September 2021 - The Humility of St. Peter
The depth of his humility lies in the fact that in spite of his unworthiness – of which he is well aware – Peter remained at the post which his Master had assigned him to, no longer believing in himslf but placing his trust on Christ who loves him with a divine love.
September 16, 2021
Dear Friends and Benefactors,
We had intended to share with you some news at the beginning of our school year. But Providence seems to have decided otherwise by putting in our hands a sermon by Rev. Fr. Michel André on the humility of St. Peter.
As this sermon appears to be so important for all of us, we’ll postpone the news until next month and share with you this real treasure.
Reading this sermon, and, hopefully, by meditating on it, we will understand that humility is true only when it is rooted in charity. We will see that we fall too easily into the common mistake of confusing our secret disappointment at our having fallen into sin with the true regret for having offended God. We will find that we proudly point the finger at the faults of others, oblivious of our intrinsic poverty and our own faults. Thus, we unconsciously make ours the Gospel’s story of the straw and the beam in our own eye, forgetting that when we point our finger at our neighbor, three of our fingers are actually accusing us. Above all, we will see that our God is a God of truth and mercy, the Father of our souls who wants to tear us away from our deadly pride by making us experience our inability to do anything good by ourselves, so that we may surrender ourselves to Him without reserve and with absolute confidence.
Happy invigorating read!
In Christo Sacerdote et Maria,
Fr. Yves le Roux
The Humility of St. Peter by Rev. Fr. Michel André
One of the last apparitions of the risen Christ, before His Ascension, is told by St. John in the last chapter of his Gospel and it took place by the shores of the Tiberiades lake. Here are a few verses about it:
“When they had eaten (after the second miraculous catch, Jesus had them grill some fish over the fire), Jesus said to Peter: ‘Simon, son of John, dost thou love Me more than these?’ He answered and said to Him: ‘Yes, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee.’ He asked him a second time: ‘Simon, son of John, dost thou love me?’ Peter answered Him: ‘Yes, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee.’ He asked him a third time: ‘Simon, son of John, dost thou love Me?’ Peter was saddened because Jesus asked him for the third time ‘Dost thou love Me?’ and he answered Him: ‘Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee.’ And Jesus said to him: ‘Feed My sheep.’” (Jn 21:15-17). Which is to say: be the pastor, the chief of all the bishops and priests, signified by the sheep.
In this dialogue that is so moving, we are not sure what we should admire more: Jesus’s tact or the trusting humility of His apostle.
Let’s go back a little bit. The four evangelists write about the triple denial of Peter, although not a single disciple witnessed it. We could have remained ignorant of the entire event forever! It was therefore from Peter, and from him alone, that the other apostles knew about his failing!
And this explains why the details are told differently by the four evangelists. It is interesting to note that the swearing and the curses are only found in Matthew and Mark (disciples of St. Peter). St. Luke’s gospel is more discreet; and St. John’s even more mitigated.
Peter was unable to remain silent about his fall. If only to explain his deep sorrow: he had to admit the course of his sorrowful adventure.
The narration was then re-told differently by people here and there for 10, 20, 40 years. One thing is certain: that on three occasions, Peter denied being Jesus’s disciple! Terrifying!
And he wanted his denial to be known by the whole Church, because it had been one of the principal causes of Christ’s sufferings!
Let us imagine the atrocious pain that Peter felt after our Savior’s death: he, the apostle chosen among the twelve to be the leader, he had denied his Master!
Now, it is because he loved Him more than the others that Peter had followed Jesus inside the courtyard of the palace of the High Priest. If Peter had loved Jesus less, he would have stayed hidden, a runaway with the other apostles, after the arrest in Gethsemani, and he would not have come into the courtyard to try to get some news.
We know from St. Luke that after the third denial, the Savior turned and looked at Peter, lost in the crowd. The gentleness of this look, full of mercy, was more unbearable that all the verbal reproaches combined. Peter left the courtyard right away and wept bitterly!
But it was too late: we cannot get rid of the past. And Peter had committed the irreparable fault!
He could not be consoled: “The last thing that Jesus saw of me was my denial; the last words that He heard me say were: ‘I know not this man!’ My cowardice increased the horror of His suffering. It was crueler for Him than the atrocious suffering of His hands and of His feet nailed to the cross!” Peter could never repair his fall!
Let us notice that the apostle did not show the extent of his humility in admitting to his friends and companions his triple offense.
The depth of his humility lies in the fact that in spite of his unworthiness – of which he is well aware – he remained at the post which his Master had assigned him to.
What would we have done in his place? We would have given our resignation; we would have fled Jerusalem to go and hide our shame in a far-off place…
According to the judgment of the world, Peter should have disappeared and atoned for his sin…
A typical example of the false human honor, which is hypnotized and focused on itself even in its repentance. Instead of seeing in the sin the outrage done to God, we only consider the confusion, the degradation, which is entirely pride; wounded pride and spite! Which is the opposite of repentance.
Peter the renegade remembered his Master’s warning: “Simon, Satan has desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for you that your faith fail not. And being once converted, confirm your brethren.” (Lc 21:31).
Peter’s faith and love were not darkened in his sin, because he was humble. He will remain at his post, full of sorrow, but faithful.
When therefore will we admit that even our sins are included in the mercies of God?
Peter was not lying when, in the Cenacle, he declared that he was ready to die for Jesus. And he will experience the terrible death of a martyr.
But in the meantime, God prepared for him a more difficult death: dying to himself! His human honor needed to be broken and there needed to be nothing left in him ofwhat he felt was his loyalty, his courage, his greatness.
He must be nothing more than a poor man without merit. Then, dead to himself, he will live henceforth solely by Jesus and for Jesus.
This is how our Lord could publicly rehabilitate him: “Simon, son of John, lovest thou Me more than these?”
These, these are his brothers in the apostolate, of whom he was wrong to say in the Cenacle: “Even if all of these abandon you, I never will!”
Thus, happy fault that purified him of his pride. He answers very simply now, but without comparing himself to the others: “Lord, You know that I love You.”
He learned the lesson and the Master will no longer make reference to the others in his second interrogation.
But why a third time? Our Lord does not doubt his sincerity because on both occasions He just confirmed him in his role as pastor.
Peter understands. His eyes are having trouble keeping back the tears. But he does not rebel, he abandons himself to his Judge. “Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee.”
What an example for us! Our sins, irreparable in and of themselves, were engulfed in the death of Christ!
Let us take note with what gentleness and clemency Jesus made His forgiveness known.
If the three questions represented the three denials, it was never mentioned.
We, when we are offended, we talk about giving the offender a good dressing down. Our offended Lord only thinks of rekindling the love of the guilty.
Another thing, Jesus does not try to get promises for the future. He doesn’t speak to Peter of the past or the future.
What a difference compared to the judgments of men who, in order to forgive, demand promises, conditions, guarantees!
Peter, publicly rehabilitated, is now able once again to live as a faithful apostle, but the guarantee of this fidelity, Jesus does not put it in the future, He looks for it in the present, in the current feelings of His disciple.
We would be the most thankless wretches if upon seeing the ease with which Peter’s sin was forgiven, we dare to conclude that sin is a trifle; and that all is forgiven as soon as we change our behavior.
No: between Peter’s denial and his forgiveness something capital, wonderful happened, that some tend to forget, even while at Mass…
Christ’s death and resurrection happened.
All of our sins, all of our denials result in Calvary and are only forgiven by the death of Christ. And we only have the assurance of this reparation in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Let us recall to mind what St. Paul said: “If Christ had not risen from the dead, you would still be in sin.”
The sinner is only rehabilitated because he completely condemns his sins which caused Christ’s death. And because Jesus Christ absolves him of his sins and washes him in His Blood.
And we can only be dead to sin if Jesus Christ lives in us through His grace.
Therefore, let us avoid making promises to God founded only on our courage: we have failed here so many times!
Let us rather listen to Jesus ask each one of us the same question that He asked Peter: not “You were ungrateful and didn’t love Me”; not “will you always love Me?” but “today, here and now, dost thou love Me?”
It is about imitating Peter’s humility and no longer believing in ourselves; about replacing our presumption with a humble and fervent love for Him Who earned for us forgiveness – by His Cross – because He loves us with a divine love.
It is about saying to Jesus every morning: “Lord, You alone know the future; You know me better than I know myself, You know that today I want to love You with my whole heart. And to work and live to please You, out of love for You.”