Saint Peter, Apostle
By Carole Babineau
Peter, who was originally named Simon but better known as the “Prince of the Apostles,” was born in Bethsaida, a town on the northern end of Lake Genesareth. His father was Jona and his brother was the apostle St. Andrew. He owned his own boat and pursued the comfortable career of a lake fisherman and may be considered to have been middle class. A fisherman of the time required a certain amount of capital to own his own boat, and given the general poverty among the Palestinians of this period, such relative prosperity would stand out. At the beginning of Christ’s ministry, Peter was living with his wife and mother-in-law at his home in Capernaum. We can see from his example that when one follows whatever state in life God has chosen for them, they will attain the holiness that He has planned for them.
Although Peter was not Jesus’ favorite (that would be John, son of Zebedee), nor given charge of the money (that office was reserved to Judas Iscariot), he soon emerged as leader of the Twelve. Peter often spoke to Jesus on behalf of them, and in turn was given instructions for all of them by Jesus. When Our Lord questioned the Twelve: “Who do you say that I am?” it was Peter who, as spokesman of the rest, made the sublime profession of faith: “Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Thus Jesus answered him by saying: “Blessed art thou Simon Bar-Jona because flesh and blood have not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: that thou art Peter (Kaipha, a rock) and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, it shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven” (Mt 16:13-20; Mk 8: 27-30; Lk 19:18-21). This passage from the Gospel is really the charter of the papacy. As far as Catholics and some others are concerned, this is where the story really begins. For Jesus made Peter the head of His Church, and Peter’s successors will rule it until the end of time.
n the four gospels we see a few of Peter’s more prominent traits. His impetuousness and love stands out more than once because of the great love he had for Our Lord. Just to give an example: at Jesus’ first prediction of the Passion to His disciples, Peter, allowing his love for Our Lord to cloud his mind, impulsively cries out: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you!” In return for his words Jesus rebuked him saying: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” When we allow our judgment to be clouded by purely human sentiment, then we run the risk of placing obstacles in the path of God’s Will in our lives.
At the Last Supper we find a head-strong and presumptuous Peter adamantly stating that he would rather die with the Lord than to deny Him. Little did he know that by proudly relying on his own strength he would be the very one to deny His Master before men. The true test arrived while his beloved Lord was being tormented. The threefold confrontation in the courtyard led to his threefold betrayal of the One he swore before the others he would die for. At the moment he heard the rooster’s crow and saw the sorrowful but loving glance of His Master he realized the extent of his cowardice. Overwhelmed by the thought of his betrayal he ran to weep and beg for forgiveness. By seeing his own fall through humbled eyes he was now able to see the merciful love of Him who came to save not the just, but sinners. As proof of this forgiveness, Jesus turns to Peter on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias asking of him a threefold manifestation of his love for Him: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” In this way God, in his infinite mercy is giving his faithful servant a second chance to repair and make up for the loss of his trifold sin. We learn through Peter’s example that no matter how grave the sin may be, if one is truly repentant, Our Lord is always ready to forgive. Let us take the opportunity to follow in Peter’s footsteps and not follow in those of Judas who also betrayed Our Lord but, instead of repenting, fell prey to unholy remorse, never to experience God’s loving and unending mercy.