05/24/2006, 00.00
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Pope: As for Peter, faith is a "journey of trials and faithfulness renewed daily"

On the eve of his departure for Poland, Benedict XVI talked about the faith and mission of Peter. Initially marked by impulse and abandon, his faith would know betrayal and repentance before finally reaching total trust.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Peter's faith, initially marked by impetuosity and abandon, would know betrayal and repentance before finally reaching total trust. This shows that "the school of faith is not a triumphal march, but a journey strewn with suffering and love, with trials and loyalty to be renewed every day". Once again, it was Peter who featured in the reflection shared by the Pope with more than 40,000 people gathered for today's general audience, on the eve of Benedict XVI's departure for Poland. His visit, as he himself said, is aimed at "retracing the places linked to the life and priestly and episcopal ministry" of John Paul II.

To talk about the faith and mission of Peter, Benedict XVI focused on two moments in his life: the multiplication of the loaves and fish, and the talk by the Sea of Tiberias.

The day after the miracle, in the synagogue of Caphernaum, "Jesus interpreted the miracle, not in the sense of reigning over Israel as the crowd had hoped, but in the sense of the gift of self: 'The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh' (Jn 6:51). Jesus announced the cross, with the cross the Eucharistic bread, his absolutely new way of being king. We can understand that these words of the Teacher, as was his behaviour, were very difficult for people to take, including his disciples. It was a 'tough' talk that put their faith to the test (Jn 6:60). Many disciples withdrew". One can imagine, continued the Pope, that the words of Jesus were difficult also for Peter however, "when Jesus asked the Twelve, 'Do you want to leave too?' Peter reacted with the impulse of his generous heart, led by the Holy Spirit. In the name of all, he replied: ''Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.' (cfr Jn 6:66-69)".

"The impetuous generosity of Peter does not shield him, however, from risks coming from human weakness. He followed Jesus on impulse; he overcame the test of faith, abandoning himself to Him. But the moment came when he too gave in to fear and fell: he betrayed the Teacher (cfr Mk 14:66-72). The school of faith is not a triumphal march, but a journey strewn with suffering and love, with trials and loyalty to be renewed every day. Peter had promised absolute loyalty, he knew the bitterness and humiliation of repudiation: the daredevil learned humility at a cost. Even Peter had to learn to be nothing! When finally, his mask fell and he understood the truth in his weak heart of a believing sinner, he burst into a liberating flood of tears. After this outburst, he was ready for his mission. This mission would be entrusted to him on a spring morning by the Risen Jesus. The meeting happened on the banks of the Sea of Tiberias".

This was the dialogue when Jesus asked Peter for three times "Simon… do you love me? And the third time: "Simon understood that for Jesus his poor love, the only one of which he was capable, was enough".

"From that day onwards, Peter 'followed' the Teacher with the precise knowledge of his own fragility; but this awareness did not discourage him. In fact, he knew he could count on the presence at his side of the Risen Lord. From the ingenuous enthusiasm of initial attachment, passing through the painful experience of repudiation and tears of conversion, Peter reached a point he could entrust himself to Jesus, who in turn adapted to his poor ability to love. It was a long journey that made him a credible witness, because he was constantly open to the movement of the Spirit of Jesus."

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