Sunday, May 11, 2008

I was reflecting that at Pentecost, it's easy to focus so much on the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the apostles, that we (or at least I) forget that they still had their human weaknesses to contend with. When I lose sight of that, I get a little extra discouraged over my own spiritual cluelessness... As usual, St. Peter is the one who puts things in a different light. The Holy Spirit did come upon him so strongly that the cowering man who "did not know" Jesus was breaking the door down to go into the middle of city and proclaim Jesus as the Lord. But down the road a piece, Peter waffled when some of the Jerusalem community reproached him over the way Gentiles were being admitted to the Church. And even the "Quo Vadis" legend hints that Peter was a little too ready to flee imminent martyrdom in Rome.
The Holy Spirit didn't just come and go in Peter's life: the Spirit came for a purpose, the preaching of the Gospel. Peter's human weakness was still there, underlining the fact that "the surpassing power is from God and not from us."


brVince said...

Pentecost for all of us, sister:)

Katie Pacyna said...

Maybe it's just me, but I LOVE thinking about Peter and his challenges. I'm absolutely not a bible scholar, so my insights feel really "simple" but the character of Peter that we're given in these stories is the one who, for me, serves as such a real model of what it means to be Christian, a true follower. Let's be honest...he screwed up...A LOT and in big ways. But I always get the feeling that it was his loyalty (his intention to be faithful), evidenced by his continual return to and dogged persistence with the mission, that made him the "Rock".

Whenever we go through the Lent/Easter Season, I think of Peter and usually cringe mostly because I always want him to "get it" and he doesn't. Every year, he denies Jesus at an important moment. Even in your prior post about the Risen Christ asking Peter if he loved him, I wanted Peter to get it this year; once again, that was not to go down. Sometimes he just seemed oafish and dense and I wonder what Jesus was thinking in choosing him as the one to entrust everything.

But then, I think about his most redeeming quality: his willingness. He was willing to do the hard work, willing to admit his mistakes, willing to take risks, willing to learn, willing to return again and again to what he promised, even after he knew he completely messed up. I think it's that kind of humble openness that uncovers the potential for the work of the Spirit. That kind of openness breeds a brand of courage that, I think, is divine and seems to allow for amazing things to issue from it.

I always go back to thinking about who Peter was before "all of the drama." Just a guy--a fisherman. Not asking for anything more. Answering Jesus' call changed his life. But what makes it a memorable life, to me, is that he just kept answering that call over and over again, dynamically choosing to do the best he could humanly do to be faithful. That kind of will gives the Spirit room to work, which is why we see its effect so strongly in him.

This couldn't be better news for us, I think. We're just people too who struggle with fear and lack of conviction and making BAD decisions at key moments. But, if we're willing to do what Peter continually did, be open to the work--the power--of the Spirit in us (which is clearly not easy), then maybe we can at some point realize, even if momentarily, the vitality of the mission. We hope.

xaipe said...

Gorgeous, Katie. Thanks.
I remember reading in the life of St. Gertrude that she (mystic that she was) was complaining a bit to the Lord about the personality flaws of her local superior. And the Lord replied that the superior was a very virtuous woman, and that these human flaws weren't an issue for him. In a way, the same thing seems to be going on in Peter (and all of us): Jesus shrugs off ordinary human weaknesses in those who have thrown their lot in with him. He has better things to focus on.