Sunday, January 17, 2021




Jesus looked at Peter and said, “You are Simon the son of John;
you will be called Cephas”— which is translated Peter. 

I conducted quite a few funerals last year – relatives, former parishioners and a neighbor from my childhood days. The very last one was one of my childhood buddies down in Rhodelia. He was known to us as “Eddie Hardesty.” Some of the things I shared at his funeral came to mind when I saw today’s gospel.

When I think of Eddie Hardesty back when we were growing up in Rhodelia, I think of the word “feisty.” I looked it up to be sure. “Feisty” means “energetic, gutsy, scrappy, frisky and free-spirited.” That was our beloved Eddie Hardesty alright!  He reminds me so much of the Apostle, Peter, who is called by Jesus in the gospel reading today. I find it quite coincidental that his funeral Mass took place out in Saint Peter Church out on Johnsontown Road! I am not absolutely sure, but I am pretty sure Eddie’s “feisty” side comes from his Flaherty genes. Those “feisty” genes drove him to always say things like – “I dare you!” “Watch this!”  “I can beat that!” Maybe he outgrew it, but I seriously doubt it! As kids I think we all admired his “I’ll try anything once” attitude! I guess that is why one of his favorite names for us was “scaredy cats.” “Scaredy cats! Scaredy cats!”


I remember three childhood events in particular that were typical of my friend Eddie. (1) One day, he made a parachute out of a white handkerchief and tied it to a cat, bragging that the cat would float from the barn loft where we were standing and slowly hit the ground. It didn’t! The cat dropped straight down to the ground like a rock. The poor cat survived the fall and ran away with the handkerchief dragging behind it. I don’t think we ever saw that cat again! (2) Another day, we were exploring Rocky Branch, a small stream where we lived, when one of us found a fish about the size of a minnow. Of course, he couldn’t just leave it alone!  He picked it up and asked if anyone would dare him to eat it raw! Of course, we dared him, never thinking he would actually do it! We should have known better! He took a big bite out of it, swallowed it and threw the rest away! All of us, looking on, were simply awed by his bravery!  (3) Another day, I told him that I was going to be a priest! He was not impressed! He blurted out as loud as he could in front of the other kids, ‘Ha! If you become a priest, I’ll become a nun!” He lost that bet, but he never paid up! So, I recommended to his wife, Judy, that he be buried in a black dress and a veil!”


In today’s gospel, Jesus calls a man by the name of “Simon son of John” to follow him and gives him the nickname, Cephus or Peter, meaning a “rock.” That name had to be tongue-in-cheek because Peter was anything but “solid like a rock.” “Marshmallow Man” was more like it! The stories of feisty Saint Peter boldly rushing in and thoughtlessly pushing ahead are numerous. There are at least six stories in the gospels about him bragging one minute, sticking his foot in his mouth the other and ultimately having to eat his own words. Let me share a couple of examples with you.  


One day, caught in a storm while he was out a sea, Peter sees Jesus walking on the water toward the storm-tossed boat he was in. Not really believing it was Jesus, he rushed to get out of the boat and to try walking on water toward him to check it out. Once out on the water, he looks down and sees how deep it is and looks around at how strong the wind was blowing. Realizing what he had done, he begins to drown. He cries out for help and has to be helped back into the boat. 


At another time, at the Last Supper, Jesus get up from table and begins to wash the feet of the apostles. When he gets to Peter, Peter resists. “No way, Jose! I won’t let you wash my feet!”  When Jesus tells him that if he doesn’t allow it, he can have not part what was to come. Peter quickly throws it in reverse and back-paddles. “Ok, then, wash my feet, my hands and my head while you’re at it!”  For Peter, “anything worth doing is worth over-doing!”


At yet another time, Jesus had just told his disciples that they must forgive one another.  When Jesus finishes speaking, imagining that another chance to impress Jesus had presented itself, good old Saint Peter springs into action. Peter knows well that the rabbis had always taught that people needed to forgive three times. Peter gets out his little mental adding machine and multiplies three by two and adds one for good measure. Then he asks his question while answering it at the same time. “How many times must we forgive? Seven times?” He obviously expected Jesus to say, “Wow, Peter, how generous of you! You are better than the best! Seven times is beyond the call of duty! It is even more than is required!” You can almost see his big eager grin slowly melt away when Jesus told him to forgive, not seven times, but seventy times seven times - that is, forgiving without counting the times. 


Still, in another story, after the resurrection, Jesus appeared to Peter and some of the others while they were fishing. Having caught nothing, they were about to give up. Jesus told them to lower their nets on the other side of the boat.  They caught so many fish that their nets were about to break. Then after the catch, Jesus asks for a couple of their fish to cook for breakfast on the grill he had set up on the beach. Good old Peter runs to the boat and drags the whole net to Jesus and dumps 153 fish at his feet! Again, with Peter, anything worth doing is worth overdoing! 


What was it about Peter that Jesus found so attractive? It certainly wasn’t his impressive list of successes. It was his willingness to get in there and try something new, to get in there and risk success in the face of possible failure, to keep coming back to the task and trying again and again. Peter was passionate about everything he tried. 


My friends, we can learn a lot from Saint Peter. God does not demand perfection of us, he simply wants a serious relationship, a passionate effort and heartfelt fidelity! No one’s relationship with Jesus was more enduring than Peter, the Apostle. No one tried harder than Peter, the Apostle. I am sure, when Saint Peter opens the gates of heaven for my friend Eddie Hardesty, he will burst into laughter and tease him a bit saying, “Come on in! I dare you! I double-dog dare you!” I hope, when Saint Peter opens the gates of heaven to people like me, he will say, “Ron, you weren’t perfect, but because you really tried, you are good enough for God! Come on in!”





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