April 10, 2012

Peter's Example and Unregenerate Pastoral Care

(Another rant today, I guess. I must have been saving them up inside.)

St. Peter is one of my favorite players in the telling of the paschal triduum. In him we witness a remarkable transformation; in the reading of St. John's Passion on Friday, Peter denies Jesus three times. Then, at the Mass of Easter Sunday, we hear the bold confession and speech he makes in the house of Cornelius. This post-Resurrection Peter is quite a different character than the fearful and bumbling Peter who was a disciple of Jesus in his historical life; now we see Peter the Apostle, the bold preacher on whom the apostolic ministry of unity is founded, and who will soon enough go to his own martyrdom.

But here's the funny thing: in many homilies I've heard and spiritual advices I've been given along the way, it's not the latter Peter who is adduced as an encouragement, but the former.

For sure, the dullness and 'not getting it' of the disciples in the gospels is always a helpful reflection; it's easy enough for us to be like that too, just as it is very easy to slip into the misplaced religiosity of the scribes and Pharisees as the gospels describe it. We must always remember, and the Scriptures constantly needle and encourage us in this regard, that it's easy enough to call yourself a Christian, or to do religious stuff, without actually being a hearer and disciple of the living God.

On the other hand, I find it increasingly sad and annoying when I hear the example of the pre-Resurrection disciples adduced as an excuse for bumbling and mediocrity. Imagine a scene: I confess to some teacher or elder my struggles against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and ask how I might make progress in holiness and faithfulness to God. And so I am told: 'Don't be so hard on yourself. Look at Peter. He struggled to understand, he didn't always get it, and he even denied Jesus three times.' To that I want to say, 'Yes, let's look at Peter; he fearlessly preached that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ constituted him as the Risen Lord and Judge of all, and he went humbly to his own crucifixion.'

Are we not people who live in these last days inaugurated by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Should not our models and examples be the disciples in their transformation by that same Resurrection, rather than their confusion and dullness before they understood?

1 comment:

Caedmon Michael said...


"Yes, let's look at Peter. He bumbled. But then, after a visit to the confessor of confessors, he asked how to grow in holiness and he did. I have a lifetime experience as the first Peter; I don't need your help to continue in that. I need the help of you, my brothers and sisters, Peter, Mary, all the Saints, and our Lord, Jesus Christ to be the second Peter, the one we never seem to talk about."