Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, I renew my faith in your Resurrection. You did not return to this life that ends in death, but you entered the fullness of life that lasts forever. Where you have gone, you want me to follow. You know my strengths, my weaknesses and sins. Yet you also know the great desire I have to love you. Help me Lord, so that my love for you and my neighbor will become a joyful proclamation of your forgiveness and love for others.
Petition: Give me a love strong enough to keep me faithful to you, and not to be afraid to lead others to you.
1. The catch of fish. Peter takes the initiative to go fishing, almost as if trying to relieve the boredom of waiting. He’s not running away, trying to change God’s plans, or attempting to return to the life he once left to follow Christ. But still, he would have liked to catch something, they needed to eat. It wasn’t a good night, and perhaps that experience too makes them wish all the more that their wait for Jesus was over. Right now they have no purpose, even the normal things don’t work out, they know they are adrift. This is precisely the moment Jesus chooses to make his appearance. Unobtrusively, casually, he offers a solution to their immediate problem. Christian charity is like that: timely, natural, no great show. He didn’t give them a direct answer to their deeper question, but John’s eyes of faith were able to perceive his presence, and when he communicated that faith to Peter, suddenly everything changes for them all. Prayer can be like that. Laboring away, seemingly without purpose or fruit, suddenly to be surprised at how close he was all the time, and how interested he is in us.
2. "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" Christ addresses Peter directly, in front of all the others. His question could not be clearer, nor its implications. Warming himself at the fire in the early morning cold, Peter has the opportunity to set right what had happened in the courtyard of the high priest around another fire (cfr John 18: 16 27). He had already wept bitterly. Jesus knew from the moment he looked at Peter that night that he was torn with regret and dismay at his own weakness. Christ isn’t looking to humiliate Peter but to reinstate him. Humility is the path to renewal. Peter says humbly that he loves Christ, but he no longer believes he is superior to the others. All he knows is that he does love.
It is easy, Peter realized, to say you love Jesus when you are among friends, but when there is more at stake, ridicule or even your life, what was easy becomes most difficult. Peter cannot understand his own weakness, he wishes his love was stronger, he wishes he could guarantee that he will never fail, but he knows better now. Maybe he doesn’t understand why Jesus is still interested in him, but he is sure of one thing and one thing only: he does love Jesus more than ever, and that is all he can guarantee him.
3. "Feed my sheep." Now was the moment when Christ could really begin working through Peter. A sincere love, combined with a humble distrust in himself but absolute confidence in Christ, would be the necessary elements for Christ to do in him what Peter wanted to but could not on his own. Now Christ will ask him not only not to let him down, but to feed his sheep. Peter received a special commission as the first Pope, but the call to feed others belongs to every Christian by the nature of their baptism. I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink. We have to revive in ourselves the burning conviction of Paul, who cried out: 'Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel' (1 Corinthians 9:16). This passion will not fail to stir in the Church a new sense of mission, which cannot be left to a group of specialists but must involve the responsibility of all the members of the People of God. Those who have come into genuine contact with Christ cannot keep him for themselves, they must proclaim him (Nuovo Milennio Ineunte, n. 40).
And Christ makes a wonderful promise to Peter. Now that he loves and trusts totally, Jesus tells him he will be able to be faithful up to the point of dying for Jesus.
Conversation: Lord Jesus, like Peter I often try to rely on myself to follow you and then get discouraged when I see that my own strength so often falls short. Grant me the grace to rely on you and serve those around me. Love does not make fidelity easier, it makes us stronger to endure and to be faithful.
1. Do I recognize God in the good things that happen to me?
2. How would I qualify my love for Jesus, what answer can I give to his question?
3. What have I done to give to others the faith I received?