An opening reflection for one session of the WCSS study
As I began to study this lesson, I wondered how often Simon Peter is mentioned in the Gospels, and in addition, how often are his words recorded? In the Gospel of Matthew, Peter is mentioned 13 times, but he speaks only 8 times. Peter is mentioned 9 times in the Gospel of Mark, and speaks 5 times. In the Gospel of Luke, Peter is mentioned 9 times and speaks 8 times, that is, almost every time his name is mentioned. Peter appears 10 times in the Gospel of John and speaks 6 times. There are 14 different episodes among all the Gospels in which Simon Peter speaks – some of the episodes in one Gospel are repeated in others.
We are told in the Gospel of John that Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother,, and the evangelist John were disciples of John the Baptist and met Jesus through him – if you remember, John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and said, “Look, there is the Lamb of God…” So Andrew and John followed Jesus and spent the day with Him. Afterwards, Andrew introduced his brother Simon to Jesus, announcing to Simon, “we have found the Messiah”.
The earliest episode in the Lord’s ministry in which Simon Peter speaks is in the Gospel of Luke 5:1-11: “Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, Jesus asked Simon to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After Jesus had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” Have you wondered why Simon said what he did?Why did Simon call Jesus Master? “When they had lowered the nets, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. The others came and filled both boats, so that they were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.””
The last episode in the Gospels in which Simon Peter speaks is in the Gospel of John, Chapter 21 – here is just a little extract from that chapter: “Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias(Galilee)…Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael of Cana, the sons of Zebedee and two others of the disciples. Peter said to them, “I am going fishing”. They said to him, “we will go with you.” As I understand it, Simon’s boat was too large for one man to comfortably man it. Unfortunately, the men caught nothing that night. “ Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach and called to the men in the boat, “children, have you caught anything?….” At Jesus direction there was another miraculous catch of fish, and then the men recognize the Lord. Later after preparing and feeding breakfast to the men, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him, and Peter responds “yes, Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you”. Jesus then gives Peter his final commission to lead the Church.
In between these two episodes, Simon Peter’s life is busy – and full of wonder and mystery. Simon becomes a disciple of Jesus and listens as Jesus is preaching; Simon is taught by Jesus both by His words and by His example. Simon Peter witnesses Jesus perform many miracles; he asks questions of Jesus and receives answers to his questions. Simon Peter sees Jesus walking on water and asks the Lord if he could join Him – an amazing act of courage. At Caesaria Phillipi Peter declares that Jesus is the Son of God when Jesus asks the men the question, “Who do you say I am?”. Six days later Peter sees Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah – all three men have been transfigured with glorified bodies on Mt. Thabor. At the Last Supper Simon Peter has his feet washed by Jesus and then he shares Jesus’ last meal with Him and the other Apostles. Later that same night Simon Peter falls asleep in Gethsemane, even though Jesus had asked him to stay awake and watch while He prays. After Jesus is arrested, Peter denies 3 times that he knows Jesus. Not many hours later Simon Peter witnesses Jesus’ crucifixion (from afar I believe – there is a hint of this in 1 Peter:5 and a book I read last year – “What Jesus saw from the Cross”). Three days after Jesus’ death, Peter visits the empty tomb. Later that day he sees and speaks with the resurrected Lord. Simon Peter is present when Jesus ascends into heaven.
What an amazing journey Simon Peter had in those three years of Jesus’ ministry! And perhaps in between those events, Peter would go home, fish a little, earn some money to keep his family going a while longer, and then return to traveling with Jesus and the group of Apostles and disciples.
There is one thing that I have never found written about in the Gospels. What about all those nights Jesus and the Apostles spent under the stars, around a campfire, just talking? Surely, there were many of those nights, as the small group traveled from town to town. Let’s close our eyes and imagine we are sitting around the campfire with Jesus and the Apostles — it is night; in the darkness and the quiet, there are the sounds of small animals scurrying around searching for food, there is the damp smell of evening and the friendly crackle of the campfire. Hear their soft voices as they talk about the events of the day, of what impressed them or made them laugh or cry, or perhaps they ask the Lord questions about what they witnessed that day. The men are sharing simple meals of bread, fish and fruit with Jesus, the same hard, uneven ground for their beds, the same view of the night sky sprinkled with stars, as they all drift off to sleep. It was in those quiet places, around those campfires, that Simon Peter and the other Apostles fell in love with Jesus. It is in those campfire experiences that they found the courage to follow the Lord even unto death.
And so it is with us, I think. As we grew and went to school, we heard stories from our parents and our teachers about Jesus. We listen even now as the priest, in his homily, instructs us about our Lord. We have witnessed over our many years Jesus’ work in our lives, the beauty He has spread around us, the prayers He has answered, sometimes in ways we never would have imagined. But it is in those moments that we spend quietly with the Lord, when we study our lessons or just read our Bibles, when we take a quiet walk in the morning, when we sit in the Adoration Chapel or in our favorite chair at home just talking with Jesus and listening for His response, that we fall in love with the One, who loved us so much that He gave up everything, even His life, for us.
My wish and prayer for you this beautiful Christmas season is that you will have quiet time to spend with the Lord. May your love for our Incarnate Lord grow even more. May God bless you with His presence and His goodness. May you be surrounded by friends and family, and may you know God’s unimaginable and eternal love for you. May God keep you safe in your travels this Christmas season and bring you back again to our study after the new year begins.