On the trail of St. Peter

I have always adored St. Peter because of  his zeal and love for his Master. He was a man of spontaneous action. When Jesus said to him “Follow me, I will make you fishers of people,” he left everything – his nets, his boat, his friends and his profession of fishing itself and followed Jesus immediately. His decision was instant without any consultation with his wife or family. He did not wait to clarify with Jesus how to fish for people. He trusted Him, obeyed the call and followed Him instantly. Those who are critical about his denial of Jesus, easily forget the fact that Peter was the only other disciple who went into the palace of the high priest Caiaphas along with John. Neither can they imagine the reactions of the other disciples if put in a similar situation.

 When Jesus looked at him after his third denial, Peter’s reaction and repentance was instant. He went out and wept bitterly. That shows it all – his fall in a weak moment of human anxiety and then the realization of his fall and repentance with just a look of his Master. Maybe this is one of the prime traits of Peter that prompted Jesus to tell him – “And I say to you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not be able to defeat it” and adds – “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth will be loosed in heaven.”

St. Peter is also the greatest example of how a person can be transformed by the anointment of the Holy Spirit for the service of the Lord. Peter denied Jesus thrice. It was he who led the disciples back to the Sea of Galilee persuading them to take up again their nets which they had discarded at the calling of Jesus. Yet despite all these backslidings Jesus still loved him and entrusted His flock to him. On the day of the Pentecost the Holy Ghost fell upon them as cloven tongues of fire and transformed the 120 who were waiting for the Master’s promise. After this mighty anointing of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost he led the disciples not to the Sea of Galilee but into the streets of Jerusalem. After the ascension of Jesus and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, Peter in his maiden speech drew 3000 people to the church, and then 5000. The early church was growing. The mighty anointing of the Holy Spirit completely transformed him from a timid man in the palace of Caiaphas to a bold and mighty warrior of Jesus who courageously tells the members of the Sanhedrin “You must judge whether it is right before God to obey you rather than God?”

For me, Peter is the greatest example and inspiration in the Bible of how God chooses the foolish things of this world and uses them in a mighty way for His glory. The Lord used Peter to fish thousands and thousands of people for Him just as he had captured boats full of fishes as a fisherman in his heyday. It is traditionally believed that Peter was crucified in Rome and buried where the Basilica of St Peter was later built, beneath the high altar. It was my great desire to visit the place where St. Peter was entombed and God blessed me and Raaji with an opportunity to visit this sacred place at the Vatican in Rome.

My very first impression was that though many churches were founded by the Apostles of Jesus in different parts of the world, no other apostle is venerated and adored this way as St. Peter is revered by the Catholic Church. The aura of St. Peter amid the galaxy of saints entombed there fills the Vatican more than the glorious works of Michelangelo, the ancient artifacts in the Vatican Museum, or the Sistine chapel. It was indeed one of the most blessed moments in our lives to be at the final resting place of this great apostle who laid down his life for his Master – moments which are cherished every moment of our sojourn on earth.