Recently I have been spending some time with St Peter in the gospels. A retreat director lead us through some meditations in which we prayed with the gospels that particularly involve The Rock (of the Church, not the actor.) Jesus renamed Simon the fisherman, Cephas (which means rock) and said he would become a fisher of men, upon whom the church would be built.
42 Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John;[ad] you will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). John 1:42
We can learn so much from Peter in both his blunders and his spiritual buoyancy.
For many of us, Peter is our favorite apostle because he is so human. We all have a bit of the blundering Simon in us.
I think we all feel a little scolded when Peter is reprimanded by Christ for telling him he must not suffer and Jesus says “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:21-23) We must admit that if we heard our dear friend and teacher tell us he will suffer and die we would want to argue as well. So naturally we understand Peter’s protest, but Christ wanted to point out perhaps that being a stumbling block to God’s plan is not how our thinking should be loosed.
We can understand In Matthew 14 when Peter becomes disturbed while walking on water toward Christ. We can imagine as we are taking steps toward Christ in the storm and suddenly the wind kicks up, the last thing we see before sinking is our savior’s gaze, now on our flailing arms and soaking wet cloak. We choke out water, wondering why did it all go wrong when the hardest part was over with that first step of faith?
When Peter denies Christ during the passion, we all feel the same sense of disappointment in ourselves for the times we haven’t stood up for God’s truth (Luke 22:54.) Some would speculate that Peter’s denials–especially after his vehement promise to be with Jesus until the end during dinner just a few hours before–was a worse crime than Judas handing Christ over to the authorities for the crucifixion. I don’t know if that’s true but the difference in these two apostles is Peter’s supernatural faith in Christ’s mercy.
The Buoyancy of Peter and His Supernatural Faith
I believe that praying with Peter is pinnacle in the life of a Christian because more than anything else we learn this: it isn’t about me. It isn’t about how I blow it or how inadequate I feel. Perhaps it was for this reason that these accounts of Peter are in the scriptures? Otherwise God could have just instructed the authors “Only write the good stuff; make him look good. We only want perfect people here.” No. I believe we need help to understand how not to think, and how to respond in trust in Christ’s mercy, no matter what we have done wrong, and this is what scripture showed me with Peter.
Peter was given the charism of “Supernatural Faith” we learned from our spiritual retreat director. God knew what He was doing with Peter; he was the right man for the job of becoming the first Pope, the Rock on whom the church was started. God has also given us the set of gifts we need to do the mission He has for each of us. When we step out “on the water” in faith, we activate them. God equips the called, not calls the equipped they say. So, let’s make the first move in faith, and Peter is here to show us how.
How Peter Went First
Peter left his life behind.
He believed his brother Andrew, who had told him he found the Messiah, and he knew in order to do the right thing he had to spend the kind of time with Jesus that one would spend if in training to be a Rabbi. He was getting an “internship” if you will, and like any consuming mission, there is hardly time for a back-up plan. So he left it all–his boat, his wares, his family–in faith, to follow Christ.
Peter told Christ to call him on the water.
28 Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.Matthew 14:28
Peter didn’t just respond to the Lord’s call to him, he suggested the Lord call him out in faith! Do you ever suggest to the Lord that He call you out in faith? Peter’s gift of extraordinary faith helped him to be unafraid to be tested. He believed he was loved by the Lord and he knew the loyalty he felt in his heart. We see this again the Last Supper.
Peter’s Denial Foretold.31 [j]“Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you[k] like wheat, 32 but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.” 33 He said to him, “Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you.” 34 But he replied, “I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows this day, you will deny three times that you know me.”Luke 22:31-34
Peter TRUSTED in God’s mercy completely.
7 So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea.John 21:7
Certainly no one can claim “getting soaked for the Lord” more in the scriptures than Peter (maybe Jonah.). He went jumping into the water, hurrying to get to Christ. He obviously was not thinking “I denied him three times. He could never forgive me.” Any one of us might have withdrawn from Christ assuming that we blew it and he could never forgive us. Not Peter! Even after he denied him at the crucifixion, he was so sure he was loved and forgiven he dove into the water and swam to him. He didn’t even wait for the boat to head back to land. That shows us that Peter was so excited to be in the presence of Christ once again that he couldn’t wait one more minute. He knew he was loved by Christ.
When I mess up in the smallest way, I sometimes hide from God and neglect prayer. I let my shame and mistakes be used against me by the enemy who knows my pride is such that I keep thinking it is up to me to have my own salvation. Thankfully, it is not…only in Christ am I redeemed.
As I continue to walk on the water toward Christ with Peter, before I look around and analyze the tide, knots, windspeed or temperature of the situation, I think I will just call on St Peter and his supernatural faith to guide me toward the all-merciful savior Jesus Christ that both Peter and I love so dearly. Sink or swim. After all, Peter’s supernatural faith shows me how to float right back up when fall. And what if I don’t? Well, that’s what nets are for. He wasn’t called to be a fisher of men for nothing.
There is so much more of Peter’s extraordinary faith in the scriptures: if you want to pray with Peter and Jesus, look up some of these great moments:
- John chapter 21
- Matthew 4:18
- Matthew 8:13
- Matthew 16:12
- Matthew 17
- Mark 8:26
- Mark 10:28 just to name a few…