Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"We can always follow Peter"

"We can always follow Peter" | The Introduction to Simon, Called Peter: In The Company of a Man In Search of God | Dom Mauro-Giuseppe Lepori, O.Cist.

"And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him" (Lk 5:11).

Is there anyone who is not moved by the witness of absolute dedication to Christ? This is the allure of the saints, whom the Church never tires of contemplating and of presenting as proof that it is possible to follow Jesus Christ with our entire selves, that it is possible to make a radical commitment to the Son of God, "the way, the truth, and the life" of man. The saints address our desire for the fullness of life and tell us that this is not an illusion, that it is not a mirage, but a call that resounds in the heart of every man and requires fulfillment. The answer to this desire is not a dream but rather the realism of following Christ. The realism of following Christ is demonstrated by the saints, those who followed him before us, leading us on toward him in an invisible chain stretching from the first steps of Mary and the apostles throughout all of history, until the Second Coming.

"They left everything and followed him." The allure of this radical response is lost unless we ourselves are moved by what we see in the saints and ask ourselves, "What does leaving everything to follow the Lord mean for us?" The saints teach us that the answer to this question is not the same for everyone. The saints teach us that "leaving everything" does not come before the act of following—instead, these two things happen at the same time. Leaving everything is done not only at the beginning but during the entire journey. Only death confirms, once and for all, our leaving everything behind in order to be with the Lord forever. Following him is a constant, renewed "leaving everything". It is never finished and continually requires a fresh commitment, as if each of the Lord's footsteps created another "everything" between himself and our freedom, a new "everything" to be left behind once again. This is how the love of Christ continues to live and grow.

The disciple and apostle Simon Peter is one of the most emblematic figures of the gripping drama of following Christ. He left everything right at the start, without hesitation, but he still had to confront the claims made on his freedom by Jesus, by circumstances, and by his own fragility and repeat his initial Yes to the very end. Peter's denial, but also the tradition of "Quo vadis?"—his last attempt to escape the total Yes of martyrdom by leaving Rome, and his encounter with Jesus, who asked him for a definitive "leaving everything" in dying for him—help us to understand that the freedom of total self-donation to Christ is a lifelong commitment. Because this commitment is asked of us by the Lord, it is always possible, in spite of everything, as for the repentant thief crucified next to Jesus.

At every stage of my journey as a man, a Christian, a monk, and an abbot, I have found Saint Peter as a companion walking ahead of me with my own humanity, with my own human poverty, full of contradictions. Peter is the saint in the Gospels who is most like us, the closest to our humanity, and yet also very close to Christ. We can always follow Peter. He always leads us to Jesus, he unites us to Jesus, because he never permitted his own fragility to separate his heart from Christ, even when he denied him.

And it is for this reason, I believe, that Simon Peter is the character we recognize best in the Gospels. We know all about Peter: his abilities and limitations, his sins and his sanctity, his psychology, his whole character. All of this lies before us absolutely clearly, so much so that at times he seems a bit superficial and crude to us.

Peter's transparency is gospel, is part of the gospel, of the good news of redemption in Christ. We can and must enter the school of Simon Peter, the school of his journey with Jesus, in order to follow the Lord as he wants to be followed, to cling to Christ as he enables us to love him.

Simon Called Peter: In the Company of a Man in Search of God

by Dom Mauro-Giuseppe Lepori, O.Cist

Foreword by Angelo Cardinal Scola, Patriarch of Venice

Simon Peter, the fisherman who was both attracted to Jesus and repelled by his own weakness, who in faith walked on the water and in fear began to sink; the ardent disciple who promised to die for His Lord and then moments later betrayed Him, who needed to reaffirm his yes to God over and over again, even unto a martyr's death: Is this not a model for many of us who desire to love and trust the Lord completely, yet who struggle daily to pick up our cross and follow Him?

Abbot Lepori's meditation on the relationship between our Lord and Saint Peter invites us to consider our own relationship with Christ. As he imaginatively retells the well-known stories from the Gospels, he revivifies them and makes them present to us, deepening our understanding of the calling we have received from Jesus and strengthening our confidence that the Lord will, indeed, bring to completion the work of love He has begun in us.

"You are carried into the events narrated here... and you see them with your own eyes and heart, more than if you had been there." -- from the Foreword by Cardinal Angelo Scola, Patriarch of Venice

"Dom Lepori's account of Peter reminds us of just how often this first of the Apostles appears in the Gospels. When we see Peter spelled out in his encounters with Christ, we realize that this 'Rock' is being formed, but also that he was someone who could be formed. It is not without interest that the Church is founded on Peter, a solid man, yet also a sinner. With Lepori's guidance, we realize that Peter's life is a portrait of how God deals with men. We cannot but be moved by this Peter, a man like unto us, sin included, but a brave man who acknowledges, who learns, who, in the end, is 'the Rock' that he was called to be from the first time Christ saw him." -- James V. Schall, SJ, Author, The Order of Things

Dom Mauro-Giuseppe Lepori, O. Cist., is the abbot of the Cistercian abbey of Hauterive outside of Fribourg, Switzerland. He received his licentiate in philosophy and theology from the Catholic University of Fribourg and as a layman was an active member of Communion and Liberation. In 1984, he entered the abbey of Hauterive and ten years later was elected abbot. Written originally in Italian, Simon Called Peter has been translated into both French and German. Other works by Lepori include L'amato presente.

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