Saturday, June 29, 2013

Petertide and Petering out?

Well, happy St Peter's day, everyone! I think many homilies love to focus on just how ordinary St Peter was, how fallible, how irritating, how bullish and yet how loyal, how devoted and how accepting he was - a simple fisherman made a fisher of men. He is given the keys to the kingdom of Heaven and becomes the leader of the Holy Apostles - the word "prince" means leader. However, he is still the same person as that little fisherman. His ordination at the hands of Our Lord Jesus Christ marks him out for the good of Holy Church and, with his brethren and inspired by his personal witness of the work of the Holy Trinity, he participates in the changing of the world.

We sort of see his story repeated on TV shows like Britain's Got Talent when some hitherto unknown person comes on stage for the first time, performs magnificently, wowing the ever sceptical Simon Cowell, and rises to win the competition, the accolades and the praises of the nation. St Peter has won Gallilee's Got Faith and this little fisherman has become one of the inner circle that is centred on our Lord Jesus Christ.

We know that fame is fleeting and that it takes a very certain type of person whose name will outlive them by 50 years, so what about a couple of millennia? How does a fisherman become a household name in the West?

If the claim that Our Lord Jesus never in fact existed is true, then it's difficult to see how St Peter and St Paul, whose existence scholars do not doubt, gain the status above similar religious leaders of the time such as Honi the Circle Drawer. Indeed, we may have people like Joseph Smith and Joseph Rutherford who found religions with a basis on Christianity in the same way that it might be perceived that the Christians piggybacked on Judaism.

However, what is crucial is that, unlike Joseph Smith, or even the prophet Mohammed, St Peter is not the only witness to the Revelation nor is he the sole author of the texts that Christians hold to be definitive, truth bearing, and thus holy. His is a testimony among others, very much a primus inter pares, and that testimony is not a witness to his own doings but to the work of the Holy Ghost. He recognises in himself that he is not the author of the miracles at his hands, just as any priest is not the author of the miracle of the Eucharist. He is the leader of a group who have seen with their eyes, which  they have looked upon, and their hands have handled, namely the Word of Life.

The Faith of St Peter is certainly the rock on which the Church has indeed been built. What has been perceived as a small apocalyptic cult has grown through the efforts of this man and his companions, and unlike similar cults of the time, it has grown remarkably! The other cults have now become obscure because they simply do not have the authority imbued upon them from God. These cults had no Peter, because they have no Christ. Thus have they petered out.

St Peter nonetheless remains a little fisherman. There is nothing about him that is substantially different from any of us, save that he has had first-hand witness to the Life of Christ, and yet more blessed are we if we believe if we have not seen! It is because of his humanity that we can count on St Peter to point out Our Lord Christ to us when we are faced with locked doors.

Holy Peter, prince of Apostles, pray for us and for the Church which you love.

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