First Thursday of Lent
Jesus asked of the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Prophets like Elijah or Jeremiah were known for their righteous character, as anointed representatives of God. They spoke God’s words of warning, direction and encouragement. At times they predicted the future, wrought miracles of healing, and suffered persecution. Prophets were mediaries between God and man. However, Peter’s sight of faith went beyond the evidence of a prophet, to the greatest possible depth. He saw that Jesus was the one all the prophets pointed towards: the Messiah (Christ). He saw that Jesus spoke not simply like a prophet - as a mouthpiece of God, but by His own authority. He penetrated to the core of Jesus’ identity, “You are the Son of the Living God.” If Jesus had told Peter this directly, He would not have commented to Peter, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” Oh what a vision with piercing insight Peter obtained in such a short time of discipleship.
To become a “rock” requires spiritual sight, indeed an infusion of faith. “You are Peter (rock) and upon this rock I will build my Church.” Peter’s name means ‘rock.’ A single glance capturing truth does not produce immovable strength and a rock foundation. Peter had witnessed Jesus’ miraculous deeds and heard his divine wisdom for several years prior to Caesarea Philippi, which by the way boasts one of the largest rock facings in all of Israel. Peter saw Jesus heal his mother-in-law early on, and by Jesus’ command, Peter had already walked on water prior to this scene. His faith grew over time of encounter, through grace, testing, study and sacrifice. He lived with Jesus, ate with Jesus, spoke with Jesus, travelled with Jesus. What faith became for Peter then, was not simply a momentary sight, but a living connection between seer and Divine object. It became an ongoing source of supernatural nutrition, by which he could be transformed into the strength of God, upon which the Church would be built. We pray, “Open our eyes Lord that like Peter we may see your wonders this day, your providence in every circumstance, your glance of love in every endeavor. Increase our faith. Transform our weak nature to become sure stones laid upon the foundation of the apostles.”
Fr. Michael Becker
Rector, Saint John Vianney