Voices April 29, 2019
Will your faith strengthen or crumble under pressure?
At our school’s Holy Thursday retreat this year, I focused on Peter, the “rock” of the Church. Jesus used tangible teaching methods so that we, childlike in our understanding of God’s love for us, might come to understand him.
In keeping with the tangible, I gave each child a rock to hold. Together, we reviewed different types of rocks and their qualities. The children admitted it would not be wise to erect a building on a sedimentary rock which could erode, or on an igneous rock with holes inside it. They agreed the best foundation would be a metamorphic rock, one that has undergone change and gained strength from heat and pressure.
Then, we looked at stories of the “metamorphism” of the foundation of our Church: “’…you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church…’” (Matthew 16:18).
Simon Peter loved Jesus so much that he could not bear the idea of Jesus stooping to serve him in the act of washing his feet; however, Jesus revealed that Peter needed to allow this gesture in order to be part of his inheritance (John 13:7). Eventually, Jesus washed Peter’s feet (the basic act of a lowly servant) and modelled how to lead his Church through humble service.
When Jesus told his disciples that they could not go where he was going, Simon Peter exclaimed, “’Master, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’”
Jesus answered: “‘Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.’” (John 13: 37-38)
Jesus knew that Simon Peter would crumble under the pressure and fear of being arrested for associating with him. When that rooster crowed, “Peter remember the words that Jesus had spoken: “Before the cock crows you will deny me three times.’ He went out and began to weep bitterly.” (Matthew 26: 75)
The children could see how in these instances, Simon Peter was like a sedimentary rock in his faith. He had the components of strong faith: love for Jesus and the willingness to follow Him and to sacrifice for Him. However, his faith needed to undergo metamorphism to reach its fulfillment. These powerful experiences tested Simon Peter, and in the end he endured.
On the third Sunday of Easter, we will listen to St. John’s account of Jesus’ appearance to his Disciples for the third time after his Resurrection. That day, Jesus asked Simon Peter three times (an echo of the three times Peter had denied Him) if he loved him. Simon Peter responded: “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.’ [Jesus] said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’” (John 21:17)
When I read this passage to the children, I asked them why they thought Jesus kept asking the same question when, as God, he would have already known the answer. One little boy in Grade 4 raised his hand and said, “because Peter needed to know.”
Peter had what it took to become the foundation of a Church built to last. Jesus entrusted him with this enormous responsibility, and then tested him so that Peter would overcome and believe in himself.
The children identified that the rock of Peter was originally vulnerable; yet, under extreme circumstances and the pressures of earthly life, Peter gained strength and became the foundation of a Church that has endured centuries of pressure, conflict, attack, division, and still stands today.
They also realized that we are the very sheep to which Jesus referred. Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him and Jesus asks us the same question every day. We respond to him, not only in words, but through serving others in his name and trusting him as sheep follow a shepherd.
We need to allow our faith to evolve and solidify, rather than crumble and erode, under the heat and pressure of life’s challenges and tests of faith.
We must realize that, like Peter, our faith will undergo metamorphism, as we respond in earnest to Christ’s repeated question, “Do you really love me?”
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