Tuesday, April 06, 2010

What prompted the change in Peter?

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

He is Risen! He is truly Risen! May the grace of the risen savior, Jesus Christ, come upon you this Easter day and remain with you throughout the 50 day Easter celebration. I’d like to especially welcome those of you who haven’t been here in quite a while.

For one of my summer jobs during college, I decided to become a short-order cook in a small country restaurant in Marshalltown. It was one of the hardest summers I ever had because I had to be awake at 5:30 to be to work at 6:00. I’m not a morning person so this was quite a challenge. The other challenge was the job itself. I would be handed a ticket with a list of food to prepare and I had to know the timing that it took for one piece of food compared to another. For instance, I had to know how long it took to make eggs over easy so that I could have hot hash browns and toast to be served at the exact same time. That was the hardest part of the job for me and, to be honest, I quite often had to call the owner in the kitchen to help me catch up because I’d fallen so far behind. But, I can still remember the day that I finally succeeded. Several tickets all came up at once and I started all the things that took a lot of time right away. I remembered to flip the eggs quickly for the one woman who liked her eggs runny and even remembered to push the toast down. As I completed the last ticket that day, I had this tremendous sense of accomplishment. The owner, who was not known for his warm loquacious demeanor, came back to the kitchen, patted me on the back, and said, “Good job, kid.” I had made it. It felt good.

The focus of the gospel is always Jesus. But, in the background, there are a bunch of people who interact with the savior and we see quite a transformation in one of these people today. Peter, the rock on whom our church is built, has his good times and bad times during Jesus’ ministry. Sometimes he seems to comprehend things perfectly, like when he recognized Jesus for the Messiah he is. Other times, he seems to get things very wrong, like when he thrice denied knowing Jesus during Jesus’ trial. And the amazing thing from today is that the background character is called up to the front in the course of today’s readings. In the gospel, we hear about Peter’s reaction to hearing about the empty tomb. Whereas Mary Magdalene seems to react with doubt and fear by running to tell the disciples that they have stolen his body, Peter runs to the tomb, enters it and sees the burial clothes neatly wrapped up. For him, this is the beginning, a call to faith that will continue to grow for the next several years through the careful fertilization of the Holy Spirit.

Peter makes five speeches in the Acts of the Apostles, all of which are creedal catechetical statements of belief. In other words, the student becomes the teacher by the Acts of Apostles. His bumbling errors are a thing of the past and he now speaks with the clarity of our first Pope, telling the world all about the forgiveness given to us by the cross and resurrection of Jesus. He was a witness and now he’s got to witness.

And, he calls each of us to witness to the faith. We are called to live our lives affected by the resurrection of Jesus by loving one another, especially the persecuted. We are to reach out to the lost individuals in our life and invite them to come to church with us. Maybe for some of us, the best witness you can give is to make church on Sunday a priority in your life on more than just a monthly basis. Maybe for some of you, you need to get the demons such as addiction to drugs, alcohol, or sex out of your life in order to be a witness and you need to join a group like AA or SA in order to kick the habit.

The challenge always is that we don’t feel like we can do it. Maybe we feel energized and excited now but there will be a time when reality will set in and we’ll have to commit to actually doing it. We may even remember past failures and use them as an excuse as to why we can’t witness today. Let us use the inspiration of Peter, the one who first failed before he succeeded, to commit to being witnesses to the resurrection.