Rorate Caeli

We know that his testimony is true


Dixit Iesus Petro: Sequere me. Conversus Petrus vidit illum discipulum, quem diligebat Iesus, sequentem, qui et recubuit in cena super pectus eius, ... Hic est discipulus ille, qui testimonium perhibet de his, et scripsit hæc: et scimus, quia verum est testimonium eius. (From the Gospel for the Mass of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist, St. John xxi, 19-20,24: "Jesus said to Peter: 'Follow me'. Peter turning about, saw that disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also leaned on his breast at supper, ... This is that disciple who giveth testimony of these things, and hath written these things; and we know that his testimony is true.")

The school of faith is not a triumphal march but a journey marked daily by suffering and love, trials and faithfulness. Peter, who promised absolute fidelity, knew the bitterness and humiliation of denial: the arrogant man learns the costly lesson of humility. Peter, too, must learn that he is weak and in need of forgiveness.

Once his attitude changes and he understands the truth of his weak heart of a believing sinner, he weeps in a fit of liberating repentance. After this weeping he is finally ready for his mission.

On a spring morning, this mission will be entrusted to him by the Risen Christ. The encounter takes place on the shore of the Lake of Tiberias. John the Evangelist recounts the conversation between Jesus and Peter in that circumstance. There is a very significant play on words.

In Greek, the word "fileo" means the love of friendship, tender but not all-encompassing; instead, the word "agapao" means love without reserve, total and unconditional. Jesus asks Peter the first time: "Simon... do you love me (agapas-me)" with this total and unconditional love (Jn 21: 15)?

Prior to the experience of betrayal, the Apostle certainly would have said: "I love you (agapo-se) unconditionally". Now that he has known the bitter sadness of infidelity, the drama of his own weakness, he says with humility: "Lord; you know that I love you (filo-se)", that is, "I love you with my poor human love". Christ insists: "Simon, do you love me with this total love that I want?". And Peter repeats the response of his humble human love: "Kyrie, filo-se", "Lord, I love you as I am able to love you". The third time Jesus only says to Simon: "Fileis-me?", "Do you love me?".

Simon understands that his poor love is enough for Jesus, it is the only one of which he is capable, nonetheless he is grieved that the Lord spoke to him in this way. He thus replies: "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you (filo-se)".

This is to say that Jesus has put himself on the level of Peter, rather than Peter on Jesus' level! It is exactly this divine conformity that gives hope to the Disciple, who experienced the pain of infidelity.

From here is born the trust that makes him able to follow [Christ] to the end: "This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God. And after this he said to him, "Follow me'" (Jn 21: 19).

From that day, Peter "followed" the Master with the precise awareness of his own fragility; but this understanding did not discourage him. Indeed, he knew that he could count on the presence of the Risen One beside him.
Benedict XVI
May 24, 2006

And the disciple whom Jesus loved also followed the Word, through near-martyrdom (before the Latin Gate) and exile, peacefully dying in the Lord.

Saints Peter and John, pray for us!

1 comment:

Gregorius Minor said...

I was once told of a tradition according to which St. Peter, when he was dying on his cross in the Vatican circus, repeated over and over again "agapo-se". I have never been able to find it mentioned in any written source; does anyone know where this comes from?
Gregorius Minor