February 17, 2011 - Thursday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

St. Peter is a man who exemplifies the leap of faith. He jumps out on the water when Jesus is walking toward him. He dives into the sea and swims to Jesus when he sees him on the shore. Today we have two examples of this personality trait, good and bad. When Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” all the disciples might have been thinking, indeed hoping, that Jesus was the Messiah, but only Peter takes the leap of faith. “You are the Christ.” However, when Jesus then warns them about his suffering and death, all the disciples might have been thinking, fearing, that Jesus was depressed and suicidal, but only Peter had the audacity to take Jesus aside and rebuke him.

These two stories about Peter, one right after the other, do not contradict each other. Peter is consistent throughout. His great strength is also his weakness: a lack of caution. He does not spend a great deal of time deliberating before he acts. God created Peter to be Peter. The world needs practical people who rush headlong. The Church needed the particular leadership of Peter for the first thirty years of her existence. This does not mean that everything he does is right; Jesus could hardly have used stronger words to condemn Peter’s attempt to question him. Peter had to be careful, though, to take the right lesson here. If Peter had decided to stop being impulsive, he would not really have been himself anymore. It would have been unfortunate if Peter had stopped being the person who would later so easily mouth off to the authorities who tried to stifle Christianity.  

Like Peter, each one of us has a personality, with strengths and weaknesses. Our personality makes some things easy that others struggle with, but we also have bad tendencies. We have to be redeemed; we have to be restored to grace. This restoration is not destruction though. If we look at all the saints who ever lived, we do not see a group of identical automatons; there is amazing diversity among the saints. God’s plan includes each one of us, not as interchangeable tokens but as ourselves. If we follow God, he will lead us to become the best version of ourselves possible.