Every Christian disciple ought to love St. Peter, a man who was zealous with his faith and his words, even if his words and actions seemed to lag a bit behind. One of the most famous examples was his walking on the water. You know the story, seeing Jesus walking about on the water at night, he calls to him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you across the water.” Jesus says, “Come.” Peter sets foot on the water and begins to walk, but soon enough he notices the waves and the wind and begins to falter, sinking into the water. Jesus, of course, reaches out and pulls him out. Peter seems here to be a failure, but at least he tried to put his faith into action. I would suggest that there may have been eleven bigger failures who were not even brave enough to get out of the boat in the fist place.
Another example, the one in today’s Gospel, is when Jesus asked them, “Who do people say that I am?” And they all had plenty of examples. When he asked, “But who do you say that I am?” it was Peter who responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Then just a few verses later, after Jesus tells them that he must suffer and die, Peter rebukes Jesus, and Jesus says famously, “Get behind me, Satan.” Peter is on top of the heap one moment, and cast down the next. But at least he had courage enough to speak up for his faith, even if that faith was slightly flawed.
The biggest failure Peter had, though, was after the Last Supper. Having pledged to stand up for Jesus no matter what, he denies three times that he even knows his friend and Lord. When the cock crows, he remembers that Jesus predicted his failure, and he breaks down and cries. But after the Resurrection, it’s Peter – the one who denied his Lord three times – who has the opportunity to profess his love three times. “Do you love me?” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” “Feed my sheep.”
And it’s the feeding of those sheep that we celebrate today. The chair of St. Peter commemorates the faith that Peter professes in today’s Gospel. A faith that is admittedly not quite perfect, but a faith that is perfected by Jesus after the Resurrection from the dead. Because of this profession of faith, Peter receives the servant-authority of the whole Church, which is passed on in his successors. This is an authority that makes the popes the servant of the servants of God, the one who has the direct line of teaching going back to the Apostles themselves.
We servant disciples can celebrate Peter in a special way today. Our faith is a lot like Peter’s most of the time, isn’t it? It is a faith that is strong, but not quite perfect. We say the wrong things sometimes, sometimes we miss the opportunity to witness, often we don’t follow through in action. But Jesus is continually perfecting that faith in us so that we might come to truly believe and truly live as his own.