08.13.17: Surrendering in time
Homily from the 7:30 and 9 a.m. Masses at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Crown Point, Ind.
I’ve never really understood St. Peter.
I think it’s because I’ve always seen Peter as kind of two-faced. I mean, we see images of Peter all the time and they tell a certain story: He seems so regal, so confident standing above the altar, holding the keys to the kingdom. But that’s not the Peter we see so often during the life of Jesus.
That Peter up there can’t possibly be the Peter who denies knowing Jesus three times en route to Calvary. That Peter up there surely isn’t the same Peter we hear about today.
The Peter we see in today’s Gospel seems almost cowardly, lacking faith.
Here’s Jesus doing something extraordinary, inviting Peter to do something extraordinary.
“Come.” And so Peter begins walking toward Jesus, skimming the top of the water with his feet. But Peter just can’t do it. He begins questioning what the Son of God was allowing him to do. He begins sinking.
Time and time again Peter failed to live up to his potential. What could Our Lord possibly have seen in Peter?
He saw humanity.
You and I have been endowed by God with so many strengths, yet just like Peter, sometimes we can’t seem to shift the focus from our weaknesses.
Jesus holds out his hand. He tells Peter, “Come.” Peter can’t seem to surrender his trust. Peter questions Jesus – and so do we.
But, it’s in this very questioning where we see Peter as an example of how you and I can come to Jesus.
Some saints do it through the via positiva – by doing things right, by God giving them that push in the right direction, letting them know that what they’re doing is part of God’s plan for their life. This is Jesus putting his hand out and us giving our all, trusting our God with whole heart and whole mind.
But how did Peter come to Jesus?
By stumbling and falling again and again and again. But when does Peter fall? When he began to rely on his own power, his own abilities.
And it’s like that so often in our lives. We’ll feel that gentle nudge pushing us in one direction, but it’s not the direction we want to go. So, what do we do?
“Lord, I hear you, but I’m going this way. I’m my own man. I’m doing what I want to do. It doesn’t matter the storms I’m going to battle. I’m doing this for me.”
And what does God always say to us? The same thing Jesus says to Peter: “Go ahead. I’ll catch you when you fall.”
Jesus didn’t call the perfected. He called Peter – a fisherman. He wasn’t rich or influential or highly educated. He was a working man. Peter was every man, every woman, every child.
And friends, God calls each of us, and we don’t just bring along our strengths. No, we bring along our weaknesses, too – and God welcomes that.
Yeah, Peter had his weaknesses. But he had his strengths, too. And Peter’s knowledge of his own limits was one of those strengths, because it led him to reliance upon God.
Maybe that’s why he has the keys to the kingdom. Maybe we have them, too. Maybe we have to come to the same realizations he did. Maybe we just have to reach the point where we reach out and allow our own transformation. Maybe it starts with those same three little words: “Lord, save me.”