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Peter and John, Two Pillars and Two Paths

By Fr. G. Peter Irving III
May 18th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The paths of Peter and John, these two pillars of the early Church, would be different. Peter's life would be "cut short" by a bloody martyrdom after having established his "see" in Rome. John would live to be an old man and serve as a bridge between the apostolic times and the next generation of Christians.

LONG BEACH, CA (Catholic Online) - Today's Gospel reading brings us to the last verses of the last chapter of the Gospel according to St. John. St. Peter who had denied the Lord three times has been rehabilitated with Jesus' threefold question, "Do you love me?" and his threefold command to "Feed my sheep."

In his inaugural homily as Roman Pontiff, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI explained what this "feeding" means. He said, "Feeding means loving, and loving also means being ready to suffer."

Before the Passion, Peter boldly announced that he would lay down his life for Jesus. And yet at the hour when Jesus was in chains and on the fast track to Calvary, Peter denied him, just as Jesus predicted. Now having been humbled, purified, and strengthened by the Resurrection, Peter is ready to lay down his life for his Master and for the flock entrusted to him.

It is in this last chapter that Jesus makes another prediction. He foretells St. Peter's martyrdom. This prophecy came true in Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero around A.D. 67. Eusebius tells us he was crucified upside down.

The Gospel reading of today's Mass begins with the words: "Peter turned and saw the disciple following whom Jesus loved." In his Gospel, St. John refers to himself as the "disciple whom Jesus loved." He was the "baby" of the apostolic band (maybe even still a teenager at the beginning) and because of his youth and purity of heart he was the object of special tenderness on the part of Jesus. In fact, John himself reminds us that he was the one who "reclined upon his chest during the [last] supper."

So Peter asks Jesus, "Lord, what about him?" He's curious. Peter, too, loved John and was wondering if he too would follow the same path of martyrdom. But Jesus doesn't satisfy Peter's curiosity.  He simply says: "What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me."

The paths of Peter and John, these two pillars of the early Church, would be different. Peter's life would be "cut short" by a bloody martyrdom after having established his "see" in Rome. John would live to be an old man and serve as a bridge between the apostolic times and the next generation of Christians.

Peter would preach his last sermons in Rome; John would leave an impressive written legacy (composed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) which includes the Fourth Gospel, his epistles and the Apocalypse (Revelation).

Each followed a different path. Each was given different roles. What they held in common was their faith in the Crucified and Risen Jesus whom they both faithfully served until their dying breath.

The same is true of Christ's disciples today. Each of us has a unique role to play as co-workers with Christ in the work of redemption. Are we fulfilling that task? Do we even care to know what it is? Are we willing to deny ourselves and take up our cross so that the Gospel may be preached to everyone we meet? Are we doing our part to reach out to everyone especially during this Year of Faith?

Let us confidently ask Our Lady, Queen of Apostles and Martyrs, to help us with her prayers so that we may become, like St. Peter and St. John, very effective and credible witnesses of Christ in the world.

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Fr. G. Peter Irving III is a priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and is Pastor of Holy Innocents Church, Long Beach, California.

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