By Father Jake Greiner
In a Gospel passage from last weekend’s Mass (Matthew 16), we hear Jesus tell St. Peter the following words:
“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”
These sentences from Jesus reveal to St. Peter his future vocation. He is being called by God to have a special leadership role among the Apostles. It is clear from this passage that this election is not based on St. Peter’s skills and abilities. It is completely God’s choice. St. Peter is “blessed” by God with his special role in the church.
As we know from the rest of the Gospels, St. Peter had his struggles as he moved towards assuming his special role within the church. Jesus challenged St. Peter for not having enough faith. At another time, Peter was told that he was being an obstacle to Jesus. Most notably, St. Peter denied three times that he knew Christ as our Lord was on his way to his death. None of these activities forfeited God’s call. At the end of the Gospel of John, Jesus reaffirms St. Peter’s vocation, but our Lord made it clear that
St. Peter was going to suffer because of his vocation. He was going to be blessed, but would still experience his own cross.
I firmly believe these words of Jesus Christ we heard in last weekend’s Gospel had to be a source of strength and consolation for St. Peter as he wrestled with his vocation throughout this life. St. Peter did not enter his vocation because of his own decision; he responded to what was asked of him.
St. Peter’s personal failures, inadequacies and weaknesses were not to be the primary focus of any discernment about where God was calling him in his life. The most important part of his vocation was the fact that he was “blessed” by God to fulfill his specific role within the church.
Many of us struggle in accepting God’s vocation in our lives because we focus on negative aspects of our lives and, as a result, we may conclude that God can do nothing with our lives. However, God blesses each of us with a special role to play within the church. Our challenge is to understand God’s call for us and how we have been blessed. If each of us could imagine ourselves in the place of St. Peter in last weekend’s Gospel passage, we could see that our vocation is not something we choose for ourselves. God blessed us with our vocation and we will receive every grace to live it out in our lives. St. Peter provides us with an amazing example, and it is my prayer that all of us will have the courage to realize how blessed we are to be called by God to serve in the church.
(Father Jacob Greiner is pastor of Our Lady of Victory Parish and John F. Kennedy Catholic School in Davenport and director of seminarians for the Diocese of Davenport.)