Updated: Jun 3, 2021
“…When you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” (John 21:18).
Today, and for many many days over the few months, I have found myself reflecting on the institution of the Catholic Church.
I was praying for my dear friends, Nancy, Vanessa, the family of little Baby Charbel, my niece, my own family and friends, all of you who pray with me, and all the Lost Souls of Purgatory. And as a natural course, my prayers turned to the leadership of the Church – the nuns, sisters, brothers, monks, priests, bishops, cardinals, and the Pope himself. As I prayed, I prayed the prayer of Saint Therese of Lisieux for priests…
It is a beautiful prayer. In it, she asks God to look after all priests – “I pray for your faithful and fervent priests; for your unfaithful and tepid priests…” – and she asks God to “keep them all close to Your heart, and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity.”
It is a beautiful prayer…
Whenever I think of the beauty of that prayer and the prayers we pray for priests, my mind always comes back to Simon Peter, who was our first POPE and with the other eleven – after Judas’ betrayal and death – the first of our PRIESTS.
Simon Peter has always irritated me just a little. He was such a loud mouth! I mean, all the way through the Scriptures, we see examples of how much he was promising to do for Christ. He would follow Christ anywhere – even unto death. He would walk on water with Christ. He would never betray Christ. He would protect Him forever. He would even build some thrones for the transfigured Christ and His "buddies" to sit on so that they could stay on the mountaintop forever.
G K Chesterton was an English writer and lay-theologian who died in 1936. Chesterton wrote about Simon Peter and the leadership of the Catholic Church. In commenting on Christ’s choice of leader for the Church, Chesterton acknowledged, that it was not Saint Paul, the brilliant, who Christ chose, or Saint John, the loyal mystic.
Instead, says Chesterton, Christ chose “a shuffler, a snob, a coward – in a word, a man. All the empires and the kingdoms have failed because they were founded by strong men and upon strong men. But the historic Christian Church was founded on a weak man, and for that reason it is indestructible.”
When I read these words, some time ago, it occurred to me that this was exactly my problem with Saint Peter… he was “a shuffler, a snob, a coward”. This was why Saint Peter irritated me so much…
And yet, upon closer reflection, I realise why this GLORIOUS saint drives me a little bit insane… You see, I realise that I am also “a shuffler, a snob, a coward”!
I see all my worst attributes mirrored in Saint Peter.
And yet – Christ chose to give Saint Peter the KEYS TO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven.” (Matthew 16:19).
This is a HUGE deal!
Because Saint Peter was far more than “a shuffler, a snob, a coward”… He LOVED CHRIST and he LOVED GOD with a fervent love that I have never imitated – though I dearly try. He LOVED God as an act of WILL – not a mere emotional swing from one feeling to another – but a pure act of WILL – where his love was expressed through his DECISION to SURRENDER to God.
And even when Christ warned him how it would be – still he surrendered…
“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” (John 21:18).
What I have realised upon closer reflection, is that the difference between Saint Peter and I is not in our faults – We both have those in abundance... The difference between us is in our virtues.
For though he was a “shuffler” Saint Peter allowed himself to be led where he did not want to go.
If only I could do the same, maybe then my infernal shuffling could lead me into the Glorious Arms of my Beloved, where there is peace for snobbish, cowardly shufflers like me…
For God so loved the world, He gave one shuffler the GRACE to become the key-holder of Heaven…
And with what HOPE and JOY that knowledge fills a snobbish, cowardly shuffler like me…
What a wonderful God we have! Glory and Praise to our God!
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.