Theology of the Friends of God and Prophets: Companions in Memory – Part 3, Ch9 of #FOGAP

fogap_coverHaving taught us how to tell women’s stories in chapter 8, Johnson here offers a schema through which these stories, told within the context of the communion of saints, can support, sustain, and inspire women and the church. Drawing heavily on political theology and the work of Johann Baptist Metz, we learn here how the communion of saints can be a powerful symbol when memory, narrative, and solidarity are braided together through the stories of holy women.

Memory is fundamental to identity. Memory that grapples with the messy realities of human life, rather than succumbing to nostalgia or despair, can be eschatological: pointing towards a better future and inspiring us to work towards it. Subversive memory challenges the dominant cultural or political narratives to insist that the experiences and lives of the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed matter, despite the potential risk: dangerous memory indeed.

Narrative is the natural structure of memory, and humans are story-telling creatures. A powerful story changes the teller, catches up the listener into a larger narrative, sustains the community, and repudiates oppression. This is particularly true for stories of grief, suffering, and death: stories with which the Church’s story of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus particularly resonates.

Solidarity is where narrative memory goes in order to change the world. People whose hearts have been moved by the same stories are moved to stand and act in solidarity with each other: “their sufferings and joys become part of one’s own personal concern and a spur to transformative action.” (175) Solidarity unites the privileged with the oppressed in working towards justice, in a unity that embraces and celebrates differences. Solidarity unites the living with the dead, “by means of which the dead can be affirmed as significant in their lives, and the living who are struggling are succored and encouraged by their memory.” (176)

Although most stories of the saints as traditionally told hardly resemble the life-changing narratives described here, women’s practices of memory have just such a life-giving effect for many women in the church today. (174)

Discussion Questions

Q9a: Which of these sections on “subversive memory, “critical narrative,” and “solidarity in difference” spoke most strongly to you, and why?

Q9b: How do you see the material discussed here as relating to contemporary issues in our society?

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Theology of the Friends of God and Prophets: Women’s Practices of Memory – Part 3, Ch8 of #FOGAP

fogap_coverIn this chapter, Johnson is clearly writing for readers who are not familiar with the tools of feminist theology. She illustrates four different practices with a different story. Telling Hagar’s story by lifting up elements that are plainly in the biblical text yet, somehow, rarely preached exemplifies “recovering lost memory.” Mary Magdalen provides a terrific example of “rectifying distortions”: How … did the first apostolic witness become a whore? (149). The virgin martyrs of the early church offer a case study in “reassessing values” inscribed onto the stories of women by the male patriarchal gaze, which could even categorize Perpetua, a nursing mother, and Felicity, a newly post-partum mother, as virgins! Importantly, this section not only revisits the meaning and value of virginity, but questions “the theological legitimation of suffering” (155) associated with martyrdom. Perceiving, honoring, and telling the stories of the many women who are mentioned but not named, as well as those who are not even mentioned but whose existence is implied, is a means of “reclaiming the silence” about women’s lives in our texts.

In the final section, she identifies these practices as “outflying sparks” of the more comprehensive reading strategies used in feminist scholarship, which I summarize as: suspicion of the patriarchal and androcentric biases in the text; reconstruction of details and gaps informed by the social sciences; kerygma that insists the Good News must indeed bring justice for the oppressed; and liturgy that proclaims the joyful and sorrowful and glorious and ordinary stories of biblical and ecclesial women in prayerful community.

(Brief) Reflection & Further Resources

The title of this chapter sounded suspiciously squishy to me, but it turned out to be an interesting chapter for me to read, because I’ve studied or blogged about a number of the cases she mentions here, and am familiar with these practices and strategies. (Gee, I guess I am a feminist theologian after all!)

Johnson references Phyllis Trible’s work in Hagar, Sarah, and their Children: this is a terrific book, especially for interfaith women’s groups. You can hear Trible’s 2014 Kellogg Lecture Justice for Foremothers: Hagar and Sarah online – I just listened to this last weekend.

There’s a tremendous amount of information about Mary Magdalen online (gathered in this case by proponents of women’s ordination, but don’t let that put you off the material). I’ve blogged about the Construction of Virgin Saints and Perpetua and Felicity before. My favorite quote from the martyrs section was by Kathleen Norris:

The virgin martyrs make me wonder if the very idea of girls having honor is a scandal,
if this is a key to the power that their stories still have to shock us, and even more important to subvert authority, which now as in the ancient world rests largely in the hands of men.
(Norris, The Cloister Walk, 192; quoted on p153)

The National Festival of Biblical Storytelling that I attended a few years ago, one of the workshops was offered by a group called Women of the Well, who took an imaginative reconstructive approach to biblical women’s stories — rather like midrash. They performed a beautifully moving dialogue between Hagar and Sarah, imagining each woman’s joys and hardships from her own point of view, the conflict between them, and exploring the possibilities for reconciliation.

Discussion Questions

Q8a: What do you think of these practices and strategies for reading scripture and ecclesial texts? Do they strike you as legitimate, reliable, dubious, ..? Do you think you would find them helpful?

Q8b: Any comments on the stories of Hagar, Mary Magdalen, the virgin martyrs, the anonymous women as told in these ways? What appealed to you, disturbed you, made you think?

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Codification, Development, and Freedom: Completing Part 2, Dialogue with a Living Tradition: ch 5, 6, &7 of #FOGAP

fogap_coverIn these three chapters, Johnson meticulously engages with Christian tradition to trace the early origins, later development, and contemporary teaching on the saints, particularly but not exclusively with Catholic tradition. She sees evidence of both the companionship and patronage models, with the patronage model dominating from the early Middle Ages through the Council of Trent and the post-Tridentine Catholic church, while the companionship model was briefly recovered by the Protestant Reformers, and re-emerges during Vatican 2 as part of a re-orientation of the theology of the church in Lumen Gentium, which suggests a sacramental understanding of the communion of saints. Finally, she demonstrates that Catholics are not now and never have been required by the Church to practice private veneration of the saints according to traditional patronage forms, although it is now and long has been commended to the faithful as a good and useful practice of great spiritual benefit. The absence of any such requirement provides the freedom to re-imagine how the communion of saints can be fruitfully understood and practiced by Christians today.

Chapter 5 (“Institutional Settling”) briskly reviews the treatment of saints in the Apostle’s Creed, the liturgical calendar, and the institutional process of canonization. I was most surprised that the communion of saints had been added to the Apostle’s Creed relatively late, circa 400 CE, after the Nicene Creed has been finalized by the ecumenical councils of Nicaea (351, parts 1&2) and Constantinople (389, part 3): I had naively assumed that the Apostles Creed in its entirety had preceded the Nicene!

I was fascinated to learn that the Feast of All Saints (my very favorite feastday outside the major feasts of Easter Triduum & Christmas) had originally been placed on Easter Friday, for its closeness to Christ’s suffering and resurrection; or on the Sunday after Pentecost, as evidence of the fruits of the Spirit. Both placements are more clearly connected to the central mysteries of the faith than the Nov 1 placement in the West. The final section, on centralization of the canonization process and the resulting elitification of officially approved saints, mostly served to reinforce points she had made in the previous chapter.

In Chapter 6 (“Movements for Reform”), I was most interested in the writings of the Protestant Reformers that discuss the proper ways in which the saints may be honored, while repudiating invocation under the patronage model: thanking God for their lives, allowing their stories to strengthen our faith in God’s mercy, and imitating them (109). I particularly liked Wainwright’s suggestion that hymns in the Methodist tradition constitute “a kind of musical iconography” (112): this is quite consistent with my experience of hymnody in church. (Especially in the relatively young and bare Catholic churches in which I’ve worshiped most of my life!)

As a Catholic ecclesiologist, though, I was most engaged by her careful mining of Lumen Gentium for a vision of the church that incorporated the communion of sants, and vice versa. LG7, which is devoted to the communion of saints, teaches that our response to the saints is to love them, thank God for them, imitate them, and (“quoting Trent”) ask for their intercession: not so different from the understanding of the Protestant Reformers. Writing out of the deeply sacramental worldview that distinguishes Catholics from Protestants, LG goes further, describing the saints as “especially successful images of Christ,” or as Johnson puts it, “living parables” (119). LG entirely avoids “the term or idea of patronage, except in references to Trent” (120).

The church remembers [the saints’] bright patterns of holiness. They are a sign of our joy. (118)

In Chapter 7 (“Serenely Free”), Johnson goes to some effort to show that, even though private devotion to the saints (generally according to the patronage model) and particularly to Mary has been a Catholic badge of identity, there is actually no requirement that Catholics engage in these practices. This (mostly) didn’t surprise me, because I had always been taught that the majority of the Church’s great treasury of spiritual practices was allowed but not required: it was laid before us that we might have many choices, so everyone might find some things that appealed to them. (The one exception is the rosary: so much emphasis has been placed on praying the rosary in my lifetime that I was surprised by that one.)

The distinction between private & public devotion was interesting but not surprising to me, and the relatively minor elements of public devotion (which is required by Catholics who participate in the liturgies of the church) in the Eucharistic Prayers and the Litany of the Saints was interesting by comparison.

Reflection

There was a video not too long ago that was pretty popular in Catholic circles; it purported to be a “Catholic Throwdown” between Stephen Colbert and Patricia Heaton, a guest actress. (Fastforward to about 1:50 to get to the Catholic stuff.) I love this video, because it’s all about Catholic identity: two Catholics bonding in public over a variety of Catholic badges of identity and tradition. A lot of it is about the saints, and mostly in the patronage or even folk superstition model that both Trent and Vatican 2 attempted to rein in. But the content is almost beside the point: Stephen and Patricia are having a fabulous time just being Catholic together. In light of what we read in these chapters, it’s not surprising that they were being Catholic together by means of the communion of saints — communion is just another word for togetherness, after all!

 

 

 

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“Releasing Religious Energy” – #FOGAP

In the twitterchat on chapter 3, we had a bit of discussion of what exactly Johnson meant by saying that the remembrance of the saints can “release religious energy,” so I figured I’d pull out the paragraph or so in which she unpacks that phrase:

The local community, meanwhile, honors [the saints] by keeping festival in their memory; it is remembrance that affects the nature of the communion. Once we listen to their story, our response wells up in various ways. We sing in gratitude to God for them, or praise God for the beauty of their lives, or rejoice in their victory, or draw hope from their witness in our despair, or commend ourselves to their prayers, or simply love them. Most important of all, we are inspired to follow in the footsteps of their example.

I could go with “releasing religious energy” for that, sure.

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Dialogue with a Living Tradition: Patterns in the Age of Martyrs – Part 2, Ch 4 of #FOGAP

fogap_coverIn this straightforward chapter, Johnson first reviews how the cult of the saints emerged from the remembrance of the martyrs in living memory, and then contrasts two paradigms of the communion of saints: the companionship of friends evident in the early church, and the patronage model that emerged as the Christian church was assimilated to the Roman culture that was dominated by patron-client relationships.

She begins by presenting evidence that asceticism functioned as preparation for martyrdom in the early church, and that martyrs were seen as “icons of Christ” and their courage and bold speeches as evidence of anointing by the Holy Spirit. (73) She quotes excerpts from several primary sources on martyrdom (one of which I have previously blogged about, Perpetua & Felicity). Christian martyrs were remembered on the anniversaries of their deaths, which were celebrated at their tombs as their birthday into heaven. Spontaneously and informally, people began to leave written prayers at those tombs: “Vincent, you are in Christ; pray for Phoebe.” Fascinatingly, Mary the mother of Jesus received no public veneration during this period, “since she was not a martyr.” (78)

After the age of persecution, those venerated as saints came to include confessors (those who were not killed, but were tortured for the faith), ascetics, and others who were considered by their community to exemplify Christian values in daily life.

These early Christians were in no way confused about whether they were worshiping the martyrs rather than Christ. She quotes from a primary source rebutting just this accusation from the church of Smyrna, whose bishop Polycarp had been martyred:

For [Christ] we worship as the Son of God. But the martyrs we love as disciples and imitators of the Lord, and rightly so because of their matchless affection for their own king and teacher. May we too become their comrades and fellow disciples. (80)

This evidences the “companions and friends” model that was operative in the early church. But by the late fifth century, the dominant model had become one of patronage, for sociological, spiritual and theological reasons. Sociologically, Christianity was now the official religion of the Empire, which meant that Christian clergy were increasingly assimilated to the Roman patronage system. Spiritually, the emphasis on asceticism as a superior form of Christian life was eroding the radical equality of all the baptized: some were closer to God than others. Theologically — and I think this is the most interesting point — the fight against Aryanism (which denied the full divinity of Christ) had been fought with such intensity and for so long that Jesus’ full humanity had receded from consciousness. My favorite example of this is the Nicene Creed: it wasn’t until I was in graduate school studying Christology that I noticed the Creed affirms that he is consubstantial with the Father… but does not affirm that he is also consubstantial with humans, which is equally an article of faith.

All this led to a spiritual cosmology that resembled earthly aristocracy, shaped by a patronage system: God was king, surrounded by the highest-status patrons as his courtiers; and his mother, who outranked them all (and was the only woman in this elite circle). No one among the ordinary citizenry went straight to persons who had direct access to the local lord; chains of intermediary patrons were the norm. This also led to an emphasis on saints as those who could provide miraculous help, rather than those whose stories inspired and encouraged us; typically your patron was the person you turned to when you needed practical or financial help, and in return you gave them your loyalty and honored them. I was very interested to read that the turn to miracles as evidence of sainthood for non-martyrs emerged at the same time, on the grounds that there’s no use in having a patron who can’t do things for you! This suggests that a turn to the companions&friends model might allow us to move away from the criterion of miracles, which is intensely problematic for many people today & has already been waived or softened in recent years.

It’s very easy to see how the cult of the saints became shaped this way in such a social and spiritual environment. Yet, it is increasingly alien to the contemporary worldview, at least in the West; and it is certainly a source of scandal to our Protestant sisters and brothers. As Johnson notes, if we can see how something emerged in response to concrete historical circumstances, we can also imagine that it might change in response to different historical circumstances. The “companions and friends” model is both less problematic for believers today, and more deeply rooted in the history of the church.

Reflections

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Dialogue with a Living Tradition: A Holy Nation, a People Belonging to God – Part 2, Ch 3 of #FOGAP

Turning to scripture, Johnson begins by exploring the biblical understanding of God’s holiness in the Shared Scriptures, which presents God’s nature both as profoundly transcendent mystery and as “a profoundly relational term that refers to God’s involvement with the world in creative and redeeming care.” (51) Holiness is linked with justice, truth, and glory, and glory is connected with hope for those who are oppressed: “divine beauty flashing out in the world and in particular bent over brokenness and anguish, moving to heal, redeem, and liberate.” (54) In the Christian scriptures, these themes are taken up and applied also to Christ and to the Holy Spirit.

A holy people, then, is a people who participate in that holiness, and thus relate to the world as God does. This is contrasted with an understanding of holiness that emphasizes purity, separation, and hierarchy. This patriarchal strand in the Shared Scriptures cannot be denied, but the previously developed understanding of holiness linked with justice and relationship de-emphasizes it in favor of a more inclusive understanding of holiness in th community.

The Greek term koinonia, communion or community or participation, is the word with which the early Christian communities expressed their self-understanding as a holy people in Christ by the power of the Spirit. “All members are considered participants in the holy life of God . . . because of the gift of the Spirit who is given to them all.” (59-60) The koinonia of Christians called themselves “the saints”, a word which means “holy people,” and has an additional eschatological connotation from its use in Jewish apocolyptic literature. The community is centered on God, and has a responsibility to share God’s care for the world.

The association of the term “saints” particularly with exemplary individuals who have died is in continuity with the remembrance and honoring of such persons in postexilic Judaism, especially martyrs who suffered for the faith. The Christian understanding of Christ’s resurrection, and of the koinonia as participation in the life of God, leads to an understanding of a persistent bond among all Christians, whether living or dead. Paul’s well-known passage beginning “What can separate us from the love of Christ?” not only encourages persecuted Christians with God’s unfailing presence, but joyfully proclaims the communion of all the saints, living and dead.

The beautiful image of the great cloud of witnesses from the letter to the Hebrews recalls the community’s history of holiness and faithfulness under persecution as inspiration and encouragement. The saints who have died and now live in Christ are seen not as persons to be venerated or imitated, but as forebears and cheerleaders! “If they could do it, we can do it,” I imagine the living encouraging themselves and each other; while the saints cheer on the living: “If we could do it, you can do it!”

Baptism, which incorporates people into the communion of saints, incorporates them as equal in dignity and status. A patriarchal interpretation transforms this radical equality into hierarchy by spiritualizing it, which allows the church to co-operate with injustice without quite noticing that it has done so. Footnote 41 relates a stunning modern example of this, comparing two versions of Joseph Fitzmeyer’s commentary on Gal 3:28. The 1968 edition of the Jerome Biblical Commentary states that “secondary differences vanish through the effects of this incorporation of Christians into Christ’s body through ‘one Spirit…’ This verse is really the climax of Paul’s letter.” Twenty years later, the 1988 edition omits that last sentence, replacing it with the assertion that “Such unity in Christ does not imply political equality in church or society.”

Retrieving the inclusive, egalitarian understanding of the communion of saints positions it as a prophetic symbol. “Equality of the saints before God has social implications.” (63) If we look at the communion of saints in this way, and then look at the church and Christian communities today, we cannot but be moved to tears, and to anger, and to work.

Reflections

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Framing the Question: Christian Feminism – Part 1, Ch 2 of #FOGAP

women-in-circleIn this second chapter, Johnson argues that the methods and results of feminist research can reinterpret the symbol of the communion of saints to life-giving effect, and begins to explore “Friends of God and Prophets” (Wis 7:27) as a beautiful, inspiring, and relevant guiding metaphor.

After a brief but devastating critique of the erasure and distortion of women’s holiness under the current system of sainthood, she summarizes the results of a number of scholars who have retrieved stories of women’s holiness throughout church history, not incidentally correcting a number of common misperceptions along the way, and emphasizes that the goal of feminist research is “a critical revision of the overarching story” rather than merely adding women to the existing narrative. She observes that feminist theologies must be not only fundamental and ethical, but also pluralist: an important point given the history of first and second wave feminism. Finally, she rejoices over her guiding metaphor as grounded in scripture (not only the book of Wisdom, which is apocryphal for Protestants, but also the gospels) and thoroughly feminist in its mutuality and its devotion to justice.

Christian Feminism

Given the lamentably still-controversial nature of feminism in the ecclesial discourse of the Catholic church, I will present her discussion of this topic in a bit more detail here.

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Erased, Silenced, and Distorted: A Catholic Woman’s Lament

Women’s history of holiness has been largely erased from the collective memory of the church. Furthermore, even when they are remembered, exemplary women’s lives are interpreted as models of virtue that support the male-dominated status quo and cast women into submission.

Women’s stories are excluded from our lectionary.

Our names are optional in the one rarely-used Eucharistic Prayer in which they occur, and are therefore omitted far more often than not.

Our voices are not heard at Mass; we may not preach. We may read the words of scripture, the general intercessions, and the announcements, but these are words written by others and given to us. We are not to change them.

Mary of Nazareth is portrayed as silent, obedient, meek and mild.

Mary of Magdala, Apostle to the apostles, is remembered as a repentant prostitute.

Mary of Bethany, who confessed Jesus’ messianic identity in John’s gospel just as Peter did in the synoptics, is remembered as an overworked cook who complains that her sister won’t help her.

Therese of Lisieux, who wrote with passion I feel inside me the vocation of a PRIEST, is venerated as the diminutive Little Flower.

A deacon told a story about Teresa of Calcutta that, he said, best summed up her holiness.

The Pope heard that she was very sick, in danger of dying, and so he telephoned her. She came to the phone: “Yes, Holy Father?” The Pope said, “Teresa, you are not to die. The church needs you too much.” She responded, “Yes, Holy Father.” She hung up the phone, and promptly recovered.

One Sunday, the lector for the 2nd reading turned to the wrong page in the lectionary, and accidentally proclaimed the gospel instead. The priest didn’t stop her, and didn’t re-read it afterwards. He simply remarked on it with amusement, and added firmly but matter-of-factly, “The gospel is to be read by the priest. As Catholics, of course we all know that women can’t be priests.”

That didn’t make me cry. It made me feel sick, like a kick in the gut.

I cry when I hear the women’s names proclaimed at the altar in the Eucharistic Prayer.

Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia

I cry when I see a baby girl baptized, and anointed “priest, prophet, and king.”

I cry when I sing hymn texts that include us, as our liturgical texts so rarely do: women and men, daughters and sons, sisters and brothers.

I cry in the few precious moments when it stops hurting.

weeping_woman_rock

Women’s history of holiness has been neither remembered nor truthfully told; nor does relationship with the saints in heaven generally redound to the empowerment of the saints on earth in their struggle for human and religious dignity. In fact, the patriarchal structure of powerful heavenly patrons and needy petitioners, coupled with the erasure of the memory of women’s discipleship and approval of the male-defined virtue of even those women who have made it onto official lists, conspire to block women’s realization of their own sacredness, bringing about a corresponding decline in religious energy.

Amid incalculable personal, political, and spiritual suffering resulting from women’s subordination in theory and practice, Christian feminism labors to bring the community, its symbols and practices, into a closer coherence with the reign of God’s justice.

— Beginning and ending quotes by Sr. Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, Friends of God and Prophets, pages 27, 29, 35.

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Framing the Question: The Sleeping Symbol – Part 1, Ch 1 of #FOGAP

In this initial chapter, Johnson surveys communities and academic disciplines in which study or practices around the communion of saints are, and are not, flourishing today (ie, in 1998). She closes by asking the questions that this book will attempt to answer: whether and how the symbol of the communion of saints can be reconstrued and reawakened in Western industrialized cultures so that it can nurture authentic community.

After an initial presentation of the communion of saints in both living and received tradition, Johnson spends most of this first chapter presenting evidence that it is largely an ineffectual symbol in the Western industrialized culture from which she writes, while it continues to flourish in Latin America and Africa, largely among communities for whom daily life is difficult, and in Orthodox Christianity, where it is upheld by the understanding of deification as central to the pursuit of holiness. In the Catholic West, what little Vatican 2 teaching exists on the subject (Ch VII) has not been fruitful in the life of the church, while the 16th-19th century teachings about life after death and saints as intercessors no longer match the spiritual needs of many contemporary believers.

Drawing on a study on individualism and community in American life, she describes communal practices of memory, hope, and commitment that are central to authentic community, and notes their similarities with the traditional Christian understanding and practices around the lives of the saints. This suggests some ecclesiological importance to her topic: how can the church be a vital community if we have lost the ability to meaningfully engage with the stories of the saints?

Reflection

I want to engage with a couple of points that she raised in this chapter: first, on the post-Vatican 2 decline of devotion to the saints.

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A Tale of Two Denials

Today we heard the story of Thomas’ refusal to believe the testimony of the other apostles that they’d seen Jesus. Concluding, no doubt, that they were out of their minds with grief, he denied that they could have seen the Lord, and avowed that he wouldn’t believe it until he could see and touch the wounds in Jesus’ hands and side.

The following week, Jesus appears in their midst again, this time when Thomas is present. Jesus does not reproach him, but matter-of-factly offers Thomas what he had asked for: come, put your fingers in the nail holes in my hands.

During Holy Week, we heard the story of Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus, during his Passion, as Jesus had foretold. Again Jesus did not reproach Peter, but only looked at him, with compassion I’ve always thought. Peter’s realization of what he had done caused him to leave, weeping bitterly.

But what exactly was the problem with Peter’s denial? I was thinking about this yesterday. Is it simply that he denied knowing Jesus? But later, we hear Joseph of Arimathea being spoken of approvingly as a follower of Jesus “although a secret one, for fear of the Jews.”

On the face of it, Peter was doing something very pragmatic: he was trying to stay close enough to Jesus to find out what was going on, without being arrested himself, presumably so he could share what he’d found out with the rest of the disciples. Surely this is understandable? but perhaps it is intended as a cautionary tale against the ends justifying the means, a perennial human temptation.

I think the real problem was not Peter’s denial, but his earlier, recklessly absolute, avowal that he would never deny Jesus, under any circumstances, even under threat of persecution or death, and even after Jesus tried to warn him. Peter’s impulsive heart led him into arrogance: even if others betray you, I never will.

Thomas denied the truth of something he had not seen, requiring evidence before he would believe it. Peter denied that he had anything to do with Jesus, after having sworn that nothing could cause him to do so.

Which is why it seems more than a little unfair that it’s Thomas who is stuck being forever known as “the Doubter”, while Peter is so well thought of that people bring out their sick friends and family in the hopes that even Peter’s shadow might fall on them!

But perhaps it is not only Peter’s faith, but his repeated failures and repentances, that make him the rock on which Jesus built his church. As Jesus said, he came to call sinners. Only a sinner can be forgiven; only a repeated sinner can experience the fullness of Divine Mercy by being forgiven over and over again.

Thomas demanded evidence, and was given it. Peter swore he wouldn’t need forgiveness, and was given it after he realized he needed it after all. In response to both denials, Jesus gave them what they needed.

St Thomas, pray for us
St Peter, pray for us
Lord, have mercy upon us

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