On June 29, the Church celebrated the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. During his address for the Angelus that day, Pope Francis held up St. Peter as an example for all Catholics.
“He is not a superman – he is a human being like us, like every one of us, who, in his imperfection, generously says ‘yes’ to Jesus,” Pope Francis told the crowd that gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
In the gospel for Mass on that day, Jesus asks the apostles, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
After the other apostles throw out several answers, it is St. Peter who responds with conviction, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus rewards the faith of Simon, son of Jonah. “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Is it anything less than astounding that Christ would build His Church upon a simple fisherman, handing him the keys to the kingdom of heaven no less? That Christ would entrust this awesome mission of salvation to a man who would cower in fear several times, most notably denying Christ before His crucifixion? But every time Peter stumbled, he used his faith in God to pull himself back up.
In his remarks, Pope Francis explained that the name Peter “can mean rock, stone, or simply, pebble.” And in his life, Peter exhibited traits of all three, the pope said.
Like a rock, “he is strong and steady, genuine and generous.” Like a stone, Peter is “able to offer support to others – a stone that, founded on Christ, acts as a support to brothers and sisters, for the edification of the Church.”
But Peter is also a pebble, Pope Francis said. “His littleness emerges often.”
“This is all in Peter: the strength of the rock, the reliability of the stone, and the littleness of a simple pebble,” Pope Francis said. “But exactly like this with him – just as in Paul and in all the saints – it appears that it is God who makes us strong with His grace, who unites us with His love, and forgives us with His mercy. And it is with this true humanity that the Spirit forms the Church. Peter and Paul were real people. And today, more than ever, we need real people.”
Christ is asking us to be real people like St. Peter and St. Paul, who had his own stumbles before he too became a rock of the Church.
As Pope Francis said: “Let us take a look inside ourselves and ask ourselves some questions starting from the rock, from the stone, and from the pebble. From the rock: Is there ardor, zeal, passion for the Lord and for the Gospel in us? Or is there something that easily crumbles? And then, are we stones, not stumbling blocks, but building blocks for the Church? Do we work for unity, are we concerned for others, especially the weakest? Finally, thinking of the pebble, are we aware of our littleness? And above all, in our weaknesses, do we entrust ourselves to the Lord who accomplishes great things through those who are humble and sincere?”
Like Peter, Christ wants to use us to share His love and mercy with the world. And like Peter, when we stumble, when we struggle to answer God’s call, Christ is there to help us back to our feet so we can keep going. Peter accomplished great things in the name of Christ because he didn’t give up. And neither should we.