The Example of Saint Peter

Today’s Gospel reading (from Saint John) focuses on betrayal: first with Judas Iscariot leaving the table of the Last Supper to sell Jesus to the Jewish authorities, then with Jesus telling Peter that before the cock crows three times, he will betray his friend.

Magnificat‘s meditation was written by Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen, beloved preacher and author who died in 1979:

[One] step in the return to God after the awakening of conscience through the disillusionment of sin is on God’s part. As soon as we empty ourselves, or are disillusioned, he comes to fill the void. No one comes to the Father except through me (Jn 14:6). And Saint Luke tells us, And the Lord turning looked on Peter (Lk 22:61).

As sin is an aversion to God, grace is the conversion to God. Our Lord does not say, “I told you, you would fall.” He does not desert us though we desert him. He turns, once we know we are sinners. God never gives us up. The very word used here to describe the look of our Lord is the same word used the first time our Lord met Peter—the meaning being that “He looked through” Peter. Peter is recalled to the sweet beginnings of his grace and vocation. Judas received the lips to recall him to fellowship. Peter received a look with eyes that see us, not as our neighbors see us, not as we see ourselves, but as we really are. They were the eyes of a wounded friend, the look of a wounded Christ. The language of those eyes we shall never understand. …

Peter is the supreme example of the Gospel warning: … whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall (1 Cor 10:12). In no one else is better told the fallacy of humanism, understood as self-sufficiency of a person without God, or the utter inadequacy of our own reason and our own strength to get us out of the mess we are in without periodic renewals of divine grace that come to us from God.

Because Peter is so much like us in our conflicts, he is, therefore, our greatest hope.

Magnificat‘s introduction to today’s Mass takes a realistic look at Peter:

“We have grown accustomed to making a clear distinction between Peter the rock and Peter the denier of Christ—the denier of Christ: that is Peter as he was before Easter; the rock: that is Peter as he was after Pentecost, the Peter of whom we have constructed a singularly idealistic image. But, in reality, he was at both times both of these. … Has it not been thus throughout the history of the Church that the pope, the successor of Peter, has been at once Petra and Skandalon—both the rock of God and a stumbling-block? In fact, the faithful will always have to reckon with this paradox of the divine dispensation that shames their pride again and again.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

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