For Catholics, the gospel today (Mt. 16) has an endearing resonance to our faith. It speaks of the special conversation between the Lord Jesus and his primary apostle, Peter. Most interpreters link this episode with the conferral on Peter of authority and power to serve the church in the name of Jesus. Indeed, we often say that Peter was made pope in this special moment of his life.

However I believe this gospel, though it concerns Peter and the popes in a special way, also contains a message for all of us. Otherwise, the gospel will be irrelevant and inapplicable to our daily lives. Why did Jesus choose Peter? He was not the ideal apostle, he was always making mistakes, he was often getting into ridiculous situations, and he was a betrayer of the Lord later on as we shall see in the accounts of the Passion.

A good answer would be to understand the two ways we look at people. There is a look that brings death. This happens when we view others with suspicion, accusation, shaming, judgment and condemnation. The world functions much along this line. We tend to label other negatively and push them away because we do not like what we see in them – their mistakes, sins and crimes.

And then there is the look that brings life. It can be the start of forgiveness, encouragement and hope. Jesus, and of course, his heavenly Father, looks at us in this way. God looks beyond weakness, woundedness, and sinfulness. He gives people another chance, a new life, a fresh start. 

When Jesus looks at us, he tells us that he trusts us and that we are capable of redeeming our broken actions, words and thoughts with the help of his grace. Peter, and the other disciples, experienced this. We continue to experience the same every time we approach the Lord in prayer and in the sacraments of his love. Peter’s encounter is a reminder of the different quality of God’s love for us.

Why did Jesus choose Peter? Why does he choose us today to be his family and friends? It is because our personality, our past, our imperfection do not matter to him. It is his love above all that is important for it is the force that will empower us to become true apostles and witnesses.