APRIL 24, 2010 : SATURDAY 3RD WEEK OF EASTER —  ACTS 9:31-42; JOHN 6:60-69


LORD, YOU HAVE THE WORDS OF EVERLASTING LIFE. The fact that Jesus chose Peter to be the head of the community of believers that was to become his Church provides us with a revealing insight into our Lord’s personality, his values, and his character. For one thing, Peter was not the safest choice, he was too spontaneous, speaking out openly what he felt and thought, without much thought about the consequences. He was not as sure of himself as his readiness to speak out might suggest. Our Lord was aware of this defect in his disciples character and warned him against it by telling him in advance that he would deny his master three times, due to the unsteadiness of his character under stress.  At the same time, Jesus saw more deeply into the heart of this rather voluble, bluff man and recognized in him a great potential for loyal friendship. He did not hesitate to accept the risk involved in making this good-hearted if too self-confident man the head of his disciples. On their first meeting, and by way of expressing this decision, Jesus gave him a new name that envisioned the character the fisherman would eventually display after learning by experience his weakness.  Peter, then, is given to the Church not only as her head, but also as an encouraging example of the courageous trust and mercy of our Savior.


Fortunately for all of us, the Lord is not put off by our failures and limits.  He accepts us as he finds us when we come to him with a sincere heart. For, the Old Testament states in a prayer to the Lord, with no uncertain terms, “you give to each according to his ways as you see his heart (for you know the heart of all the sons of men)” [1 Kings 8:39] With all his weaknesses, Peter was endowed with a sharp perception of essentials; he was shrewd and sensitive and responsive to others, as we can see in today’s Gospel. Peter saw clearly into the heart and mind of Christ, and being himself of a generous and social disposition was quick to acknowledge the goodness and strength he perceive in our Lord’s heartfelt words. His was the insight of a disposition readily to welcome goodness and truth when he saw it and to commit himself to it. Others might choose to leave Jesus when he claimed to be the living bread come down from heaven to give life, but Peter would adhere unhesitatingly remain constant in his attachment to the teacher whose words, he was convinced, were a source of eternal life.


As we reflect on the scene portrayed in this Gospel we learn how much importance Jesus attached to the Eucharist as being the sacrament of his very person. He was willing that his chosen disciples should leave him rather than back off from the assertion that he himself was the bread from heaven that is life-giving. Those who eat this bread receive a new power not subject to death. We do well to remember that John recorded this scene some sixty years after our Lord pronounced these words. The Church had identified with the witness Peter gave on that occasion and had remained firm in the conviction that in this bread, consecrated by the words of our Lord as accepted by his Church, eternal life is already imparted to his faithful people.


As we offer the Eucharist at this altar this evening, we join Peter in his enthusiastic confession: “Lord, you have the words of everlasting life and we know that you are the Holy One of God,” May our lives always witness to this faith so that we merit to hear our Lord’s response addressed to us: “Have I not chosen you.” &   

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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