I have always been fascinated by the figure of Saint Peter, our first Pope. He was such an unlikely choice! God could have chosen a priest, a very wise teacher, a prophet, a ruler, even, Heaven help us, a lawyer. Someone who, to most superficial human eyes, would have been vastly more suited to be the first head of His Church on Earth. Instead he chose a humble fisherman. Why? Any number of reasons, I suppose, many of them still known only to God. Perhaps one of the major factors was the love that Peter bore for Christ. We see this after their first meeting when Peter urges Christ to go from him because Peter is a sinful man. I think that at that point Peter desperately wanted to follow Christ, but he thought he was unworthy to because of his sins. He was willing to have Christ depart from him in order to protect Christ from Peter’s sinful nature.
Peter is heartbroken when Christ reveals that he must die on the Cross. Peter tells Christ that this must not happen, only to be rebuked by Christ for acting as a Satan attempting to tempt His human weakness. This was said shortly after Christ, no doubt to Peter’s immense shock, advised him that He was going to build His Church on him, and committed to him the keys of the kingdom of Heaven. How strange it must have all seemed to the Fisherman from Galilee! However, his love for Christ kept him at the side of Jesus.
At the Last Supper when Christ reveals the Eucharist, He has this dialogue with Peter:
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”
And he (Peter) said unto him, “Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.”
And he (Jesus) said, “I tell thee Peter, the cock show not crow on this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.”
After seeing the great miracle of the Last Supper, Peter did precisely that, deserting Christ in His hour of need, denying him three times. Continue reading
Today, Palm Sunday, and throughout the rest of Holy Week, we devote ourselves to the central mysteries of our faith as Christians: Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The Last Supper, which instituted for us the mystery of the Holy Eucharist. The suffering and death of Christ on the cross. His resurrection on the third day.
These miracles are the very center of our faith. As Saint Paul said, if Christ did not rise from the dead, then our faith is in vain. Or to paraphrase Flannery O’Connor’s use of rather more modern parlance, “If it isn’t true, to hell with it.”
This central miracle, Christ’s death and resurrection, is the miracle which gives our faith meaning and sets it radically apart from the “he was a good man killed by the authorities for standing up for the poor” substitute which some propose. For if Christ was not God, if He did not rise from the dead, if He did not offer to us eternal salvation, then “he was a good man” is no half-way-there substitute. The resurrection is a miracle so unlikely, so scandalous that we must either embrace it wholly or reject Christianity with scorn. The events of Holy Week are not something we can accept half-way, and by accepting them we accept something which goes utterly and completely beyond the natural and predictable world. A miracle.