NOTE: In the monastery refectory (dining room) this Lent, at the evening meal (taken in silence, with table reading) we are listening to The Apostles and Their Co-Workers (OSV, 2007) by His Holiness Benedict XVI. It is proving very reflective on a number of levels. Last evening, a passage from the chapter on the Apostle Peter caught my ear, and I thought it would be worth sharing. It has much to say to us as a culture and as the Church. Perhaps it takes on more significance these days as the Church prepares to choose the next successor to Peter. -- Br. Francis
Peter was shocked by the Lord's announcement of the Passion and protested , prompting a lively reaction from Jesus (Mark 8:27-35). Peter wanted as Messiah a "divine man" who would fulfill 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. But 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 of our too human expectations.
Peter, impulsive as he was, did not hestitate to take Jesus aside and rebuke him. Jesus' answer demolished all his false expectations, calling him to conversion and to follow him: "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men." It is not for you to show me the way; I take my own way and you should follow me.
Peter thus learned what following Jesus truly means...: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel's will save it." This is the demanding rule of the following of Christ: one must be able, if necessary, to give up the whole world to save the true values, to save the soul, to save the presence of God in the world. And though with difficulty, Peter accepted the invitation and continued his life in the Master's footsteps.
And it seems to me that these conversions of St. Peter on different occasions, and his whole figure, are a great consolation and a great lesson for us. We too have a desire for God, we too want to be generous, but we too expect God to be strong in the world and to transform the world on the spot, according to our ideas and the needs that we perceive.
God chooses a different way. God chooses the way of the transformation of hearts in suffering and 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 (cf. John 14:6).
-- His Holiness Benedict XVI