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Through the Eyes of Peter  
Lisa Calderone-Stewart  

Young people usually relate to Peter. He doesn’t always get it right. He makes great mistakes. He blurts out wrong things. Yet, he’s a saint.

To truly appreciate Peter’s Easter and Pentecost, we must briefly revisit his Good Friday.

Peter: “I will lay down my life for you!”
Jesus: “The cock will not crow before you deny me three times.”

You can almost hear a teenager talking to Mom or Dad.

Teen: “I promise! I’ll clean the house if you let me go to the game tonight.”
Parent: “Oh, really? You won’t even have your bed made by kick-off time.”

And sure enough, the game starts, and not only is the house not clean, but the bed is not made. How Peter hated it when he heard the cock crow.

Yet, when Peter saw the rolled up burial cloths in the tomb, he still did not understand what happened. When did he finally get it?

On the Third Sunday of Easter this year, we hear a story that helps us see through the eyes of Peter. Even though Jesus died, rose from the dead, and appeared to them at least twice, Peter doesn’t fully grasp that things are different. So what else could he do? He announces that he’s going fishing. Same old, same old!

The stranger on the shore yells out a suggestion that should sound familiar to Peter: cast the net on the other side of the boat. But Peter doesn’t recognize him until another disciple says it’s Jesus. Immediately, Peter jumps into the water to rush to shore.

After breakfast, Jesus matches Peter’s three denials with three exchanges: “Simon, Son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, I love you.” “Feed my sheep.”

Young people can relate to this. No matter how often they disappoint their parents, and how often they are reminded of past patterns, there is still love. Still a chance for them to start over.

At Pentecost and after, Peter more than made up for his behavior. He preached a courageous speech about Jesus, quoting Joel and David. He called the people to repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit’s gifts, and live the life Jesus modeled.

Peter led the believers to a new way of life. Pooling their money and possessions so the poor among them would have enough. Healing those who were sick, taking care of widows and children, being a voice for the marginalized. Their lives were often in danger, yet they were dedicated to this ministry.

Today, we call that way of life, social justice. Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, Michigan (1937-2004) used to teach this sentence to help young people remember the seven themes of social justice: “Please send round pizza with square corners.”

Please—P—Person. The dignity of every human person. All people are created in the image of God. All ages, of all differing abilities, deserve our respect and protection from harm.

Send—S—Society. People exist in families, within networks of society. The family is often called “the domestic church.” It’s important to advocate for family needs.

Round—R—Rights and Responsibilities. Not only does everyone have the right to quality of life, but everyone has a responsibility to make sure those rights are honored and upheld for everyone. That’s why all have to work for justice.

Pizza—P—Poor. Preferential option for the poor and vulnerable. The poor need special attention, because their needs are often overlooked. Their situation is invisible to many people with money and resources.

With—W—Work—Support for Workers. Sweatshops force many people, especially women and children, to work for low wages in facilities that expose them to health risks. Even U.S. companies do it, manufacturing products in other countries for higher profits. This must be stopped.

Square—S—Solidarity. We need to be in solidarity with our global brothers and sisters. We need to care about them as family, and not use them for personal gain. The first step is love for all people of all races, all cultures, all religions, living everywhere.

Corners—C—Creation. Earth is our only home. If the luxuries of our modern lifestyle continue to hurt our planet, then it will destroy not only plant and animal life but human life as well. We must protect our environment from further harm and repair the harm already done.

It took Easter and Pentecost for Peter to live a life of courage and justice.

The days between Easter and Pentecost are a time for all to more deeply explore our commitment to justice. Starting out like Peter is no fun. But ending up like Peter is pure grace.

Lisa Calderone-Stewart, EdD,
is director of youth leadership at Tomorrow's Present, a service of the House of Peace, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is the former youth ministry director for the Grand Island, Nebraska, and the Milwaukee dioceses.
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