I was thinking of my own knowledge and understanding of Christ from the beginning of my faith journey. One of the first things I remember was the Christmas manger set up on the grounds of the church with mom and dad telling us children that the baby in the crib was Jesus. I will admit the image of a baby did nothing to prepare me to encounter the omnipotent God.
As I grew older my lessons of faith were taught within the context of CCD and the Baltimore Catechism. Most of what I remember was to repeat the responses to the questions and that meant I understood the lesson. The truth was it was exercises in memory recall but not one that helped me understand. How could I understand Jesus in the Eucharist when the only thing stressed was to not break any commands or the laws of fasting before I received? All I could think about was “who is this God who is concerned if I ate something 11 hours before receiving him or if I had been obedient to my parents. This God I envisioned as a child was like so many adults I knew at that time who were just watching and waiting for me to do something wrong again.
Preparing for confirmation was not much different from preparing for first communion. We were drilled on what not to do instead of what to expect. This Spirit God I was to receive was never really explained or expounded upon. Instead we were told about the questions we would be asked by the Bishop and how we better get them right. This again was an exercise in memory recall not something that I would ever have to remember again after that day.
My entre faith journey from childhood to adulthood was making sure I did not mess things up by breaking the laws of the church. I was on religious cruise control in order to comply with the proper expectations and the laws of the church. By the time I graduated from college and was married I had accepted God was real and he sent Jesus to die for our sins. That knowledge did that make any difference in my life and how I viewed God.
Oh he was real in heaven but not in my life. I was still unable to get through one week or even one day without feeling that I failed to do something I should have done if I was truly a Christian man. I knew there was a question I had never considered nor had I even asked it of myself. That question had to do with that baby in the manger, that man hanging from the cross and that man who ascended to heaven after promising he would send that Holy Spirit to all of us.
Nothing I had ever learned in my spiritual journey helped me deal with that question. It wasn’t that I could not tell you who he was or what his death did because I could do that – he died for the forgiveness of our sins. The truth was my knowing he died for our sins did not have any impact on my life. It is sad to say but I was a self made obedient Christian man who knew and followed the things required of me so people saw how holy I was but inward I was seriously flawed and lost. I was seeking something other than God.
I was gratified when I started reading the scriptures to find many of Gods’ chosen were just as flawed as I was. Moses was certainly reluctant to answer the call of God; Abraham lied about his marriage to Sarah so Pharaoh take Sarah into his harem without having to kill Abraham to have her. David was filled with lust and succumbed to that desire. But let us not dwell on the Old Testament let us look at Peter’s missteps before he understood.
His heart wanted to follow Jesus but often he got it wrong. Look at his blunder on the Mount of Transfiguration when he wanted to build booths only to be told to “listen’ before he acted. His walking on water was inspired and yet he faltered and had to hear Jesus comment on his little faith. We know how he was called a Satan just after being told he was given a divine revelation by God. We know his denial of Christ followed his boasting about his steadfast allegiance to him. Yet it is Peter who had his name changed from Simon to Peter (Rock).
Peter on this day is showing us what is possible for each of us flawed believers. It isn’t what we have learned about Jesus; it is about that “ah ha” moment of knowing the truth of how the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Spirit on us was to free and transform us. It is nothing more than a moment when all our learning becomes just that learning and something else motivates our hearts to embrace the person of Jesus Christ as Messiah.
When we have that moment we know the faith lessons of the past helped us to keep searching for that something which would answer the question of why God would do any of this for us.
Once we grasp the meaning of Jesus as the only means of salvation and the only way to the Father all the rest falls into place. It is at that moment the Spirit can begin to change our hearts so we always will do God’s will. It is at that moment we become new creations in Christ Jesus and we like Peter will say – “you are the Messiah the Son of God who died for my sins.”
“…to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’ (Rev. 2:17).