Friday, February 29, 2008

You know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors…He paid for you with the precious life blood of Christ.

1 Peter 1: 18-20

St. Peter has a unique perspective to share on the central, formative theme of our faith: The cross has set us free from a narrow, self-centered, finite life and opened up literally infinite possibilities for the asking.

I always find it very encouraging that this insight comes from the same Peter who betrayed and abandoned Christ at the moment of crisis, who railed I know not the man and ran for his life. How very human, how very much like all of us, he is not a perfect, plaster saint. We can see ourselves in his doubts and struggles and failings. Like Judas, he answered the call; followed the Master; heard the words; saw the miracles. But in the crunch, he did the “smart” thing, just as Judas had done in cutting his deal. But, unlike Judas, in his shame and despair, God’s grace held Peter on the brink and preserved him to share in the ultimate miracle of Easter.

What greater witness to the curative powers of the Resurrection than Peter, the fair weather friend of Jesus, who saved his hide, was broken in his betrayal, but now cheers us across the ages that Christ has set us free. Like Peter’s our lives are a cycle of falls and resurrections. God is always there to forgive, to draw us closer and to take us higher.

This Easter Season God will take us higher. To begin we remember Maundy Thursday, that eventful day of the first Eucharist, when Christ kneels before his disciples, Peter and Judas included, and in humility and supplication washes their feet. His time with them is running out. This is not an occasion for parables, but for very plain speaking. Clearly and emphatically, Christ gives us His mandate to love one another: For I have set you an example, that you should also do as I have done to you. (John 13:15)

And then through betrayal, torture, ridicule and hypocrisy, Jesus goes willingly to the cross. Good Friday is a very emotional day for me. I bring my pain, my failings, my pride, my turmoil and lay them all on the cross. Together we pray for the all the Peters and the Judas’ in our lives. We pray for the serenity to endure today’s trials and trials to come. We give confident thanks that in Peter’s words: our ransom has been paid.

Easter morning has Peter in stunned disbelief inside the empty tomb. Again he stands in for our frail humanity, the “everyman” who must have God’s plan explained to him over and over. And so later the risen Christ asks Peter again and again: Do you love me? And finally Peter gets it. In his first letter Peter references everything in the context of our living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the cornerstone of our faith, that Peter, the “rock”, proclaims to us this Easter. What an example to slow learners everywhere. God’s love is kind and constant. Through the cross He calls us to the glory of the Resurrection. Come celebrate this Easter this year at your own parish. And this year, like Peter, we can humbly reply: Lord, You know all things. You know that I love You.

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