Thursday, June 01, 2006

Benedict on Peter

Sandro Magister's latest newsletter has the full-text of Benedict's two catecheses on the Apostle Peter, forming a diptych, as he puts it. These have shown up in the blogosphere before. However, I just got around to reading them.

And, as always, I come away deeply moved by the simplicity and the beauty of Benedict's teaching. And these particular words were balm for the soul today.

But first, Magister underscores again the frustration that many have felt about the delays surrounding the official translations of Benedict's speeches and homilies (particularly into English):
But what about those outside the circle of his listeners who are physically present? The pope’s catecheses reach few people, very few. Apart from some specialized Catholic outlets, almost none of the media retransmit them. And one can understand their reasoning. It is unthinkable that a scholarly lesson on apostolic succession or on the relationship between Scripture and Tradition would be newsworthy enough to merit being presented again in its entirety, which would be the only adequate way.

But the limitation is also to be found in the system of communication surrounding Benedict XVI. This is the case with the Vatican website. Precisely where one would expect to find the complete text of each catechesis in the principal languages, the shortcomings are obvious.
Now to the catecheses themselves. The first part of the first catechesis gives a neat summary of Peter's background and life, everything that can be gleaned about him from the New Testament, put together into a simple but telling biblical vignette. Then there's the call, the revelation at Caesarea Philippi, and then, Jesus' rebuke.
Peter wanted as Messiah a "divine man" who would fulfil the expectations of the people by imposing his power upon them all: we would also like the Lord to impose his power and transform the world instantly. Jesus presented himself as a "human God", the Servant of God, who turned the crowd's expectations upside-down by taking a path of humility and suffering.

This is the great alternative that we must learn over and over again: to give priority to our own expectations, rejecting Jesus, or to accept Jesus in the truth of his mission and set aside all too human expectations.
God chooses a different way. God chooses the way of the transformation of hearts in suffering and in humility. And we, like Peter, must convert, over and over again. We must follow Jesus and not go before him: it is he who shows us the way.

So it is that Peter tells us: You think you have the recipe and that it is up to you to transform Christianity, but it is the Lord who knows the way. It is the Lord who says to me, who says to you: follow me! And we must have the courage and humility to follow Jesus, because he is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
The second catechesis focuses on Peter's role in the miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves, Peter's denial of the Lord, and that dialogue on the shore of Lake Tiberias, when Jesus asks him "Do you love me."
It would seem that Jesus adapted himself to Peter, rather than Peter to Jesus! It is precisely this divine adaptation that gives hope to the disciple, who has known the suffering of infidelity. From here trust is born that makes him able to follow 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'" (John 21:19).
We know that Jesus adapts himself to our weakness. We follow him, with our poor capacity to love and we know that Jesus is good and he accepts us. It was a long journey for Peter that made him a trustworthy witness, "rock" of the Church, being constantly open to the action of the Spirit of Jesus. Peter would present himself as "witness of the sufferings of Christ and participant of the glory that must manifest itself" (1 Peter 5:1).
I don't know about you, but for me, this is just bursting with the beauty of the essence of Christianity.

And, I must say, even for this dyed-in-the-wool, loyal Catholic, it is nice to have a Pope whose catechesis on St. Peter isn't just underlining again "Tu es Petrus ..."

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