Today’s sobering passage details how our Lord was crucified. Not only was he suffering the unimaginable pain of crucifixion, but he had to endure the mocking and hatred of all those surrounding him. He had very few people on his side near him (namely, his mother Mary and John the disciple), and not even Peter, the rock upon which the Lord had said He would build His church, was there for him.
Jesus foretold at the Last Supper that St. Peter would deny him three times the very night of His arrest. St. Peter couldn’t fathom denying the Lord, and made it clear he thought that could never happen. St. Peter also likely couldn’t, at the time, fathom Christ being arrested, tortured, and crucified to death.
Despite Peter not being at Christ’s side during the crucifixion, he was the first to enter the empty tomb of Christ on the day of the Resurrection. Peter was also the first to whom Jesus appeared after His Resurrection.
In John 21:12-18, Christ gives Peter the chance to admit his love for Jesus three separate times (which he does). There’s a nice symmetry in Christ giving Peter the chance to admit his love for Him the same number of times that Peter denied Christ.
After Peter admits his love the third time, by which point Peter is a bit hurt because he feels as though Christ doubts his love, Christ seems to be leading Peter to a stronger affirmation of his love for Him. This seems to be done to prepare Peter for what Christ tells him next John 21:18
“… ‘Truly,Truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go,’ He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God…”
After Christ’s Resurrection, Peter was the head of the Church on Earth. Peter was our first pope, and was instrumental in bringing the gospel to the gentiles. At the Council of Jerusalem around the year 50AD, Peter gave his support to the Church to preach to Gentiles, something unusual in their culture.
According to Church tradition, Peter was crucified on Vatican Hill, upside down because he found himself unworthy to die in the same manner as the Lord. He was then buried in Rome, near the Vatican. In the early 4th century, Emperor Constantine I honored Peter with a large basilica over the site of his burial.
1. When have you ever had a hard time standing up for someone in an inferior situation? How did you feel afterwards? Pray that should the situation arise again, you have the courage to react as Mary and John did, rather than as scared as Peter did.
2. Did you gain any insight or feel like you could relate with Peter when he was scared and denied knowing Christ? If so, have the consolation that even Peter, the first Pope, the man who Christ entrusted the keys to His kingdom with, made a mistake but still became a saint.
Sources: USCCB Online, Catholic Online at Catholic.org