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Molly CahillJanuary 04, 2024

A Reflection for the Memorial of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Religious

Find today’s readings here.

Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,
was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.
He first found his own brother Simon and told him,
“We have found the Messiah,” which is translated Christ.
Then he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said,
“You are Simon the son of John;
you will be called Cephas,” which is translated Peter.

Jesus sees something in Peter.

In today’s account of their first meeting from the Gospel of John, Jesus bestows a new name upon Simon, this man who will become one of history’s best-known disciples. The name is the Aramaic Cephas, which translates to the Latin Petrus, the root of the name we are most likely to know him by: Peter. In English, the name means “rock” or “stone.”

Many Catholics will also be familiar with Matthew’s account of the naming of Peter in a different moment in Jesus’ ministry and with a deeper explanation. As the disciples answer Jesus about who people say that he is and who they believe he really is, Peter chimes in: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). Seemingly pleased with this answer, Jesus bestows and contextualizes the new title: “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18).

If these were the only Gospel stories about Peter, you’d be forgiven for thinking he was a saintly and serene guy, almost perfect. But we know better. The rock upon which Jesus built his church was also the sometimes bullheaded, impatient, unpredictable disciple who denied Jesus three times.

I love Peter. I love him for his flaws. I can relate. When he stumbles, I feel defeated, because after all, I was rooting for him. Peter’s passionate nature can sometimes overcome him—and not for the better. But the beating heart in search of Jesus somehow recovers again and again, wanting to know better and do better.

A rock can be a strong foundation, but it can also be the stumbling block that causes us to trip. Peter wrestles with his nature in an attempt to lean in the right direction, to fashion himself in a way that will make him more useful to God’s plans.

So what does Jesus see in Peter? The potential for love and goodness that he also sees in you and me. Not a perfect person, but a solid one.

More: Scripture

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