"those so gifted with artistic ability are in a unique position to protect, and encourage and empower the people of God."
Why do we refer to Peter as the first “Pope?
Three Denials, Three Affirmations
When Jesus was arrested and taken before the Jewish leaders, Peter followed behind to observe the events. Three times Peter was accused of being a follower of Jesus and three times Peter denied it, in the end stating that he did not even know the man.
At the third denial a rooster crowed and Jesus looked at Peter. We can only imagine the expression of love and sadness on the face of Christ that caused Peter to remember the prediction that he would deny the Lord three times. The sound of the cock crowing must have driven the disciple into deep anguish and despair at the realization of what he had done.
Several days later, after the events of the crucifixion and resurrection, after Jesus had mysteriously appeared to His apostles, not once but twice, Peter decides to go fishing. It is likely he just wanted to clear his head of so many questions and just immerse himself in the simple task of fishing, but more frustration followed a night of empty nets.
As morning comes, Jesus is seen on the shore. He instructs the men to cast their nets in a place where there should be no fish and yet they haul in a catch of 153. The number “153” is interpreted many ways. It may be the number of species of fish known at the time, or the number of known countries. It may be the number of the elect or a mysterious reference to the ten commandments and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. But all of these point to universality or totality. The disciples bring the fish-laden net ashore but it is Peter that brings it to Christ, the “bedrock of eternity.”
Jesus then asks Peter three times “do you love me?” The sorrow and humility of the son of John is on full display as he answers “yes” each time. These three affirmations allow Peter to repent of the his three denials. And Jesus gives to Peter the mission of tending to the flock of the Good Shepherd.
Love, Sacrifice, and the Papacy
Love for God is thus unconditionally linked to the papacy. And as the first pope, Peter will follow the example of Jesus and go to his own death by crucifixion, giving up even his life for the Church, rejoicing that he had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the Name.
The cross of suffering is bound up with the office that leads the Church. The more seriously a pope takes his office, the greater will be his suffering.
The same can be said for those who follow Christ. The greater our love for God, the greater will be our sacrifices and suffering.
Artists are Missionaries
Artists and creatives who are Christian, are minsters to the Word, the life, passion, death and resurrection of Christ. A ministry without sacrifice, is a ministry without results.
The famous missionary David Livingstone had this to say about sacrifice.
“People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply acknowledging a great debt we owe to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny? It is emphatically no sacrifice. Rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, danger, foregoing the common conveniences of this life--these may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing compared with the glory which shall later be revealed in and through us. I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not to talk, when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father's throne on high to give Himself for us.”
Artists often speak of sacrifice in terms of what they give up for the sake of their art. But if by “their art” they mean following their own personal vision of the use of their gifts, a vision that appeals to and serves no one other than the artist, then they are sacrificing to their ego and vanity.
I have heard it said that there are two kinds of people in the world, predators and prey, wolves and sheep. But that aphorism dismisses the shepherd, the one who watches over and protects the sheep from the wolves. These are the ministers of God. And make no mistake, the gift of artistic ability, this sharing of the divine spark of creativity, places those so gifted in a unique position to protect, and encourage and empower the people of God.
Before He left Peter on the shore of the Sea of Tiberius, Jesus told Peter “follow me.” And the first pope followed the Lord faithfully. Peter was a father to the children of God (the word “pope” means father), and he followed Christ by sacrificing everything to do so, even his own life.
Sacrifice for a Christian, whether that Christian is an artist, a teacher, an office worker or a laborer, may often mean sacrificing our wants and desires, perhaps even our dreams in order to tend the flock of the Good Shepherd and stand between the sheep and the wolves.
3rd Sunday in Easter
Pontifex University is an online university offering a Master’s Degree in Sacred Arts. For more information visit the website at www.pontifex.university
Lawrence Klimecki, MSA, is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith and the spiritual “hero’s journey” that is part of every person’s life. He maintains a blog at www.DeaconLawrence.org and can be reached at Lawrence@deaconlawrence.com