6th Sunday Easter – My Confirmation name was Peter…
Go figure. Yeah, I chose Peter, “Rock,” because I was a good Catholic boy burdened with doubt and ambivalence. It had more to do with my youthful fascination with Gibraltar. So, what does this have to do with Sunday’s gospel:
Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love… I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.” [John 15:9ff]
How did Peter go from being the brother of Andrew to Jesus’ friend in his depths? Jesus drew Peter to himself. Peter got to be himself. In relationship with Jesus, Peter saw more clearly how fear dominated his life, showing itself in his boasts and aggression and denials. Then and only then, was Peter able to become a friend – when Jesus welcomed him at his worst.
Simon Peter went on a journey, as it were, to embody his name. Beginning in chapter one, he was identified as “Andrew’s brother” and then given his name, Peter. (chapter one)
After other disciples left Jesus (chapter six: Bread of Life discourse), Peter announced, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of everlasting life!”
When Jesus knelt down to wash his feet (chapter thirteen), Peter denied him, “You shall never wash my feet!” And almost as impulsively, “Then not only my feet, wash my hands and my head as well!” When Jesus began to speak of one who will betray him, Peter, ever hyper-vigilant, motioned to the beloved disciple to get the low-down.
“Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus answered, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterwards. ‘Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’” Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.”
Ever impulsive, Peter cut off the ear of the slave, Malchus, when Jesus was arrested in the garden (chapter eighteen). Jesus understood his action and said, “‘Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?’”
Peter weaseled his way into the courtyard of the high priest with another disciple and, being accused of being ‘one of them’, denied it… just then a cock crowed.
Mary came from the tomb with the word that Jesus’ body was gone! Peter ran with the beloved disciple to the tomb. When he entered, he saw the cloths. It was the beloved disciple who saw and believed. (chapter twenty)
Peter got the boys together (chapter twenty-one), “Let’s go fishing!” After catching nothing came the great draught of fish: “It is the Lord!” Peter jumped into the sea and swam to him. After breakfast. When they had finished breakfast over a charcoal fire (!), Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’
We know the rest, right? A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ 17 He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’
This is how Peter became Jesus’ friend. Jesus drew Peter to himself and thereby shined his Light upon his life and his faults. When Peter could see himself more clearly, he was ready to act like a friend to Jesus. John doesn’t say that he did. Rather, the stories about Peter close with him wanting to know, “what about him???” We don’t know how Peter became a friend to Jesus in the gospel of John.
Question: What does your Confirmation name teach you about your journey to know yourself (and others) as a friend of Jesus in your depths?