Pope Sees Peter's Path as a Lesson for All

Like Apostle, We Must Not Precede Jesus, Says Benedict XVI

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 17, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI retraced the spiritual journey of St. Peter, the fisherman from Galilee, to draw a lesson: to follow God's plans and not transform them with our human desires.



Reviewing Christ's call to Simon and his first steps following the Lord, the Pope said that, initially, "Peter wanted as Messiah a 'divine man,' who fulfilled people's expectations, imposing his force upon everyone."

"We also want the Lord to impose his force and transform the world immediately," the Holy Father acknowledged. However, "Jesus presented himself as the 'human God,' who overturned the expectations of the multitude, by following the path of humility and suffering."

The Pontiff delivered that catechesis to more than 45,000 people gathered today for the general audience in St. Peter's Square. He was continuing his series of weekly reflections on the Church.

In earlier catecheses the Pope explained that Christ entrusted his Church to the apostles. In the forthcoming weeks he plans to reflect on the individual apostles.

Benedict XVI began with St. Peter, presenting two key scenes of his life.

Faithful, impulsive

He first portrayed Peter's character: "He was a faithful Jew, who believed in God's active presence in the history of his people."

Benedict XVI added that Peter was "strong and impulsive, … ready to make his opinions felt, even by force," as when he took out the sword and cut off the ear of a man in the Garden of Olives to defend Jesus.

"At the same time, he is also occasionally naive and fearful, yet honest and capable of sincere repentance," the Holy Father said.

The first scene Benedict XVI presented of Peter's "spiritual itinerary" was Jesus' call, when, after Our Lord addressed the crowd from Peter's boat, the miraculous catch of fish took place.

Seeing the full nets, the fisherman reacted with "astonishment and trepidation": "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord."

Jesus responded by inviting Peter to be a "fisher of men," Benedict XVI said. "Peter could not yet imagine that one day he would arrive in Rome and would be there a 'fisher of men' for the Lord."

And, despite the fact that Peter replied to this call with generosity, in fact "the Messiah he sought in his dreams was very different from God's plan," observed Benedict XVI. That is why, when the Passion was announced, Peter "cried out and protested."

And Jesus said to him, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God but of men," the Pope noted. Benedict XVI added that Christ, in effect, was saying, "Do not show me the way, I follow my way and you follow me."

Second calling

Christ then explained to Peter what it means to follow him. It is, in fact, a second calling: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me," said the Pope. Once the apostle accepted these words, he underwent his second "conversion."

"These different conversations of St. Peter and his whole figure are a motive of great consolation and a great teaching for us," said Benedict XVI, drawing lessons for the life of any Christian.

"We also desire God, we also want to be generous, but we also expect God to be strong in the world and that he transform the world immediately, according to our ideas and the needs we see," the Pope said.

"God opts for another way. God chooses the way of the transformation of hearts in suffering and humility. And we, like Peter, must always be converted again," the Holy Father added.

"We must follow Jesus and not precede him. He shows us the way," he said. "Peter tells us: You think you have the recipe and that you have to transform Christianity, but the Lord is the one 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, as he is the way, the truth and the life."