say that I am? Who is Jesus for us? How does Jesus figure in our lives? How much of a central figure is he? How often do we think of Jesus in the ordinary details of our lives? How often do we ask ourselves -- Am I loving others as Jesus has loved me? Do we ask oursleves the question -- What would Jesus do? Do we meditate on Scripture and see Jesus in our minds eye moving and breathing in scripture.

By Peter responding -- You are the Christ, the Son of the living God -- he declares Jesus to be chosen, to the the Son of God -- the Living God as opposed to the dead, false gods of his time.

The answer is obviously a good one and it can be our answer to: Jesus chosen as our Lord adn savior. Jesus the completely human and completely divine Son of God. God, our living God who we should worship above all other competing forces and desires in our lives.

Putting this answer into action is to help build up the Church upon the rock that is Peter. If Peter is the rock, the foundation, then we are small stones helping to support the structure of the living Church. How will we do this? What are we doing to be supportive, to be constructive, to be generous, to be loving?

Let us never say -- who me? You must mean someone else; for I am sharply self-awareness of my sin, I am paralyzed by fear, I have a temper, I am sometimes foggy headed, I am only mortal and sometimes weary, I am sometimes cocky and overly confident, I am sometimes broken and fallen

Well, so was Peter.

What made Peter stand out was his great love for Jesus and it is this love that changes the world and builds up the Church and builds the kingdom of God.

So let us hear both of these questions from Jesus this weekend: Who do you say that I am? and, Do you love me?

Jesus does not ask -- Will you ever sin again? Jesus does not ask -- Will you ever be afraid again? Jesus does not ask -- Do you promise that you will never fall on your face again in the midst of fear, darkness and danger?

Rather, Jesus asks Peter -- Do you love me more than these? What does -- these -- refer to here? Perhaps Jesus is pointing to the former livelihood of Peter -- his fishing equipment: boats, nets, ropes, sails, etc. Perhaps Jesus is asking Peter -- Will you just slip back into what you think you know and do best in this world, or will you continue to be a fisher of men for me? Perhaps Jesus is pointing to the old fishing partners of Peter -- the sons of Zebedee -- and the other disciples who seem content to follow Peter wherever he may decide to go next. Regardless of what -- these -- refers to, what is important to Jesus is love, not the unachievable promise of human perfection and sinlessness. Jesus knows that saying YES to love is a faster track to holiness than constantly saying NO to sin and darkness. Both may lead to holiness, but saying YES to love makes for a more enjoyable ride there. St. Augustine said -- Love and do what you will. In other words, the love for Jesus and for neighbor will naturally lead to a moral and spiritually fulfilling life.

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