For those who know me especially, you know that I have been on a journey for the last few years. I have undergone a conversion or a completion, depending on your point of view, through becoming a Catholic after thirty years of identifying myself as a Protestant. I have been challenged in many ways on where I thought I have God figured out. Fundamentally I keep coming back to reminders that God likes structures where they are channel of grace but He does not like hurdles to His grace that put Him in a box.
I have discovered that in my growth in His love and being formed in the image of Jesus, that steps forward and steps backward of being my best self in Him are natural. When they happen, Jesus wants to forgive us but also challenge us to not do the sin again. Oh yeah, that little cuss word.
What has helped in the journey is having along my buddy Peter. He is this guy who ended his life on a good note but hit a good share of notes off key along the way. When I read about him taking his focus off of Jesus when walking toward Him on the water, I could appreciate the parallels in my life where I sank into the water of my foolishness because I was taking my eyes off of Jesus too. Writing about Peter has been like writing about my twin separated at birth, though not by clerical office, but as a sinner that is looking for rest and hoping to be pure.
Back to the channels of grace. Peter was left with his role to nurture the Church in the sacraments that Jesus founded. He overall did this like he said we should do about working out our salvation: with fear and trembling. He did not do this because God was a fear monger but as one who appreciated his encounter with True Love too much to show disrespect the life he had after his conversion (s).
I am also looser on what conversion is. I can say with confidence that I have had a relationship with Jesus for many years. But I can also say with confidence that I acted out the sinner’s job description by lashing out at a panhandler recently. God used my wife, a better Christian than I, to open my eyes to the sin of my my judgmental attitude. So I converted. Peter told Jesus that the way of the Father was not the way of the cross and was rebuked sharply. So on that issue he was converted on that though he was already an apostle.
We are all works in progress and we are all called to leave something of God’s love and holiness behind. How that works will be different for each individual. We must be open to where our roads lead and stay on them whether big details or small. God’s grace can cover us all.
But what about Peter’s legacy? For us Catholics, he was the first pope but many Protestant brothers and sisters would sincerely disagree. That is okay. But what we can all agree on is that the Peter of his epistles who is unselfishly looking out for others to walk with God and has surrendered to the process of many conversions pleases God and leaves behind a legacy of walking according to being “God’s workmanship created for good works in Christ” (Ephesians 2:10). It is a combination of God’s faithfulness and our surrender over time.
Last, there is a sign of both with Peter with an extra-biblical anecdote. “On June 26, 1968, Pope Paul VI announced that the relics of St. Peter had been discovered. On November 24 2013, these relics were held by Pope Francis and displayed publicly for the first time after celebrating closing ‘Year of Faith’ Mass” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j99AhFGnils&feature=youtu.be). These were found in the foundations of St. Peter’s Basilica in the 1940’s. “You are Peter. And upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The science that has been done on those bones say that the bones are that of a man aged 61 years and Semitic and were found by the words “Peter is here”. Either there was a Roman conspiracy with insight about DNA fraud or I think that is my buddy Peter.
So those are the legacies of Peter as a faithful servant to God. What is ours?