I had the opportunity to see the movie Son of God with some of my brother priests a few days ago. It was very well done and very moving! I would recommend it. My most important insight from the movie was that God wants us to participate in His works. We certainly see this in the life of the Blessed Mother Mary, who was at once the Mother of the Son of God, the faithful daughter of the Father, and the Spouse of the Holy Spirit. If we want to learn how to perfectly participate in God’s work, we should look to none other than Mary. But the character that grabbed my attention at the Son of God movie was Peter. Peter can show us how we can participate in God’s work.
The Cathedral in Erie, PA, is dedicated to St. Peter. Therefore, there is a lot of Petrine artwork in the Cathedral, especially in the stained glass windows. There is one window in particular that always moved me. It is the window of Peter attempting to walk on water. He is outside of the boat, sinking into the sea. Jesus is right beside him, grasping for him to save him. I always felt that could have been me sinking into the water. The Son of God movie has in it a scene originally aired during The Bible mini-series made by the movie’s producers. It is very powerful – the scene of Peter walking on the water to Jesus. Take a watch on YouTube at this link (copy and paste into your browser):
I think Peter doesn’t get the credit that he deserves for what he did in this story. Have you ever been out on a boat, especially a boat caught in a gale? Would you put your legs over the side and try to do something impossible, like walk on water? Peter did it! Well, at least he did it for a few steps. Then he went down. Jesus colors our view of Peter in the story by saying to him, “O you of little faith”. So, maybe that is why we are so hard on Peter. But that is the paradox of Peter. He was self-contradictory – capable of both great faith and great failure.
Peter was called to great things! We remember that Jesus called him to be a Fisher of Men. This blog’s title, I will Lower my Net is taken from Peter’s reply to Jesus, “We have worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I your command, I will lower the nets.” (Luke 5: 5). Peter was plucked from anonymity to become a follower of Christ. Later on, he would make the Confession that Jesus was the Son of God, leading Jesus to call him the Rock on which Christ’s Church would be built. Peter would tell Jesus that he would lay down his life for Jesus. Indeed, Peter would do all these things for Jesus, but not before he failed repeatedly (and sometimes in a rather painful ways). Peter was capable of both great things and awful things.
Peter (much like David before him in the Old Testament) was not chosen because he was impeccable. Peter was pretty fallible. He did a lot of dumb and condemnable things. God does not need perfect people to do His work. God simply needs the right people to do His work. God knows who those people are, and He puts a call on their hearts. If we are so called, we too need to answer the call. Peter was the right man for the job, despite his denying of Jesus and abandoning him. Peter was the right man for the job, despite his faltering faith. Now, this has obvious significance for you and I, because we are faltering, sinful, fickle, and doubtful. We will betray the Lord in small ways, or even in big ways.
But that doesn’t mean that we can’t still participate in God’s work. While the giver of the Word’s human nature, Blessed Mary, was a redeemed, immaculate woman, we who are Christ-bearers do not need to be so immaculate. We are sinners, yet we are called like Peter to build the Church. Some of us are called to do this as single persons, or consecrated persons. Others are called to build the Church through marriage and family. Still others are called to offer the prayer of the universal Church as Deacons, Priests, and Bishops. We will mess up repeatedly. We may make some really terrible mistakes along the way. We may even suffer tremendous setbacks in the faith journey. But like Peter, we always have the choice to face down the impossible odds with bold faith.
We need more men and women like Peter, who are willing to step over the line, and take a chance on Christ. We should not let our weakness, and the frightening storms around us stop us from walking on water. We may sink immediately upon leaving our boat. We may manage a few steps. We may scamper across the water like a toddler on mom and dad’s carpet. Who knows? The point is, we need to try. We are called to carry Jesus’ work into the world, whether we feel qualified or not.
God will get His work done. But what will happen for us if we choose to stay in the boat, and not give ourselves to the Lord’s service? To quote another movie, Braveheart, “nothing”. We will have no life within us. So, let us set out on the journey, and do God’s work. We offer what we can to the best of our ability. We have faith that God will bring what is offered to a successful completion. Again, this truth is so beautifully illustrated in the Son of God movie. I encourage you to give it a watch.