Thursday, June 08, 2006

Pope Benedict: "Jesus adapts himself to our weakness"

I sometimes take time to get around to things. Here is another that has sat with me for more than a fortnight.

I was reading Papa Benny’s catechesis on St Peter which he gave at his Wednesday Audience on May 24th (before his trip to Poland). I usually expect to be surprised by some insight or other of this remarkable theologian and pastor, but this time I had let my guard down. After all, what was there about St Peter that I didn’t already know? This:

“On a spring morning, this mission would be entrusted to him by the risen Jesus. The meeting would take place on the shores of the Lake of Tiberias. It is the Evangelist John who refers to the dialogue that took place in that circumstance between Jesus and Peter. One notes a very significant play of words. In Greek the word "filéo" expresses the love of friendship, tender but not total, whereas the word "agapáo" means love without reservations, total and unconditional.

“Jesus asks Peter the first time: "Simon … do you love me ('agapâs-me')" with this total and unconditional love (cf. John 21:15)? Before the experience of the betrayal, the apostle would certainly have said: "I love you ('agapô-se') unconditionally." Now that he has known the bitter sadness of infidelity, the tragedy of his own weakness, he says with humility: "Lord, I love you ('filô-se')," that is, "I love you with my poor human love." Christ insists: "Simon, do you love me with this total love that I want?" And Peter repeats the answer of his humble human love: "Kyrie, filô-se," "Lord, I love you as I know how to love."

“The third time Jesus only says to Simon: "Fileîs-me?", "Do you love me?" Simon understood that for Jesus his poor love, the only one he is capable of, is enough, and yet he is saddened that the Lord had to say it to him in this way. Therefore, he answered: "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you ('filô-se')."
It would seem that Jesus adapted himself to Peter, rather than Peter to Jesus! It is precisely this divine adaptation that gives hope to the disciple, who has known the suffering of infidelity. From here trust is born that makes him able to follow to the end: "This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God. And after this he said to him, 'Follow me'" (John 21:19).

“From that moment, Peter "followed" the Master with the precise awareness of his own frailty; but this awareness did not discourage him. He knew in fact that he could count on the presence of the Risen One beside him. From the ingenuous enthusiasm of the initial adherence, passing through the painful experience of denial and the tears of conversion, Peter came to entrust himself to that Jesus who adapted himself to his poor capacity to love. And he also shows us the way, despite all our weakness.

“We know that Jesus adapts himself to our weakness. We follow him, with our poor capacity to love and we know that Jesus is good and he accepts us. It was a long journey for Peter that made him a trustworthy witness, "rock" of the Church, being constantly open to the action of the Spirit of Jesus. Peter would present himself as "witness of the sufferings of Christ and participant of the glory that must manifest itself" (1 Peter 5:1).”

Is that not amazing? Is that not the most comforting thing you have read all day? Go and despair no more!

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