Gospels show God prefers B team

By Monsignor John Devine

Jesus had a soft spot for Peter. I also think that Peter drove him mad. Frequently the Gospels tell us that Peter "spoke up". When he did, he put his foot in it. But he always came back for more.

When Jesus prayed, "I bless you, Father, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children," I suspect it was a prayer of desperation. Peter was decidedly not one of the learned and the clever. A pleaser, he tried to second-guess what Jesus wanted him to say. He got it wrong, except once. That was when he blurted out: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

That was a clear case of the grace of God working through weakness: "Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah. It was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven." Even so, he did not grasp the implications of following the Messiah he had recognised to his suffering and death. Peter had to betray Jesus before the penny finally dropped. By then it was the morning of Pentecost.

In the first reading for Sunday 7 February, the Lord asks: "Whom shall I send?" The prophet Isaiah replies: "Here I am. Send me!" Isaiah was smarter than Peter but he was also aware of his shortcomings: "I am a man of unclean lips." In St Luke's Gospel for the same day, Peter is aware of his unworthiness: "Leave me, Lord, I am a sinful man." And what is the Lord's response? He says: "Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch." 

Fortunately God favours flawed characters. He prefers the B team. That is good news for the rest of us. It gives his Grace more scope to work.