Tag Archives: Saint Peter

24 April: ‘I’m going fishing’, V The Mission.

A hard road lies ahead for Peter and the disciples; and for us!

The Mission

Jesus is not about to let Simon Peter indulge in unproductive introspection, but he has picked up Peter’s conflicted feelings about being an individual follower of Jesus and being part of the group. His first question poses this challenge: “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”

Peter in answering does not compare himself with his companions. This is between him and Jesus, though Jesus has made sure that John and the rest are within earshot and will grasp the meaning of this conversation for Peter and themselves. ‘Yes Lord, you know that I love you.’ ‘Feed my lambs.’ This command from the Lord who has just fed Peter and his companions, setting an example to be pondered for centuries.

Jesus returns to his probing of Peter: ‘Simon Son of Jonah, do you love me?’ No comparison with the others, Peter has passed that test.  ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.‘ ‘Tend my sheep.’ Peter is upset when Jesus asks again: “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ ‘Feed my sheep.’

Then comes the crunch: the description of how Peter will face trial, brutality, lack of earthly freedom; and execution. But then the note of complete confidence in this new Peter: Follow me!

Not that it is all so simple. Peter sees his fishing partner John standing nearby. What about him, Peter asks, and is told that’s not for him to know. And again, the call to be single-minded: ‘follow me!’

John and his editors assure us that this story and the rest of the Gospel are true and Good news for us all. The Lord will come for each of us in his own time; Let us use our time wisely, and follow him. May we be blest fishers of men, witnessing to our loving God through the way we live our lives. 

Blest Fishers

For so our Lord was pleased when 

He Fishers made Fishers of men; 

Where (which is in no other game) 

A man may fish and praise his name. 

The first men that our Saviour dear 

Did chuse to wait upon him here, 

Blest Fishers were; and fish the last 

Food was, that he on earth did taste. 

I therefore strive to follow those, 

Whom he to follow him hath chose. 

by Izaak Walton, the Compleat Angler 1653


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21 April, ‘I’m going fishing’ II: We are going with you also.

The sea is still dangerous despite modern technology

They said to him, ‘We are going with you also’.

We are at the end of John’s Gospel, and have joined the disciples who are about to go fishing with Simon Peter. 

I don’t think Peter had set out for a male bonding session. He does not say, ‘Is anyone coming fishing?’ No, it’s ‘I am going fishing.’ Are the others concerned that he will go the same way as Judas? Are they clinging to his company because despite it all, they recognise him as their leader? Perhaps a bit of both. John looks at James, an imperceptible nod from his big brother, they are Peter’s working partners after all. They, at least, have every right to say, “We are going with you also.”

The fishers among the disciples were attuned to the ways of the lake, and would have known how to steer by the stars to where the fish were likely to be. The others were perhaps a liability in the boat, not knowing where to sit to be out of the way, perhaps apprehensive for their own safety, remembering the story of Jesus sleeping through the storm in this very craft. Tonight the storm was in their hearts.

The storm in Peter’s heart would normally have abated as the physical side of the job took over his being. There was the task in hand: with John or James preparing the net for casting, together throwing it overboard without snagging it on Nathaniel or one of the unnamed passengers, catching the wind to drag the net towards a feeding ground for the larger, saleable fish, hauling in the net, inspect the catch or lack of it, repeat, repeat, repeat.

And catching nothing.

By morning Peter is exhausted from a night’s activity that challenged muscles that were forgetting how to fish. No doubt the non-fishers wanted to try their hand; they would look to him to teach them, and as well as instructing them he was constantly trimming the boat to keep them safe. He is once again the leader. We can forgive him for not recognising the stranger on the shore.

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20 April,‘I’m going fishing’ I: The Group of Seven

trout (27K)

A Gallant Trout from The Compleat Angler.

I The Group of Seven

Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We are going with you also.”  John 21:2-3.

We are in that period of forty days between Easter and the Ascension of the Lord. The reality of Easter has not yet struck the disciples – has it fully struck me yet? They have got one thing right by obeying the angel’s command, given through the women: go to Galilee and I will see you there. This group of seven disciples, led by Peter, seem to have come together by the Lake in solidarity. They are still shaken up.

I wonder if Peter wanted to go fishing by himself? I used to fish when I was at college by Lough Macnean in Ireland. Sometimes a group of us would spend a day together fishing. Other times I wandered down to the shore alone, and then the routine of casting a bait and watching for the float to bob was hypnotic; thoughts would slow down, I would be refreshed whether or not I caught anything. 

I see Peter rooting in a compost heap and filling the First Century equivalent of a plastic tub with worms, thinking, ‘I need some headroom, I’ll have a night on the boat, just me and my rod.’ He had too many thoughts running through his head, processing all that had happened since Palm Sunday. Crowds cheering, a quiet, solemn meal, silence in the garden. That kiss. Cock crow. Betrayal, rigged trials, Death on a Cross, Judas’s suicide, the appearances in Jerusalem. 

Now the apostles were waiting by the lake, as the women’s message had told them to, but nothing was happening. Except that they were getting under each others’ skin: ‘I need some headroom.’ 

But they said to him, “We are going with you also.” 

That would be a totally different experience to going alone, yet Peter could hardly tell the others to get lost, he was supposed to be their leader. As well as respecting that, I wonder if they were not a little anxious about Peter’s safety in the dark on the lake, alone with his thoughts.

So he went to fetch the nets, still thinking, ‘I need some headroom.’ But he stood scant chance of getting it. Andrew, Peter’s brother, seems to have made himself scarce already; he is not mentioned in this story. Perhaps the brothers were wary of each other’s company, knowing they could set each other off. Perhaps Andrew was the last person on earth who could comfort or counsel Simon Peter.

How often do we find the precious ‘five minutes’ peace’ we had contrived for ourselves – over coffee, in the garden, even working in the kitchen – invaded by our dearest, dragging us back to the realities of daily life. How do we cope when we need headroom and are denied it? Peter accepted that other people needed him and went to get the nets.

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2 April: Lenten Pilgrimage, Dullness.

Dullness by George Herbert

Why do I languish thus, drooping and dull,
As if I were all earth?
Oh give me quickness, that I may with mirth
Praise thee brim-full!

The wanton lover in a curious strain
Can praise his fairest fair;
And with quaint metaphors her curl'd hair
Curl o'er again:

Thou art my loveliness, my life, my light,
Beauty alone to me:
Thy bloody death and undeserv'd, makes thee
Pure red and white.

When all perfections as but one appear,
That those thy form doth show,
The very dust where thou dost tread and go
Makes beauties here;

Where are my lines then? my approaches? views?
Where are my window-songs?
Lovers are still pretending, and ev'n wrongs
Sharpen their Muse.

But I am lost in flesh, whose sugared lies
Still mock me, and grow bold:
Sure thou didst put a mind there, if I could
Find where it lies.

Lord, clear thy gift, that with a constant wit
I may but look towards thee:
Look only; for to love thee, who can be,
What angel fit?

George Herbert is stuck, writer’s block, lacking energy or quickness. He certainly does not feel like running around the parish, shouting hosanna! He reminds God: ‘Sure thou didst put a mind there, if I could Find where it lies.’

There are times when our best prayer might well be on the lines of: ‘Lord, clear thy gift, that with a constant wit I may but look towards thee.’ Yet we should step aside from his scruple: ‘to love thee, who can be fit.’ Those who were to betray him in various ways on Maundy Thursday were the ones he told, ‘I call you friends.’ And not long afterwards, he asked Peter three times, ‘Do you love me?’

Lord, you know that I love you!’

Herbert cleared his mind of dullness in writing this eloquent poem. Eddie Gilmore recently suggested that little acts of kindness would be a good key for non-poets.

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9 January: Praying with Pope Francis: Educators.

Brocagh School, Leitrim, 1969

This January Pope Francis asks us to pray for Educators

We pray that educators may be credible witnesses, 
teaching fraternity rather than competition  
and helping the youngest and most vulnerable above all. 

I shared this picture on the Pelicans Website in 2011. It shows the children of Brocagh School, Co. Leitrim in 1969, with their educators, head teacher Mrs McCormack, to the right, and her assistant teacher, then, I think, called Miss Byrne, but wearing an engagement ring.

Sometime after this, in 1970-72 the little local 2 classroom schools were all closed down and a new central school built in Glenfarne village. We students at nearby Saint Augustine's College visited the little schools to deliver an RE lesson each Wednesday morning.

It was Mrs McCormack who gave me a valuable lesson, in the qualities Pope Francis proclaims. This was thanks to Joe McHugh, down there in the front row wearing a green jacket. During the time after Easter we had John's story of the barbecue by the lake after the miraculous catch of fish, and Peter's final declaration of faith. 

I think the lesson went well. The children drew some remarkable pictures, but Mrs McCormack drew my attention to Joe's in particular: come here now, Joe, what's this in the corner? - It's Saint Peter's lorry, Miss, come to carry away the fish. I'd missed the lorry completely; I'd not interpreted the shapes he'd drawn in 20th Century terms.

What Mrs McCormack knew, but I did not, was that Joe's family had recently acquired a lorry which was Joe's pride and joy, so of course St Peter would have had his lorry ready to take the fish to market. The story made sense to Joe, and had always made more sense to me as a consequence; thank you Joe, wherever you are. And thank you to Mrs McCormack, that credible witness!You used Joe's lorry to teach him and me that fraternity between the generations means allowing the child to teach himself, and his (or her) teachers.

Olivia O'Dolan and other local people managed to identify many of the children whose names appear on the Pelicans Website.

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25 November: Jesus was Praying Alone, Part II

Yesterday we were reflecting on Luke 9:18f. If you weren’t here, please scroll back and have a look the reflections so that today’s will make more sense to you.

In Luke 9: 18 and following Jesus was praying, and when he stops, he asks the disciples who the crowds think he is. We’re pondering this in light of the fact that in this question Jesus probably wants the disciples to articulate an answer – mainly for their own instruction, rather than his. Given yesterday’s reflections, I now imagine that Jesus already had a pretty good idea of the opinions that were in circulation about him, but let’s listen to what the disciples tell Jesus: ‘Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, others again, one of the ancient prophets come back to life’ (Lk 9:19). Did the disciples give an accurate report? Who knows. The disciples only tell Jesus the opinions that were favourable. Were less favourable opinions being circulated as well? Almost certainly. But, even if the disciples had perceived Jesus’ crowd-appeal correctly, crowds are notoriously fickle; maintaining popularity for any length of time is nearly impossible, as subsequent events would overwhelmingly demonstrate. This was something Jesus knew far better than the disciples did. But the disciples have answered Jesus’ question, and now he has another for them – a question which is more closely linked to his first question than I had previously realised.

‘And you, who do you say that I am?’ Peter speaks for all in his answer. “You are the Christ.” That this opinion was shared by the Twelve is borne out by the fact that not one of the Twelve contradicts Peter – and other gospel passages show that the disciples were certainly capable of breaking into an argument, even at the most solemn moments, had they disagreed with Peter. So: excellent. They have grasped Jesus’ true identity. Perhaps it was only in that very moment that this truth comes home to all of them, we don’t know. But it does come home, and Peter voices this for all. Jesus, in other gospel accounts of this episode, is moved by Peter’s courage and perception, and praises him. But more is at stake here even than Peter’s superb answer to Jesus’ question.

In other gospels, Jesus moves quickly into a prophecy of his passion – and Peter, voicing what all the disciples would feel, is horrified, and tries to talk Jesus out of the whole thing. We know how Jesus responds to Peter: he seems shaken, and very sternly calls Peter ‘Satan,’ and commands him to ‘get behind’ him. But, once again, this is about the disciples – indeed, it is about discipleship. We just heard what the Twelve think the crowd thinks of Jesus. Now, the question that is of supreme importance for them is this: are they capable of being faithful to this astonishing truth of Jesus’ divinity in the face of a public whose opinion about Jesus’ identity is favourable enough, but nowhere near as radical as their own? The disciples had sussed the un-heard-of and shocking, even frightening truth about Jesus himself – that he, a man, was the Christ of God. It is now possible to see that there is yet another question that Jesus doesn’t ask, but that hangs in the air over everyone’s head, which is this: “What would the crowds say about you if they knew what you thought of me?”

We’re not quite finished with this passage, but this seems to be a good place to stop and pray. Tomorrow we will conclude our reflection.

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29 June: Transfiguration and Peter’s eye-witness

Transfiguration by Gerard David, 1520.

 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.


What a deliciously little hill for Jesus’ Transfiguration! But Gerard David worked in Bruges in the flattest part of what is now Belgium, so no need to depict a mountain. What he does show is the eyewitnesses of the majesty of Our Lord Jesus Christ, namely Peter, James and John. Oh, and what looks like a pious local family of 1520, five hundred years ago to us, and 1500 years after the event.

These people are witnesses as well, though not illuminated, as the Apostles are, by the light from the bright cloud and Jesus’ majesty. They are among those blessed ones who have not seen but yet believe, and so they have commissioned this painting, inviting their fellow-citizens and us, the 21st Century viewers, to share their faith. There would have to be many extra panels to this work of art to accommodate even a few of the faithful who did not see but believed over the years since the family ordered the picture.

We can, instead, stand back to reflect upon the different parts of the painting. The storm which threatens the family’s composure is rolled away from the holy mount by the impressive bright cloud. The focus of their attention is just below it: Jesus in his white garment, blessing his apostles, blessing us who have not seen for ourselves, but have learnt about his majesty and glory through listening to the Apostles who told what they saw that day.

High in the cloud God the Father is blessing Jesus: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Slightly above Jesus – for they are in heaven while he is still on earth, it is not yet time for the cloud to take him up to the Father – Moses and Elijah. Moses seems to be in active conversation with God, as he often was in the Old Testament – while Elijah seems to be at peace in the presence of the just king, no longer in fear for his life: he is in heaven before Jesus’ death and resurrection.

In the background, stark against the wide horizon, one tree, a reminder of those saving events.

Let us pray for the grace to listen to the Lord’s messengers, in the books of the Bible, and among all the witnesses to the faith since then. And let us pray to be true witnesses ourselves, proclaiming the Gospel by our lives.

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28 June: In Vinculis

Wilfrid Scawen Blunt was an English poet who was imprisoned for taking part in independence meetings and demonstrations in Ireland. This poem was praised by the Irish critic, Oscar Wilde. In Vinculis means ‘in chains’ as both Peter and Paul were, more than once. Their joint feast falls tomorrow. Let us pray for all prisoners, that in the Lord’s light their spirits may see light, in this world and the next.

Naked I came into the world of pleasure,
   And naked come I to this house of pain.
Here at the gate I lay down my life’s treasure,
   My pride, my garments and my name with men.
   The world and I henceforth shall be as twain,
No sound of me shall pierce for good or ill
   These walls of grief.  Nor shall I hear the vain
Laughter and tears of those who love me still.

Within, what new life waits me!  Little ease,
   Cold lying, hunger, nights of wakefulness,
Harsh orders given, no voice to soothe or please,
   Poor thieves for friends, for books rules meaningless;
This is the grave—nay, hell.  Yet, Lord of Might,
Still in Thy light my spirit shall see light.”

(from “A Critic in Pall Mall Being Extracts from Reviews and Miscellanies” by Oscar Wilde, E. V. (Edward Verrall) Lucas)

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 20 April: The Forgotten Grave.

This very chapel and its graveyard are all but forgotten as the village it served has moved three kilometres away.
After a hundred years 
Nobody knows the place, — 
Agony, that enacted there, 
Motionless as peace. 

Weeds triumphant ranged, 
Strangers strolled and spelled 
At the lone orthography 
Of the elder dead. 

Winds of summer fields 
Recollect the way, — 
Instinct picking up the key 
Dropped by memory.
From Poems by Emily Dickinson, Three Series, Complete, via Kindle.

Two thousand years on, and people know the place of Christ’s agony in the garden, his further agony and death on Calvary; the place of his tomb; they visit them in their thousands every year.

But did Mary Magdalene return to the tomb – or Peter or John – after Easter? Mary took the Lord’s message to the Apostles: they were to take themselves to Galilee, they knew the way. Before long Peter was leading them out to the boats for a fishing expedition. But the winds of summer seas would take most of them far away, to where people were waiting to hear the Good News from the fishers of men and women. No need for the disciples to revisit the empty tomb, but James and his church in Jerusalem surely remembered and marked the spot.

We cannot all hope to visit the Holy Land, but we can go to Mass this Easter time, or slip into the back of any church, acknowledge the ever-present risen Lord, and then … go back home, back to our daily lives, to glorify the Lord by our life. To share the Good News, mostly without words, but living as other Christs in today’s world, letting the Spirit speak through our instinct.

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10 April: Palm Sunday, The Passion and I.

Good Friday

Am I a stone and not a sheep
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy Cross,
To number drop by drop Thy Blood's slow loss,
And yet not weep?

 Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;
 Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon,--
I, only I.

 Yet give not o'er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

Christina Rossetti

This post card was sent home by a man who himself never came home from the Great War. Ironically, it was produced in Munich, sent home to Manchester from Poperinghe in Belgium, and saved by the recipient and her descendants.

Christina Rossetti puts herself with Mary, Jesus’ mother, Mary Magdalene and other women who stood weeping, next to the Cross, owning a lack of tears on her own part. Poetic licence, I feel. Her heart in this poem is full of sorrow and self-accusation, but she is also repentant, asking God to strike her stony heart, as he commanded Moses to strike to rock in the desert:

“Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” (Exodus 17:1-7).

If the Lord makes our hearts run with tears, whether physical or inner tears, will we give the people living water to drink?

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