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Why Jesus chose Peter

By: Fr. Bel R. San Luis, SVD

Nicknames are given to people to describe one of their characteristics. That’s why we call some people “Shorty,” “Kulot” (curly haired), “Palito” or “Patpat” (skinny), and so on. In this 21st Sunday gospel, Jesus called Simon “Rock,” implying that he was solid and firm.

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However, it was an unlikely nickname for Peter was everything but rock-like, solid and firm. For instance, despite his bravado at the Last Supper that he would never abandon his Master, he was so weak that when Jesus was arrested, he did not only abandon Him but even denied ever knowing Him not once but three times.

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There’s a joke that the reason why Peter abandoned and denied Jesus was because he had a grudge against Him – He cured his mother-in-law (byanan)!

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But why is it that Jesus chose Simon to be the solid foundation of His Church, leader of the disciples and first Pope?

If love and loyalty were the basis for leadership, it would have gone to John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” who followed Jesus in his darkest moments of suffering.

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But Jesus chose Peter. The main reason could not be Peter’s character of his strength, but rather the strength of his faith. Deep down he knew himself to be weak and imperfect, hence he was convinced that his total security and strength could only come from a power greater than his own.

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Peter’s story illustrates how the Lord entrusted the Church He founded in the hands of imperfect humans. The history of the Church buffeted by internal dissent, confusion, and scandals from the early centuries right down to our own times, has proven Christ’s assurance: “And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16,18).

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There were numerous popes and religious leaders who were paragons of virtues, but we cannot gloss over certain church leaders who succumbed to their weaknesses and have caused grave scandals.

A certain layman serving in the parish said, “The Church belongs to God and is eternal. Churchmen are here among us, and are sometimes fallible. Do not condemn the Church for what some churchmen do.”

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REPENTANT PETER. For all the weaknesses of Peter, we poor mortals can identify with him. We draw inspiration from his spirit of repentance. Instead of giving in to despair like what Judas Iscariot did, he went out full of remorse and “wept bitterly.”

We surely have our failings and weaknesses but what’s important is that we don’t give up on the mercy and love of God like Peter did.

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As the Austrian psychiatrist Victor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, wrote, “The only thing to fear is fear itself,” that is, when we despair or completely lose all hope.

May the life and faith of St. Peter inspire us never to lose hope despite of our human frailties.

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APPEAL. It’s been proven that if you share your blessings with the needy, the Lord will bless and reward you. Let me appeal to our readers to help needy seminarians under our “Adopt A Seminarian scholarship program.”

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For inquiries, e-mail me at: belsvd@gmail.com.

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