The Power of Failure
Peter who denied Jesus during his arrest and trial is a new Peter in the Acts of the Apostles boldly proclaiming as the Messiah. From failure and betrayal, Peter finds new strength in his faith in the risen Christ as he responds to the challenge of leadership entrusted to him by Christ.
Failure is an essential ingredient of our growth towards Christian maturity, leading us to a deeper relationship with Christ. The redeeming feature of failure emanates from our recognition of our human weakness and limitation, opening us to God’s power and presence in our life.
In our gospel today, Christ gives Peter the mandate to “feed his sheep”, inviting us to the Christ-like awareness of being attentive to the needs of our community. Christian faith challenges us to care and minister to one another and our world.
Peter’s acceptance of his own weakness makes him appreciate more Christ’s love and forgiveness. In the same way, our acceptance of our failures and weaknesses makes us realize our need to appreciate God’s forgiveness by becoming more forgiving of others. Like Peter, we have to allow our times of failures lead us to a deeper and stronger commitment to Christ. The spirit of humility that Christ left as legacy to his followers has overtaken Peter’s leadership. Humility gives us truth when we are arrogant. It gives us insight when we are weak and wicked. It provides us with compassion when we are indifferent.
On my 40th year as priest, I continue to accept my repetitive failure to achieve that elusive unity between preaching and practice. The darker component of our human nature is not taken away by the permanent character of priestly ordination. When we, priests, are mistakenly placed on a God-like pedestal, our failures can be seen as God’s failures. After 40 years of priesthood, I still struggle to work in unity with others than alone, no matter how capable I may feel. Communion is far more fulfilling than action. And there is that clearer importance of a having a spirit open to the needs of the Universal Church than a soul fixed on particular or personal interests.