“Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:31-38)
Sometimes I wonder why Jesus chose Simon to be his Peter—his rock, the Rock on which he built his Church. Throughout the Gospels, we come to know Simon Peter as impulsive and quick to draw often the wrong conclusions. As we learn near the end of Jesus’s life among us, Peter could also succumb to cowardice and hypocrisy. And Jesus knew that, as we see in this strange exchange in today’s reading. Jesus expected Peter to deny him, and he prayed that once Peter came to his senses, he would help strengthen his comrades.
What kind of rock is Peter? And what kind of Church is built on this rock?
The earliest Christians, like Saint Ephrem the Syrian, saw their Jesus movement as part of one long arc that began with God’s Spirit moving across the waters (Genesis 1:2). They taught “that creation, revelation, and incarnation are…elements of one divine process.”1 In other words, the incarnation we celebrate at Christmas was always part of the plan; Christ’s birth is not a rescue mission, but the process by which creation becomes more fully-realized.
Where does the Church fit into this picture? As God’s people, just like Peter our Rock, we stumble and we err and we deny the very Christ we claim to follow. That too seems to be part of God’s plan. We are here to continue to bear witness to God’s Advent—creation, revelation, and incarnation—not because we are the most reliable narrators that God could have chosen, but because that is how God has chosen to form our hearts: patiently, lovingly, sacrificially…
And just as Christ allows us to crucify him again and again with our false doctrines and false claims to be following God’s will, so too is Christ born again and again, in our failures, in our missteps, so that we may re-learn his intentions for the world anew.
This reflection was written for St Peter’s Episcopal Parish, Seattle
|Prayer for the Day: |
Collect for the Confession of St. Peter
Almighty Father, who inspired Saint Peter, first among the apostles, to confess Jesus as Messiah and Son of the living God: Keep your Church steadfast upon the rock of this faith, so that in unity and peace we may proclaim the one truth and follow the one Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
1 Beggiani, S. J. (2014). Early Syriac Theology. CUA Press.