“Thou art Peter and upon this rock, I shall build my church.”
These are the first words I saw when I walked into my new church. I had been offered my new job just a few days prior and wanted to attend Mass as I began to get to know my new parish. The words to this verse are written on an arc above the sanctuary.
When I took my seat in the pews, I finally got my first look at the sanctuary space and I was struck by the full image: a stone mosaic of Peter kneeling at the feet of Jesus, who is handing down the keys to the kingdom to the first Bishop of Rome as a miter falls on his head and the verse above it all.
You see, before I even started working at St. Peter Church, I’ve always been fascinated by this particular Gospel passage. There is such a stark contrast in the words spoken by Peter across the entire passage.
Today’s Gospel begins with a question posed by Jesus to the disciples, almost like a survey. I picture it in modern times with Jesus asking, “Hey, what’s the gossip? What’s the scuttlebut? What are people saying about me?” But then the question turns personal.
I’ve reflected on that personal question in prayer many times. Who do YOU say that I am? I feel like my answer depends on a lot of factors, where I’m at in my spiritual life. When things are going well, I’m not afraid to claim Him as Lord of my life who is abundant with blessings. On the flip side, during periods of desolation, I hope that I am able to turn to the Lord as Comforter.
Regardless, I find myself wishing I had the faith and courage shown in Peter’s response, confessing Jesus to be “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Look at how Peter is rewarded for his faith! With the great responsibility of being the rock, the foundation of the Church who holds the keys to the kingdom.
Peter continues to show that same, steady faith throughout the rest of the Gospels, right? He wishes! Just a few short verses later, Jesus proclaims Peter to be an obstacle to Him. “Get behind me Satan.” Where did that faith go?
We can learn just as much from these words as we can from Peter’s great confession of faith. We can learn not to be our own obstacle on our journey of faith and especially on the journeys of others.
Today, I encourage you to pray with Peter. Pray with this great extreme we see in his words, that we may always be able to proclaim in great faith that Jesus is our Lord and that we don’t follow the hard-heartedness and hard-headedness that becomes an obstacle to Christ’s plan of salvation.
Erin is a Cleveland native and graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Following graduation, she began volunteering in youth ministry at her home parish of Holy Family Church. Her first “big girl” job was in collegiate sports information where, after a busy two years in the profession on top of serving the youth, she took a leap of faith and followed the Lord’s call to full-time youth ministry at St. Peter Church. She still hopes to use her communication arts degree as a freelance writer and statistician, though. You can catch her on the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter @erinmadden2016.