Reflection : Peter

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Introduction

Peter the disciple was a poor and unlearned fisherman, and was called by Jesus to be one of his permanent disciples. During Jesus’ lifetime, Peter was with Jesus for several key moments, including the Transfiguration and the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Ten years after Jesus ascended into heaven, he went to Rome and for twenty-five years laboured with St. Paul building up the great Roman Church.


This resource includes three readings and reflections on things we can learn from Peter. Each can be used separately, or all three together to form a series during a retreat.

Prayer

Almighty God,
whose blessed apostle Peter
glorified you in his death as in his life:
grant that your Church,
inspired by his teaching and example,
and made one by your Spirit,
may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

Reading 1

John 18 v1-26

Reflection 1

The art of risk taking

Peter was known for his rash responses.

In the reading from John we hear that Peter drew his sword and cut off the high priest’s servant’s ear (John 18:10).  “Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its scabbard. Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?” then Peter denies Jesus three times.

We, too, can emotionally respond to the situations in our lives – whether it is blowing up at our disobedient child, experiencing impatience at the self service checkout at the supermarket, or trying to make major life decisions without proper discernment. Slowing down and praying before acting can help us make better decisions. The good news is St. Peter eventually overcame his rashness to become the rock on which Jesus built his church. We, too, can overcome rashness to do great things (even if small) for God.

While acting rashly rarely leads to positive outcomes, acting out of faith makes all things possible. St. Peter’s life illustrates this over and over again. Let’s look at two famous examples The first occurs when Jesus asks Peter to put his nets out into the deep. Upon catching a great mass of fish the Lord calls to Peter and his partners saying I will make you fishers of men. Peter’s actions say it all, “When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him” (Luke 5:11). Shortly after, Jesus sends his disciples ahead. In the middle of the night, he comes to them walking on water. The apostles actually think Jesus is a ghost. When Jesus tries to calm their fears Peter says, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14:28). What happens next should amaze us if we let it. There in the cold darkness Peter places a foot over the edge of the boat. Close your eyes and picture it. First his foot hovers above the water and then slowly it descends. Perhaps it reels back at the first touch of the cold sea water. Then he puts his full weight down lifting himself clear of the boat. And then, all be it just for a few moments he stands straight and like his master walks on water.

Both of these actions may appear rash or at least risky on the surface, but Peter’s life teaches us that it is ok to take a risk when God calls. Riskiness and rashness are not the same thing. God does not always ask us to play it safe. Peter’s actions challenge us to ask ourselves what risk is God calling me to take? Is he asking me to give up my job so I can stay home with my children? Is God asking me to give more to the poor or my church? Am I called to take another job for less pay in order to devote more time to my family? Do I need to become a primary caregiver to a sick or aged parent? Should I give up my cushy job to explore ordination? Trusting God is a risk, but it is the only way we can become who we were made to be.

Let’s take a moment of silence to reflect on those areas of our lives where we are rash and begin to think about opportunities for taking risks by trusting God’s call.

Reading 2

Matthew 16 v13-20

Reflection 2

Humility

Not many specific details of St. Peter’s death are known.  We do know that he was martyred by the order of Emperor Nero Augustus Caesar. Tradition has it that St. Peter was crucified upside down by his request. St. Peter didn’t think he was worthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus. Most of us will not be called to martyrdom in such humble submission to Our Lord’s plan, but there are many examples of Peter’s humility that directly inform our own life in the modern world. Humility is what kept Peter (even in spite of his rash personality) close to Jesus. He moved rashly forward at times, yes, but he also humbly submitted to the Master’s correction and weathered Our Lord’s rebukes with an openness to the love and growth that they offered.

In today’s world, it is hard to be humble. Social media such as Facebook (or gloatbook as my wife calls it) continually begs us to broadcast our accomplishments, blessings, and happy moments to our numerous friends and acquaintances. It entices us to see how many “likes” we can get on each post so everyone knows exactly what we are up at any given moment.  We have the option of creating any image we want of ourselves and it’s tempting to take advantage of this. We can photoshop our life to fit into a social model that is attractive, perfect, and enviable. This environment seems to intensify our natural desire to hide our flaws and imperfections (both external and internal). We must instead embrace the two truths that 1) this life is temporary and we are not made for this world; and 2) healing and growth come from acknowledging our wounds and flaws and letting God into those deep spaces of pain and sin. Humility is a dying to self. So, while we may not ever face crucifixion in the literal sense, we are called to die to our egos and our pride.

There’ll be a chance to think more about the two points I just made at the prayer station later but now, we’re going to have a time of confession. When I was planning this service it didn’t feel right to be overly prescriptive about how this time worked in terms of following a particular prayer or creative activity so I’m going to play a piece of music and there’s the opportunity to bring your confession to God in the stillness. There are candles to light at the foot of the cross should you want to do that.

Reading 3

1 Peter  3 v 8-22

Reflection

Hope

Slap bang in the middle of that reading Peter wrote, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Peter 3:15).

The world is full of news which can easily make us lose focus and hope. Continued war, heightened security, and the rising cost of living can easily make us lose trust in God. As Christians, we need to both search for and maintain peace in our own lives, so we can share the love of Christ with others as surely that love is the hope that Peter speaks of.

One way to maintain peace in your life is to make time every day for prayer. This is not easy. As a parent of small children, I know this is not easy. It seems our children are experts at knowing when we are praying and have an immediate need. But regular prayer really will help you to focus on what is important and regular prayer will renew your hope if it is lacking right now.

It is important to understand that there is no such thing as perfect prayer. You can even do it while bouncing a baby on your knee. You will have distractions. Your mind will wander but offering your time to God is still pleasing to him. Making time for prayer is vital to having hope.  When I have hope, it is easier to be patient, joyful, gracious and kind…  in a moment we’ll have the chance to think about that some more during our personal reflection time but first let’s sing again.

Blessing

Lord, as you rewarded Saint Peter for his strong and generous faith, sincere humility and burning love – Grant, that we may follow, in humility, with hope and with faithful risk taking the path you set out for each of us. And may the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be upon us and remain with us always. Amen.