February 22, 2022
Feast of the Chair of St. Peter
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings invite to consider God’s naming us – calling us.
We celebrate wonderful Saint Peter – so fully human, so fully holy, so fully in love with God! As we pray the Gospel of Peter’s naming, may we deepen in understanding our own naming by God.
Once, Jesus asked Peter what he believed. Peter answered, simply and magnificently:
“YOU ARE THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD.”
Peter was an ordinary man who responded to Jesus with a clear and extraordinary faith.
One June morning, nearly fifty years ago, I sat in a sun-drenched field in the Golan Heights of Israel at a spot called Caesarea Philippi. Thirty other pilgrims composed the group as we heard today’s Gospel being read. Listening, I watched the rising sun grow brilliant on the majestic rock face in the near distance.
I thought how Peter might have watched his day’s sun playing against the same powerful cliffs as Jesus spoke his name:
Jesus said to him,
You are Peter (which means “Rock”),
and upon this Rock
I will build my Church.
A few years later, I stood at the center of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Looking up, I saw these words emblazoned around the awesome rotunda dome:
Tu es Petrus,
et super hanc petram
Jesus calls us to be saints too. He lovingly speaks our name into a sacred future we cannot even imagine. But if, like Peter, we trust and believe, God does the rest.
Poetry: Peter by John Poch.
The poem captures the transformation of Peter’s humanness into God’s hope for him – the “changing” of his name.
There are three things which are too wonderful for me,
Yes, four which I do not understand.
The way of an eagle in the air,
The way of a serpent on a rock,
The way of a ship in the heart of the sea,
And the way of a man with a maid
–Prov. 30:18, 19
Contagious as a yawn, denial poured
over me like a soft fall fog, a girl
on a carnation strewn parade float, waving
at everyone and no one, boring and bored.
There actually was a robed commotion parading.
I turned and turned away and turned. A swirl
of wind pulled back my hood, a fire of coal
brightened my face, and those around me whispered:
You’re one of them, aren’t you? You smell like fish.
And wine, someone else joked. That’s brutal. That’s cold,
I said, and then they knew me by my speech.
They let me stay and we told jokes like fisher-
men and houseboys. We gossiped till the cock crowed,
his head a small volcano raised to mock stone.
Who could believe a woman’s word, perfumed
in death? I did. I ran and was outrun
before I reached the empty tomb. I stepped
inside an empty shining shell of a room,
sans pearl. I walked back home alone and wept
again. At dinner. His face shone like the sun.
I went out into the night. I was a sailor
and my father’s nets were calling. It was high tide,
I brought the others. Nothing, the emptiness
of business, the hypnotic waves of failure.
But a voice from shore, a familiar fire, and the nets
were full. I wouldn’t be outswum, denied
this time. The coal-fire before me, the netted fish
behind. I’m carried where I will not wish.
Music: Peter’s Song – Face to Face – Michael O’Brien
something in the way
you called my name,
an ordinary fisherman you called me friend and took me in.
How everything had changed
because then I knew I’d never be the same.
Love came and rescued me.
I gave up my everything to follow.
Now I know.
All that I was before
won’t matter anymore
for I am a new man
because I have seen my Savior
standing in the courtyard by the fire,
words still ringing in my head,
three times before the break of dawn
you would be denied.
And yet I saw no judgment in your eyes.
Love came and died for me.
I gave up my everything,
gave up my everything to follow.
Now I know
all that I was before
is dead and it lives no more
for I am a new man
because I have seen
my savior face-to-face.
The dark night, the new day –
The stone was rolled away –
my Savior, You are the Light
You are alive! Ascended to heaven.
I know that you will come again.
That moment I will arise
to worship before your throne,
to bow down for you alone are worthy,
and there with saints of old,
I’ll sing a brand new song in heaven
where I will see my Savior face-to-face.