Fallible Giants: Peter and Paul – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

Ezekiel 34:11-16
II Timothy 4:1-9
John 21:15-19

We stand today in the presence of two of the giants of our faith: the Apostles Peter and Paul.  No one has had a more profound influence on the Christian faith and on the Church than these two men.  Both of them have their own feast – Peter on January 18 for his confession of Jesus as the Messiah and Paul on January 25 for his conversion – but they are commemorated together on this day, June 29, because of the Church’s tradition that they both died as martyrs in Rome during the persecution under Nero in the year 64.  Today we observe them as martyrs for the faith.

They are very different figures: Peter was a simple man, not highly educated and possibly illiterate, a fisherman from Galilee.  Paul was an extremely well-educated, cosmopolitan Jew who was also a Roman citizen.  He was from a notable family line and had received an excellent education.  The two men didn’t always agree.  Peter was the chief ambassador to Jewish believers, while Paul focused his efforts on winning Gentiles to the faith.  Peter was centered in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, while Paul’s missions extended throughout Asia Minor and even to Rome.  One of their most heated conflicts was around the question of whether Gentile believers ought to comply with Jewish law.  Yet, their commitment to Christ and to the proclamation of the Gospel enabled them to overcome their differences.  Both were zealous to the end.  The tradition holds that Peter was crucified, upside-down, and that Paul, because he was a Roman citizen, was beheaded rather than crucified. Read More

The Confessions of Peter – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Matthew 16:13-19

Two of Jesus’ inner ring of followers had so much in common: Peter and Judas. We know nothing about their upbringings and backgrounds. How were they raised? What did they value? What were their ambitions? Why were they attracted to follow Jesus? And why, among the multitude of his followers, did Jesus choose the two of them to be in his closest circle? Jesus was a shrewd and intuitive judge of character. What did Jesus see as so special in Peter and Judas? Were they charismatic? Were they eloquent? Were they passionate or articulate or extremely bright? Were they, like Jesus, riled by hypo­crisy and injustice? Did they have a whimsical sense of humor, a hearty appetite, nerves of steel, the wis­dom of a serpent, the innocence of a dove, a love for children, a certain way with the erudite or with the poor? They must have been impressive, both of them. Was Peter called “the rock” because he was stubborn or because he was strong? Maybe both. And Jesus made Judas the treasurer. Was that because Judas was so responsible, so accountable that he was entrusted with so much among those who had given up everything to follow Jesus? We don’t know. Surely Judas was a very special person, especially wonderful, to have a place so near to Jesus’ own heart. Surely Judas’ kiss of betrayal was not the first time he had expressed his closeness to Jesus.  

So what happened? However similar or different they are to one another, both Peter and Judas end up in the Garden of Gethsemane, and both of them, surely to their own horror and to others’, they became betrayers. What, ultimately, is the difference between Judas, remembered for his deception, and his friend Peter, remembered for his sainthood? They had so much in common… except for one thing. Following Jesus’ crucifixion Judas was precipitous; Peter was not. Judas takes his own life; Peter is given his life back by Jesus’ in the gift of forgiveness.  

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Potential for Ministry – Br. David Allen

davidallen_1Luke 5:1-11

Each of the Gospels has its own way of telling how Jesus called his disciples.  In today’s reading from St. Luke’s Gospel we can see how Jesus used a miraculous catch of fish as the opportunity to call the first of those who came to be his disciples.

At some point early in his ministry Jesus established Capernaum as his home, on the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Lake of Genneseret.

Jesus had become a familiar sight as he walked along the shore of that inland sea. Because of this Peter and those fishing with him could feel comfortable with him on that day when Jesus got into one of their boats and asked them to put out into deep water and let down their nets. Read More

Rock of Ages – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim Woodrum

Mark 8:27-33

As you can tell from the name of our Society, we brothers have a special affinity to the beloved disciple which tradition suggests is John.  There is an icon in the statio that you pass on your way into the cloister that contains the tender image of the beloved disciple reclining on the breast of Jesus.  He was closest to Jesus in his inner circle of friends.  But if truth be told, most days I identify more with Peter.  You may remember in Matthew’s gospel that Simon is renamed by Jesus and given the name Peter which means rock, “and on this rock,” Jesus tells him, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”[i]

But it is not this aspect of Peter that I identify with.  It is because more often than not gets it wrong.  Peter is constantly saying the wrong things and sticking his foot in his mouth.  It is Peter who steps outside the boat to walk with Jesus on the water but is overcome by his fear and begins to sink.[ii]  It is Peter who denies Jesus three times before the cock crows after his insistence that he would never leave Jesus.[iii]  The many stories we hear about Peter suggests that he does not have all the information he needs and often acts or speaks out of ignorance.  Read More