Wednesday, May 17, 2006

St. Peter's Spiritual Journey

In his catechesis at today's general audience, Benedict XVI continued his reflections on the apostolic ministry, concentrating on the "personality of the individual Apostles." The audience was held in St. Peter's Square in the presence of 60,000 people.

"Peter," said the Holy Father, "is the best known and most mentioned person in the New Testament. ... He had a small fishing business on the Lake of Gennesaret ... and was animated by a sincere religiosity that moved him to go with his brother to Judea, following the preaching of John the Baptist.

"He was a faithful Jew, who believed in God's active presence in the history of His people, and was pained at not seeing His powerful action in the events of which he was, at that time, a witness. ... The Gospels tell us that Peter was one of the first four disciples of Jesus, to whom was added a fifth in keeping with the custom of rabbis to have five disciples. When Jesus went from five to twelve disciples the novelty of His mission became clear: He had come to gather the eschatological Israel, symbolized by the number twelve, the number of the tribes of Israel."

The Pope added: "Simon appears in the Gospels with a strong and impulsive character; he is ready to make his opinions felt, even by force. ... At the same time, he is also occasionally ingenuous and fearful, yet honest and capable of sincere repentance.

"The Gospels allow us to follow his spiritual itinerary step by step. The starting point was the call by Jesus, which came on a day like any other, while Peter was busy at his work as a fisherman." Jesus said to him "'let down your nets for a catch.' ... Simon the fisherman trusted this rabbi, who gave him no answers but called on him to have faith. ... Peter allowed himself to be involved in this great adventure. ... He was generous, he recognized his limits but believed in the One Who called him and followed his heart. He said yes and became a disciple of Jesus."

"Peter experienced another significant moment on his spiritual journey near Caesarea Philippi when Jesus posed a specific question to His disciples: "'Who do men say that I am?' ... And Peter replied also on behalf of the others: 'You are the Christ'."

"This reply," said Benedict XVI, "has within it the seed of the Church's future profession of faith. However, Peter had not yet understood the profound substance of Jesus' messianic mission, as became clear shortly afterwards when he made it known that the Messiah he sought in his dreams was very different from God's plan. Faced with the announcement of the passion, he cried out and protested.

"Peter wanted as Messiah a 'divine man,' who fulfilled people's expectations, imposing his force upon everyone. Yet, Jesus presented Himself as the 'human God,' Who overturns the expectations of the multitude by following the path of humility and suffering. ... Peter thus learned what following Jesus really means. ... And, though with difficulty, he accepted the invitation and continued his path in the footsteps of the Master."
From VIS

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