SummaryPeter was a simple man, not wealthy or educated yet called by Christ to establish the church on earth. How does that speak to what we are called to do?
Saint Peter’s feast day is June 29th and the symbols associated with him are a boat, the cock which crowed, a key, and an inverted cross.
Saint Peter, also known as Simon Peter, was born in Bethsaida near the Tiber River. He is associated with the symbol of a boat because he and his brother Andrew were fishermen on Lake Genesareth when they first encountered our Lord.
“Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing upon him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fisherman had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat” Luke 5:1-4.
It was after He finished preaching that Jesus instructed Simon and Andrew to go back and fish some more, resulting in their catching so many fish that they nearly ripped their nets pulling in the catch.
Astonished at the catch Simon fell to his knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” Luke 5:8.
This was the beginning of Simon’s discipleship and his journey to becoming the first Pope of the Holy Mother Church.
What is compelling about the story of Saint Peter is that, while he loved Jesus deeply, he was a flawed man. He trusted enough to step out of the boat onto the water but lacked the trust to journey all the way to Jesus who stood waiting for him. He had a temper, as evidenced by his cutting the ear off one of the soldiers in Gethsemane. He denied Christ three times before the cock crowed as Jesus had foretold, after insisting he would do no such thing.
Peter was a simple man, not wealthy or educated, a humble fisherman, yet he was called by Christ to establish the infant church on earth. How does that speak to what we are called to do? It should create in us a desire to seek God’s plan for our lives and discern how we could be building the kingdom of God.
Despite Peter’s very human failings Jesus saw the potential for real holiness and called him to service.
“And so, I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” Matthew 16:18-19.
Hung on an Inverted Cross
After the Ascension Peter became a witness of God’s infinite love and mercy. He was, to paraphrase a Scottish author, happy, fearless, and in constant trouble. He baptized pagans, Gentiles, and Jews.
He preached to multitudes, was imprisoned often, on the run constantly, and eventually martyred, choosing to be hung upside down on the cross because he deemed himself unworthy to die as Jesus did.
His bones are buried under the altar at St. Peter’s Basilica. Pope Francis revealed nine fragments of these bones for the first time in public during a Mass at Saint Peter’s Square in 2013. Chains that held Peter in prison are today exposed for veneration in a gold and glass reliquary in the Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli, on Rome’s Oppian Hill.
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