I remember someone saying, ‘If you can find a perfect parish or a perfect religious community, go ahead and join it, but as soon as you do, it won’t be perfect anymore.’ In fact, before or after you join, no parish or religious community is perfect. There is no greater testimony to this truth than the lives of the great saints whose feast we celebrate today. Our Lord entrusts Peter with the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and makes him the rock on which the Church will be built. Whatever he binds on earth will be bound in heaven.
Even though today’s Gospel tells us that Peter recognises that Jesus is the Son of the Living God, we know that he will fall asleep as Jesus agonises over his impending execution. And we know that when his loyalty is tested, Peter will deny this Son of God-not once, but three times. And, finally, we know that Peter will abandon Jesus in the hour of his greatest need; his crucifixion. Moreover, there is some evidence that he refused to believe that Jesus had been raised when it was reported to him by Mary Magdalene and other disciples to whom Jesus had appeared.
Then there’s Paul, who had never even laid eyes on Jesus, never mind been his disciple. In fact, he himself admits persecuting the believers of Jesus. After a vision of the risen Jesus he is converted to Christ and becomes, if possible, even more zealous in his new faith than he was in his old. He declares himself an apostle, that is, puts himself on the same level as “the Twelve.” Finally, he is arguably the first dissident in the Church. He seems to gloat over the fact that he engaged in what must have been a nasty confrontation with Peter in Antioch, going so far as to call Peter a hypocrite to his face (Gal 2:11). It seems to be a wonderful irony that this first pope and first dissident are forever linked in our minds by a single feast. But even more, they’re linked, as we all are, by an undying faith in the risen Lord.