Wednesday, April 25, 2007

In a Word, a Man

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." He then said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." (Jesus) said to him, "Feed my sheep.

This has always been one of my favourite passages from the Gospels. The way Peter's three avowals of love mirror his three denials sends shivers through me.

I've always had a great attachment to St. Peter, not only as a saint and our first pope, but simply as himself. I always struggled to find fitting words to express the why and wherefore, and I always fall back upon a quote of Chesterton's:

When Christ at a symbolic moment was establishing His great society, He chose for its comer-stone neither the brilliant Paul nor the mystic John, but a shuffler, a snob a coward--in a word, a man. And upon this rock He has built His Church, and the gates of Hell have not prevailed against it. All the empires and the kingdoms have failed, because of this inherent and continual weakness, that they were founded by strong men and upon strong men. But this one thing, the historic Christian Church, was founded on a weak man, and for that reason it is indestructible. For no chain is stronger than its weakest link.

1 comment:

lissla lissar said...

That's from the Everlasting Man, right? I should read that again.

Geoff and I were talking about this passage after Mass- well, of course, it was the reading for this past Sunday- and I said how much I loved Peter's character, Christ's choice of him as shepherd, and the amazing change he goes through after that choice. Peter is full of reckless enthusiasm, "Not only my feet, but my hands and head as well!", a coward, not too good at figuring out what's going on, and not a great speaker. A follower. And then, suddenly he's a great leader, speaks eloquently in front of huge crowds, and so holy that people put their ill in the street so that his shadow fill fall across them.

It's a wonderful example of the strength of God in the weakness of man. Have you read Father Elijah, by Michael O'Brien? There's a great passage in it about one of the characters and his experience when he touches St. Peter;s bones.

Goodness. Sorry this is do long.