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Imperfect St. Peter was transformed by God’s love; we can be too

Edward Sri closes his book “Into His Likeness” by presenting the example of St. Peter, a person who was far from perfect but was transformed — redeemed — by his Master’s love, forgiveness and patience.

Down through the ages, Peter has been celebrated among Christians as the first real saint after the Virgin Mary, but his life wasn’t always worthy of celebration. He doubted, he misunderstood, he even denied the Lord.

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Peter’s life was changed, Dr. Sri writes, in an encounter with the risen Jesus along the Sea of Galilee.  There Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” and Peter hesitates; he realizes that he can only offer poor, human love compared to the Lord’s total, self-giving love. But therein lies Peter’s redemption.

Dr. Sri says becoming a disciple, even a saint, requires realizing the truth about ourselves and the truth of what God has in mind for us — or more often, first realizing what God has in mind for us, and then realizing all the obstacles that stand in the way of becoming what Matthew Kelly so often calls the best version of ourselves that we can be.

The Good News is that God desires to accomplish in us what he did in Peter.

“He wants to take the raw material of our mundane, imperfect lives and transform us into saints,” Dr. Sri writes, and “if God can transform Peter, the rough, impulsive fisherman of Galilee, he can transform us as well.”

This is a good place to end this year’s reflections, as we celebrate the wonder of the resurrection.

Easter reminds us that God is at work in the world through the Spirit, redeeming and transforming the whole of Creation and each one of us.  For some of us, it’s no small task.

We are transformed into the likeness of the Lord only slowly and gradually, sometimes reluctantly, but there’s no reason to lose hope. The difficulty of the task should leave us more patient and more humble, but there’s no reason to doubt the outcome.

As Thomas Merton once wrote, “We may have no idea where we are going. We may not see the road ahead and cannot know for certain where it will end.  Nor do we really know ourselves, and that fact that we think we are following the Lord’s will does not mean that we are actually doing so. But we can believe that the desire to please God does in fact please God. … Therefore we can trust the Lord always, even though we may feel lost and in the shadow of death. We need not fear, for the Lord is ever with us, and he will never leave us to face our perils alone.”

I wish courage and hope for each of us.

Pray and Reflect

Use one or more of the following questions for personal reflection, group discus­sion or private journaling:

  • On a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high) rate how well you feel you are growing into the likeness of the Lord. How would you have rated yourself five years ago?
  • What do you think prevents us from allowing Jesus to transform us as he did St. Peter? When and how would you know that the Lord is, gradually and patiently, transforming you into his likeness? How might you cooperate with the Lord’s effort to transform the environment around you — your family, your workplace, our church or world? What can we do to help our children, grandchildren and students recognize God’s desire to help them be the person God desires them to be?
  • I think the biggest obstacle to being transformed into the likeness of the Lord, for me, is …

Learn More

Read the original version Merton’s prayer, originally published in his book “Thoughts in Solitude” here:

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Dave Cushing is director of adult faith formation for the Catholic parishes in Waterloo. The Disciple’s Corner is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Dubuque’s Faith Formation Division and The Witness. It is funded through the Archdiocesan Educational Development Board.  It is designed to help catechists, teachers, parents, grandparents, guardians and other adults grow in their appreciation of their role as disciples of Jesus Christ.