In his general audience yesterday, Benedict XVI continued his catechesis dedicated to the personality of the Apostles, focussing again on the figure of Peter. The audience was held in St Peter's Square and attended by 35,000 people. The Pope began by recalling the miracles of the loaves and the fishes, which Christ later interpreted "not in the sense of regality over Israeli, in the way the crowd had hoped, but in the sense of the giving of self. ... Jesus announced the cross, and with the cross the Eucharistic bread: His absolutely new way of being king." "We can understand that these words of the Master, as all His behaviour, were difficult for people to accept, even for the disciples," said the Holy Father. Peter's faith, he added, "was still a nascent faith, a developing faith. It would acquire true fullness only through his experience of the events of Easter. Yet it was already faith, open to a greater reality, above all because it was not faith in something, but faith in Someone: in Him, in Christ." The Holy Father went on: "Nonetheless, 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 onstantly 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'." Source: VIS
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