Wednesday, April 13, 2016

He stooped down: When Jesus put himself on the level of Peter, rather than Peter on Jesus' level.


On a spring morning, on the shore of the Lake of Tiberias ...

John the Evangelist recounts a conversation between Jesus and Peter.

There is a very significant play on words.

In Greek, the word "fileo" means the love of friendship, tender but not all-encompassing; instead, the word "agapao" means love without reserve, total and unconditional. Jesus asks Peter the first time: "Simon... do you love me (agapas-me)" with this total and unconditional love (Jn 21: 15)? 
Prior to the experience of betrayal, the Apostle certainly would have said: "I love you (agapo-se) unconditionally". Now that he has known the bitter sadness of infidelity, the drama of his own weakness, he says with humility: "Lord; you know that I love you(filo-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 response of his humble human love: "Kyrie, filo-se", "Lord, I love you as I am able to love you". The third time Jesus only says to Simon: "Fileis-me?", "Do you love me?".
Simon understands that his poor love is enough for Jesus, it is the only one of which he is capable, nonetheless he is grieved that the Lord spoke to him in this way. He thus replies: "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you (filo-se)".
This is to say that Jesus has put himself on the level of Peter, rather than Peter on Jesus' level! It is exactly this divine conformity that gives hope to the Disciple, who experienced the pain of infidelity.
From here is born the trust that makes him able to follow [Christ] 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'" (Jn 21: 19). 
From that day, Peter "followed" the Master with the precise awareness of his own fragility; but this understanding did not discourage him. Indeed, he knew that he could count on the presence of the Risen One beside him. - Benedict XVI

I've been reading a lot of Pope Benedict the past few days.   


  1. ah: Christ is tender to our fragility ! how loving, how kind, how easy to forget !

  2. That was wonderful. Benedict's contention that the prophets opposed all violence was unwonderful and easily refuted ( several killed many enemies of God and God explicitly mandated it of Eliseus and Jehu). But the sample you gave was absolutely wonderful. I suspected Benedct was better with the New Testament.

  3. That's a great insight you would never get just from reading it in English.

    if you go here: you can see the agape/phile|agape/phile|phile/phile pattern.

    This is a great consolation for me, Terry. Thanks for sharing it!


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