Benedict XVI is speaking on the personalities of the apostles. Since it is still the Easter Season I thought to include his reflection yesterday on Peter. It was a reflection that deeply touched me:
"Peter's impetuous generosity did not safeguard him from the risks of human weakness. ... The moment came in which even he gave in to fear and crumbled. He betrayed the Master. The school of faith is not a triumphal march but a road beset with suffering and with love, with trials and with faithfulness, to be renewed day after day.
"Peter, who had promised absolute faithfulness, knew the bitterness and humiliation of denial; the proud man learns the cost of humility at his own expense. ... When the mask finally fell and he understood the truth in his weak believing-sinner's heart, he burst into liberating tears of penance, after which he was ready for his mission."
One day, on the shores of Lake Tiberias, "that mission was entrusted to him by the Risen Jesus," as St. John recounts. The dialogue between Peter and Jesus, the Pope observed, "contains a very significant play of verbs. In Greek, the verb 'fileo' expresses the love of friendship, tender but not total, while the verb 'agapao' means unreserved, complete and unconditional love. The first time, Jesus asks Peter: 'Simon, do you love Me? (agapas-me?).'
"Prior to his experience of betrayal, the Apostle would certainly have replied: 'I love You (agapo-se).' Now that he has known the bitter sadness of infidelity, the drama of his own weakness, he simply says: 'Lord, I love you (filo-se),' in other words, 'I love you with my poor love.' ... Simon had understood that his poor love, the only one of which he was capable, was enough for Jesus. ... We could almost say that Jesus had adapted Himself to Peter, rather than Peter to Jesus."
Pope Benedict continued: "It was precisely this divine adaptation that gave hope to the disciple. ... From that day, Peter followed the Master with a specific awareness of his own frailty. But this knowledge did not discourage him; he knew he could count on the presence of the Risen One at his side."
He concluded: "From the ingenuous enthusiasm of the outset, passing through the painful experience of denial and the tears of conversion, Peter came to trust himself to the Jesus Who had adapted Himself to his own poor capacity to love. It was a long journey that made him a reliable witness, because constantly open to the action of the Spirit in Jesus. Peter would describe himself as 'a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed'."