I sometimes imagine a dialogue between God and Humanity where we complain to Him.
HUMANITY: God, you are too far above us! How can we ever hope to be perfect as You are perfect?
GOD: I understand. So I shall become one of you. I will be the Man Jesus and I will show you how you are to live a perfect human life.
HUMANITY: But that isn’t fair! Jesus is a Divine Person! We are mere creatures. How could we, your creation, possible imitate someone so perfect?
GOD: I understand. So I shall give you the Blessed Virgin. She is no God. She is a creature. And she shall be your model of human holiness.
HUMANITY: But that isn’t fair! She has no Original Sin. We are fallen creatures! How can we base our lives on her-
GOD: FINE! You can’t deal with perfection! Then I’ll send to you the biggest screw-up I can find, and HE will be your leader and role model. Now you have no more excuses.
I like to imagine this dialogue, because I like to imagine that is how God chose Peter to be the first pope.
In my time as a teacher, I constantly point to Jesus and the Blessed Mother as our role models of humanity. We see in Jesus perfect manhood and holiness. We see Mary perfect womanhood and faithfulness. But when I point to an example of how Jesus lived, I would often hear in response: “Well, I’m not Jesus.” The same would be said of Mary. What they mean is that they are too perfect. They are unrelatable because they do not wallow in the muck of sin the way we do.
This is, of course, simply a dodge. Jesus and Mary knew temptation, pain, and trials like all of us. But it is convenient to turn them into distant alien beings who cannot understand our lives.
This is where Peter comes in.
Peter is my favorite saint of all time. It is not because of his bravery, faith, holiness, wisdom, and great love (although all of those things deserve constant admiration). No, he is my favorite saint because he is the biggest screw up in the Bible.
Seriously, Peter constantly seems to get things wrong.
Even when he gets things right, he gets them wrong.
He has enough faith to walk on water, but then he stumbles on the waves (Matt 14:22-33).
He confesses Jesus as the Messiah and then is called Satan by Jesus for not thinking as God thinks (Matt 16).
He promises to stand by Jesus no matter what but denies him 3 times.
This is not limited to the time before the Resurrection. Jesus charges Peter with shepherding His flock, but Peter still is more curious about Christ’s plans for John (John 21).
Years later, even though Peter decides that Gentiles don’t have to follow the Jewish laws in order to be Christian, he gives scandal by behaving as if they do when he’s at Antioch. This upsets Paul so much that he brings Peter in front of everyone and scolds him in front of the entire gathering (Gal 2:11-21).
I know I sound like I’m dumping on Peter, but I’m really not. I’m in awe of him. True, his faith failed on the waters, but how many of us would have enough faith to step out of the boat?
Christ founded the Church on the rock of Peter. Peter (whose name means “rock) is often a weak man. He is inconsistent and he struggles. But he is the chosen foundation. It would be like a giant Jenga tower balanced on the top of a round marble. Dr. Peter Kreeft always says that God has dangerous tastes, and nowhere is this more apparent than with Peter.
Peter is one of us: a flawed, fragile individual. We are soaked with sin and easily stumble on our journey. Building the Church on such a precarious foundation would be lunacy. It would take a miracle for a Church built on Peter to not collapse.
And I think that is the point.
If Peter was perfect from the start, there would be nothing miraculous about the Church standing strong. But the Bible shows you all of his flaws. And despite that, the Church is still the Church of Christ. When we see human frailty and error in our Church leaders today, we remember that it was there from the beginning. But the miracle of Christ’s grace always sees Her through.
But let us not forget Peter’s greatest attribute: he never stops trying.
Both Peter and Judas betray Jesus on Holy Thursday Night. Judas Iscariot (whose name means “dagger”) tries to fix the problem himself by giving the money back, but when he fails he kills himself. Venerable Fulton Sheen once wrote that the great tragedy of Judas’ life is that he should have been “St. Judas.” Peter, on the other hand, returns to the Lord humbled, and he goes back to walking with the Lord.
There are so many times I can imagine myself giving up, if I was in Peter’s shoes. But he never does. Every time he falls, he returns to the Lord to raise him up.
We have to remember that there will be failure in our spiritual life. We are going to screw up. Sometimes we are going to screw up badly. But the question is are we going to be like Judas and give into despair or are we going to be like Peter and give in to Jesus? Do we grip the dagger or cling to the rock?
Peter shows us the way. Peter is one of us. And he shows us that we are made of the stuff of saints.
Copyright © 2013, W.L. Grayson